On Being Catholic
Although the movement’s demographics may have limited their representation of all Catholics, VOTF nonetheless ordered its very existence around being Catholic. Its members founded and expanded the movement from a starting premise of its Catholic identity, firmly committed to remaining within the Catholic Church. But in mobilizing to confront the structural underpinnings of abuse by clergy, including the perceived complicity of bishops, VOTF participants repeatedly encountered challenges to authenticate their Catholic identity. Even while promulgating a public identity of “faithful Catholics in communion with the universal Catholic Church,” the movement was banned from meeting on church grounds, restricted from advertising their gatherings in Catholic publications, and denied attempts to dialogue with bishops. In the eyes of some church leaders and lay Catholics, the brand of faith VOTF espoused was neither acceptable nor welcome under the umbrella of Catholicism. What began as an attempt to protect the church from future abuse was reframed as threatening to the very structure of it; a mainstream Catholic label was not enough to legitimize VOTF as faithful Catholics.
While sociologists have discussed examples of institutional attempts to silence internal dissent in movement settings such as the field of science (Moore 2008), public schools (Binder 2002), and political parties (Rogers and Lott 1997), the arena of religion poses a notable variation. Whereas contention in other fields is often framed