News from National
April Is Child Abuse Prevention Month
Wear the Blue Ribbon in April
Wearing the blue ribbon is a statement that “we care and are willing to speak out.” It reflects our awareness and willingness to be part of the solution. The ribbon indicates that as adults we have a “healthy suspicion” about child sexual abuse, and that we can identify the risks to children and youth early enough to prevent child sexual abuse from occurring.
As a concerned Catholic and member of VOTF, you can help parishes and communities create and maintain child safe environments and empower them with new tools to help protect children and youth.
Adults who interact with children and youth are on the front line of the prevention effort within each parish or community. These adults spend the most time with young people and are the primary individuals who watch over and protect our children and young people. But we need the work of every adult to keep children and youth safe, and it is the steps you take in your faith community, in local schools, in neighborhoods, and elsewhere that will reduce the scourge of child abuse.
What can you do? Start by helping your parish reinforce these five important steps to protect all children and youth:
Know the warning signs of how perpetrators work.
Control access to children and youth / screen adult volunteer applicants.
Monitor all youth programs / and train all volunteers in abuse prevention.
Be aware – have a “healthy suspicion.”
Communicate your concerns / talk with the person in charge / know how to report abuse.
Helping Heal the Wounds from Clergy Abuse:
VOTF's Healing Circles
Voice of the Faithful is invested in a time-honored practice of Restorative Justice that relies on story-telling and story-listening to foster healing for those who suffer from serious harm.
All are welcome: victims/survivors of physical abuse and their parents, spouses, children and siblings; Catholics who are struggling to remain in the Church; Catholics who could no longer remain in the Church; faithful clergy; and Church workers who experienced retaliation for speaking up are a few examples of those harmed.
The next Healing Circle will take place on Saturday, April 23, 2016, in a classroom at the Shrine of St. Anthony in Boston. There is no charge. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Bill Casey at email@example.com or (703) 568-3438.
Total confidentiality is honored.
Here's how one Healing Circle participant felt about the experience: "I recently attended a VOTF Healing Circle. As a survivor of clergy abuse, I highly recommend that victims and those concerned with victims and how the Church has dealt with us or not dealt with us attend one of these sessions. The caring, love and expressions of support I received at this circle will remain with me forever. As someone who cannot enter a Catholic Church without suffering flashbacks the circle was therapeutic, welcoming and intensely spiritual. If you get the opportunity, please attend. It will enhance your journey towards healing.”
Click here to read more testimony from past Healing Circle participants.
For additional information about Healing Circles, visit VOTF's Healing Circles webpage.
In the past decades, U.S. Catholic bishops and priests have become increasingly involved in the political arena on a spectrum of issues as well as on assessments of legislative votes by politicians. We wondered whether such efforts influenced your own perspectives or votes.
We asked four questions to gauge whether your opinions on federal legislation, federal elections, state legislation, and state or local elections were affected by statements from Pope Francis, your diocesan bishop, your parish pastor, or other clergy.
We asked you to rank such influence, if any, on a scale of 1 to 5, with the 1 being “never” and the 5 being “always.” Not surprisingly, almost no one chose “always” on any of the questions. But you did say their comments can make you reconsider your own opinions—if at least to check on your assessment. The words of Pope Francis are most likely to spur reconsideration, the words of the bishops seldom. In fact, when it comes to “never, I ignore them,” the bishops are the ones most of you ignore.
Overall, however, the majority of your responses fell somewhere between ratings of 2 and 3: “hear them but no influence” and “sometimes, if I agree.”
Here are the results: The charts report an “average ranking” from 1 to 5 (for example, on whether Pope Francis influences your opinion on federal legislation, the rank is 2.98); the tables show which percentage chose each ranking.
To Become a Mercifying People
Daniel B. Cosacchi, Fairfield University, presented these remarks at VOTF-Bridgeport’s 14th Annual Conference, an event held in conjunction with Fairfield University’s Center for Catholic Studies. Dan and his wife were two of the four panelists who offered further reflections after a keynote address by Dr. Christine Firer Hinze of Fordham University and a response by Dr. Paul Lakeland of Fairfield.
“But, Professor, why doesn’t the church allow my parents to receive communion?” This was the question that one of my students in my “Exploring Religion” class here at Fairfield University asked me just last semester. Just as easily, however, it could have been asked by countless other people who are truly baffled by this question that is currently receiving renewed attention in the church, in the wake of the last two sessions of the Synod of Bishops which met in Rome in the fall of 2014 and the fall of 2015. In my time, I wish to focus on the issue of Eucharist for the divorced and remarried through the lens of the mission statement of the Voice of the Faithful here in the Bridgeport Diocese.
As you [VOTF] all know much better than I, your robust mission statement includes three core principles, each of which are in line with the official magisterium of the Catholic church. First allow me a word about the first part of your mission statement. “Voice of the Faithful wishes to be a prayerful voice...” In affirming this much, the community joins itself to a committed relationship of the Creator of the universe, who is constantly creating us, and never ceases to show us mercy.
In this year of mercy, too, being a prayerful voice means having a concrete focus. I would submit that our prayers for mercy pay special consideration to those most in need.
Here, Pope Francis coins an interesting word. As many of you are aware, his episcopal motto is miserando atque eligendo. Francis himself translates the first word of that motto with a word that doesn’t actually exist: mercifying. So, our prayer should be that we become people who mercify, just as God mercifies.
God, of course, shows mercy in ways that are much different than how human beings are inclined to show mercy. Therefore, our prayers should be towards a conversion of our hearts, that we can live up to God’s mercy. As we heard in last Sunday’s Gospel which recounted Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son and the Prodigal Father, God is so ready to be outrageously generous with us. Our prayer should be for openness to be formed in such a mercifying mold.
Highlighting issues we face working together to Keep the Faith, Change the Church
The Catholic Church puts one foot forward on the path to including women
“In her 50th Easter season as a nun, Sister Antonia Sanchez participated in something new. For the past 49 years, since she joined the order of Religious Mary Immaculate at age 16, Sanchez has watched priests wash the feet of men on Holy Thursday. This week, Sanchez was before the altar herself at the nation's pre-eminent Catholic shrine. She was the one removing her shoes and socks. And then the pope's representative to America washed her feet.” By Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post, in The Salt Lake Tribune
A pedophilia scandal is engulfing the oldest Catholic institution in France
“A miracle did not occur in Lourdes last week. Instead, on March 15, the French media descended on the pilgrimage site in southwestern France, which is hosting a conference of the country's bishops. The journalists came to grill Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who, as bearer of the ancient title ‘primat des Gaules,’ is France's most prominent Catholic cleric. As the cardinal of Lyon, France's second largest city, he runs a diocese rocked by a series of sexual abuse scandals.” By Robert Zaretsky, The Week
Shepherds’ accountability when the flock is abused
“Thirteen years ago, as a national scandal raged over the rape and molestation of school children by hundreds of Catholic priests, a panel of leading laity appointed by the national hierarchy to look into church responsibility candidly warned ‘there must be consequences’ for the bishops who led years of cover-up. The bishops’ marked failure to follow through since by investigating fellow superiors was brought home this month in a scathing grand jury report in Pennsylvania.” By Francis X. Cline, The New Times
Vatican’s abuse commission needs proper funding
“... Pope Francis established the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, because, he said, ‘Many painful actions have caused a profound examination of conscience for the entire Church, leading us to request forgiveness from the victims and from our society for the harm that has been caused ... Marie Collins is reported to have said recently that the current funding arrangements were inadequate. It has also been reported that the commission has even been told to consider raising their own funds to complete the work.” By Nuala O’Loan, The Irish Catholic
‘I only answer to God. Bishops don’t bother me.’
“The three veteran investigators were speechless. For just a few months, they had waded into a probe of clergy sex abuse in central Pennsylvania. They didn't yet know much. But they had heard about a man near Altoona named George Foster. Foster, they were told, had long been "making noise" about eliminating abusive priests in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown - writing letters in the local papers, meeting with church leaders. Daniel Dye, the deputy attorney general leading the investigation, knew he was someone worth meeting.” By Maria Panaritis, Philly.com
Click here to read the rest of this issue of Focus ...
Please send them to Siobhan Carroll, Vineyard Editor, at Vineyard@votf.org. Unless otherwise indicated, I will assume comments can be published as Letters to the Editor.