In the Vineyard :: August 23, 2021 :: Volume 21, Issue 16
Bishop Resigns After Sexually Explicit Video Circulates
Pope Francis formally accepted the resignation of Bishop Tomé Ferreira da Silva, bishop of São José do Rio Preto, Brazil, on Wednesday. His resignation follows a sexually explicit video of him on a video call with another man that was shared on the internet through social media. His resignation is 15 years earlier than the expected age of retirement for bishops, so although no specific reason for his resignation was given, his resignation seems related to the video.
The 60-year-old has reportedly been investigated for several accusations by the Vatican since 2015. Those allegations include ignoring reports of sexual abuse in his diocese and exchanging sexual messages with an adolescent. In 2018, the São José do Rio Preto Diocese was under investigation for these allegations and at the time, Bishop Ferreira stepped down from his position of regional coordinator of the Riberao Preto Archdiocese, although he remained bishop.
Pope Francis’s rapid removal of Ferreira from his position seems to suggest that this was the final straw in a litany of investigations and misconduct allegations. Typically, the Vatican can take several years to investigate such allegations, but his resignation was rapidly accepted by the Pope, less than a week after the video spread on social media.
Ferreira’s resignation is one of several bishops’ resignations accepted lately for allegedly ignoring credible reports of clergy sexual abuse or being personally accused of sexual misconduct. However, that he had been previously investigated as early as 2015 and left in his position lines up with experiences detailed by survivors of clergy sexual abuse. Survivors have repeatedly complained that the Vatican has ignored reports of sexual abuse or failed to take appropriate action against bishops accused of misconduct and abuse.
For VOTF’s statement on child protection, please see here.
For survivor support resources, please see here.
Pope Francis and Catholic Church Promoting
COVID-19 Vaccination as Moral Obligation
Pope Francis appeared in a public service advertisement for COVID-19 vaccinations along with several other prelates, including cardinals from Mexico, Honduras, Peru, Brazil, and El Salvador and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles California. In the ad, he says, “Thanks to God’s grace and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from COVID-19. They bring hope to end the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we collaborate with one another.” He tells viewers that vaccination against COVID-19 is “an act of love.”
Pope Francis’s continued message of caring for the most vulnerable is a major point in the advertisement. He says, “Getting the vaccines that are authorized by the respective authorities is an act of love. And helping the majority of people to do so is an act of love. Getting vaccinated is a simple yet profound way to care for one another, especially the most vulnerable.”
Although access to vaccinations continues to present challenges to vaccine campaigns, vaccine hesitancy and lack of confidence in the vaccines also creates barriers to vaccination. Lisa Sherman, chief executive of the Ad Council, the organization that led the polio vaccination campaign in the 1950s, explains, “To the world’s billion-plus Catholics, the Pope is one of the most trusted messengers and holds unparalleled influence. We are extremely grateful to him and the Cardinals and Archbishops for lending their voices and platforms to help people across the globe feel more confident in the vaccines.”
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the highest doctrinal authorities of the Catholic Church, explicitly states that “the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good.” It goes on to explain the moral responsibility of protecting the weakest and most exposed and vulnerable members of society.
Several Catholic bishops, including Archbishop Gomez, have instructed their priests not to sign forms qualifying parishioners for religious exemptions from vaccine mandates.
Vatican’s Budget Struggles Made Public
Italy’s Catholic Church has depended on the “8x1000” or the “eight per thousand” tax since the 1980s. This is a share of personal income tax that the state divides between state funds and charitable organizations chosen by each taxpayer. The approved charities are both religious and secular, and taxpayers may choose one of several or not make a choice; the income from those who do not select a charity are allocated based on the proportions of those who do make choices.
Approximately 70% of those who make a selection choose the Catholic Church, and these funds are managed by the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI). They go towards a variety of initiatives in addition to funding the administration and overhead of the CEI. However, the amount allocated to the Catholic Church reached an all-time low in 2020, likely due to several causes.
A new option allows taxpayers to select from one of five additional causes, including “natural disaster relief, ending world hunger, assistance for refugees and unaccompanied foreign minors, the conservation of cultural heritage, and the maintenance of school buildings.”
Vincenzo Corrado, a spokesman for CEI, was not concerned about the drop, explaining that 71.1% of those who do choose one cause still choose CEI. Although the overall amount received by the church through this tax scheme has dropped, he believes it is not due to a rejection of the Church.
The Vatican has also disclosed its real estate holdings for the first time, and in the Secretariat for the Economy’s annual report, showed a “better-than-expected” but still difficult situation. The consolidated financial statement revealed a reduced income but also reduced expenses, and further reductions in contributions to Peter’s Pence, the charitable collection agency of the Church. The London property currently at the center of a court case for financial misdeeds also had been mortgaged at 7.7%, but has been refinanced to a more reasonable 0.71%. The property itself has been put up for sale, although the damage was more costly in image than in finances.
2020 was a difficult year for everyone, and the Vatican was no exception. Reliant in part on donations, and experiencing higher than usual demands on charitable programs aiding the poor, it is no surprise that the budget saw a difficult statement and a deficit. However, “the entities of the Holy See do not have making profit as their goal,” and thus the Vatican is not run like a business. The transparency provided by releasing numbers related to the budget is a positive trend, one that will hopefully continue as Francis’s financial reforms continue.
For VOTF’s statement on financial accountability, please see here.
Don't Forget the Virtual Prayer Service on Feast of St. Phoebe
Discerning Deacons invites all to a virtual prayer service on Sept. 3 for the feast of St. Phoebe. The evening will include testimonials from Catholic women already engaged in diaconal ministry, to pray for St. Phoebe's help in discernment, and to express hope that the Church will "receive [these women] in the Lord" just as St. Paul asked the Church in Rome to receive Phoebe, the diakanos. (Romans 16:1-2) The liturgy will take place in both English and Spanish.
The results of of the conversations will be brought to Pope Francis and the Pontifical Commission in October 2021.
Register here for the event: Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, 7:00 to 8:30 pm.
VOTF Virtual Conference in October: Register Now
Join us on October 23 as we examine the body of the Church to see how structure, power, participation, and accountability can be brought together within the Church to fulfill its mission of bringing Christ to the world.
Two featured speakers at the conference will offer their views on re–membering the Church. Speaking first on the morning of Oct. 23 will be Sister Carol Zinn, S.S.J. Ph.D. She is Leadership Conference of Women Religious executive director and serves as Saint John Vianney Center consultant for women religious community health and transition. Formerly, she served as United Nations Economic and Social Council consultant.
Prof. Massimo Faggioli, Ph.D., will address the conference. Prof. Faggioli spoke at VOTF’s 2018 Conference, and his return is highly anticipated. He is a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University, a prolific author, and a leading international authority on Catholic Church history and ecclesiology, the inner workings of the Church.
Also during VOTF’s 2021 Conference, a panel comprising women liturgy leaders from the Paulist Center Boston (link is external) faith community will discuss lay-led liturgies, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and VOTF leaders will offer presentations on VOTF projects in diocesan financial transparency, Church governance by and through lay involvement in Diocesan Financial Councils, adherence to protection of children guidelines in parishes and dioceses, and women’s emerging voices in the Catholic Church.
We Need YOU, and Your Voice!
Our VOTF Board is seeking additional Trustees for appointment.
During this serious and difficult time, not only in our Church but also in our Country, we are seeking a diverse number of candidates who will further the Mission of VOTF and be dedicated to the advancement of the Catholic laity.
Our Board seeks Candidates to be diverse in geographical areas and dioceses, ages, interests, ethnicity, experiences and present or former occupations.
Board meetings are held both virtually and in person, about 10 annually, an hour to 90 minutes in length. Time zones with be taken into serious consideration.
To begin this process of participating as an integral part of our VOTF organization, please provide a resume and brief position statement to Elia Marnik.
Board responsibilities and VOTF By-Laws are available on our website.
We welcome your application!
Overdue Justice for Sexual Abuse Survivors: States Repeal Statutes of Limitations Throughout the Country
“For the first time in history, one in five victims of child sexual abuse victims in the U.S. have a chance to file civil lawsuits to seek justice and publicly expose those who committed or concealed the crimes against them. ‘Never before have so many suffering survivors had an opportunity to protect others by naming child molesters and uncovering cover ups of these horrors in court,’ said survivor and advocate Joelle Casteix of Orange County, Calif. For decades, what advocates call ‘archaic, arbitrary and predator-friendly’ statutes of limitations have prevented such litigation, because victims have been required to step forward usually in their 20s—far sooner than most are capable of, according to most research.” By David Clohessy, MsMagazine.com
More Clergy Abuse Is Finally Being Prosecuted, No Thanks To The Church, A Lawyer Says
“At the height of his career, former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was one of the most influential leaders of the Catholic Church in the U.S., heading the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. Last week, he became the first U.S. Cardinal to be criminally charged with a sexual crime against a minor, making the 91-year-old the highest-ranking Catholic Church official in the country to face criminal charges for clergy sexual abuse … Mitchell Garabedian spoke to All Things Considered's Mary Louise Kelly about whether he's seen progress in the way the U.S. justice system has prosecuted these cases, if there's difficulty in building a defense against allegations that may be decades old and if the Church itself has begun to take meaningful action to end systemic abuse.” By Mary Louise Kelly, National Public Radio
Report shows that Catholic Church Spent Millions Meant For Residential School Survivors
“The Roman Catholic Church has spent millions of dollars intended to compensate residential school survivors on lawyers, administration and private fundraising, according to documents obtained by CBC News. The other churches involved in the landmark 2005 residential schools compensation agreement — Anglican, United and Presbyterian — paid the full amount of compensation owed without any issues.” By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alberta Native News
NY let childhood sex abuse victims sue; 9,000 went to court
“For two years, New York temporarily set aside its usual time limit on civil lawsuits in order to allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue churches, hospitals, schools, camps, scout groups and other institutions and people they hold responsible for enabling pedophiles or turning a blind eye to wrongdoing. That window closes Saturday (Aug. 14), after more than 9,000 lawsuits were filed, a deluge whose impact may be felt for many years. Four of the state’s Roman Catholic dioceses have filed for bankruptcy partly as a result of litigation unleashed by the state’s Child Victims Act. Thousands of new allegations against priests, teachers, scout leaders and other authorities have intensified the already harsh light on institutions entrusted with caring for children.” By Michael Hill, Religion News Service
Church Meets World from America: The Jesuit Review
This is where the Catholic Church meets the most interesting and consequential issues of our time. Each episode explores a different topic through immersive stories told by America’s editors. “Church Meets World” is the best of our award-winning magazine content reimagined in podcast form. It’s not only what you read in our pages but how you hear it. Presented by Maggi Van Dorn and Sebastian Gomes. In this episode: What Catholics still don’t understand about the clergy sexual abuse crisis.
- Deliver Us – The ‘Deliver Us’ podcast asks: Will the Catholic Church's sex abuse crisis ever end? By America: The Jesuit Review
2021-2022 Season of Saint Susanna’s Adult Faith Formation
The Annual Schedule can also be viewed at our website, www.saintsusanna.org/Attachments/aff_yearly_program_standard.pdf
September 20, 2021 – Mistranslated Words in the Bible with Jared Abram Seltzer
Our Bibles are a compilation of ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts authored by at least 40 different Israelites over a span of at least 1500 years, a compilation which was later translated into other languages like English for our reading pleasure and edification. Are any of the words in our translations inadequately translated? It is true that every translation lacks something in some way, be it significant or quite insignificant, because it moves an idea from one culture and normative pattern of thinking to another. Jared will bring with him the expertise of a team of professors from the Israel Bible Center and speak on a handful of examples of words in the Bible that frankly are mistranslated that really need to be corrected or else we will miss the original meaning of the text.
Jared Abram Seltzer earned his BS in Religion and Linguistics and his MA in the Bible and ancient near-eastern history and culture from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He is a contributor and research assistant with the Israel Bible Center, an academic institute that produces video courses which concentrate on Biblical and Jewish studies, and which illuminate the texts, history, culture, languages, and beliefs of ancient Israel. Jared also professionally teaches Biblical Hebrew with the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, which like the Israel Bible Center, is a subsidiary of eTeacherGroup. He is also a content writer and editor for a quarterly Israeli magazine that teaches about modern Israel and the Jewish context of the Bible as well as the intersection of nascent Christianity with Second Temple Judaism.
October 18 & 25 2021- Heresies that Threatened the Early Church with Dr. Nate DesRosiers
What is heresy and what is orthodoxy? How did the early Church navigate through challenges to the faith when diversity of belief and practice emerged? What theological and social strategies and advancements worked best that enabled the Catholic Church to resist internal trials and continue to grow? This class will explore some of the major heresies that threatened the church including the Marcionites, Donatists, Gnostics, and Arians and the Church’s responses to these tests in the forms of church councils, the veneration of Mary and the saints, and high Christology.
Nate DesRosiers is a perennial favorite here at Saint Susanna Adult Formation. He is Associate Professor in Religious Studies at Stonehill College in Easton, where he teaches courses in Classics, New Testament, and Early Christianity, and Visiting Professor at Brown University. He received a Master’s degree from Harvard University in 1998 and a Ph.D. from Brown University in 2007.
November 15, 2021 - Faith in a Post-Covid World with Dr. Richard Gaillardetz
We recognize that the Catholic Church had already been hemorrhaging membership, particularly among young adults, prior to the pandemic. However, the pandemic has certainly exacerbated this loss in church membership. How might the church emerge from this pandemic better equipped to make a case for continued church belonging?
Richard R. Gaillardetz is the Joseph Professor of Catholic Systematic Theology at Boston College and is also currently the chair of the theology department. He has published over 170 articles and authored or edited 14 books. He is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Vatican II which was released in 2020. He is the recipient of many awards, including the Sophia Award from the Washington Theological Union for theological excellence in service of ministry (2000) and the Yves Congar Award for theological excellence from Barry University (2018). He is a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America.
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