Voice of the Faithful, In the Vineyard

VOTF in Rome
Special Section – “VOTF in Rome” begins next week on our web site with regular commentary from VOTF vice-president Kris Ward. Kris will arrive in Rome on behalf of VOTF just before the Conclave begins on April 18. Read Kris’ statement.

The VOTF Survey heard from over 4000 respondents. The survey showed that members of Voice of the Faithful are looking to the next Pope to address clergy sexual abuse crisis and to increase lay participation in Church governance - Read More

National News – VOTF marks the death of Pope John Paul II; the VOTF “cri de coeur” letter in America magazine moves many; the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management answers some questions and raises others in this month’s “Commentary”;

“On Our Way” to Indianapolis, July 8-10: Speakers are confirmed, the program is complete and registration will begin next week. Be on your way to “The Faithful Speak: Accountability Now” with fellow Catholics from VOTF affiliates everywhere.

Representative Council – The next meeting will be held on Saturday April 16, 10am-2pm at Holy Family Parish Hall, Monument Square, Concord, MA. Prior to the Council meeting, there will be a panel discussion with Fordham University professor emeritus Joe O'Callaghan (VOTF Bridgeport, CT) and Temple University Professor of Catholic Thought and Inter-religious Dialogue Leonard Swidler on the “Bridgeport Proposals” – you can read the whole text of the proposals here; the Nomination process for our new Regional Representative Council is under way. Have you been contacted by your nominations representative? The deadline for nominations to the new VOTF Regional Representative Council is May 1. Click here for USCCB Regions and VOTF contact persons.

Working Group News – Survivors need our help and the Survivor Support Working Group has a few ideas; SNAP, too, goes to Rome, in English AND Italian; James Keenan says, “Fairness cuts two ways. If a zero tolerance policy is applied to priests, where is an analogous policy for the bishops?” Keenan addresses a variety of questions that impact laity as well as priests, such as “If the chancery sends out a letter asking a topic to be addressed and a position to be advocated in the Sunday sermon, how specifically bound is the pastor to the chancery's initiative?” Read the final installment of Jim’s paper on “The Ethical Rights of Priests”; VOTF’s Lay Education group is hosting an on-line discussion of Acts of the Apostles, a suggested reading for the Indianapolis convocation.

Regional News VOTF Louisville, KY’s second anniversary becomes this month’s Best Practice; VOTF has the prayers of Gethsemani Abbey; VOTF Greater Philadelphia is paving the way toward the Indianapolis convocation with an April 23 conference to address parish finances; Portland, Maine parishioners are several steps closer to “structural change”; Boston VOTF is bringing Goal #3 to their own back yards; speaking in Philadelphia, PA recently, VOTF member and Fordham University professor emeritus Joe O’Callaghan noted the early Church reliance on the “body of the disciples” for help in spreading the faith. “This is not about matters of doctrine,” he added. “We’re talking matters of administration and governance, getting back to the ancient Christian tradition of counsel and consent of the community.” Joe’s document “Council and Consent as Christian Virtues: Five Proposals for Structural Change in the Catholic Church

VOTF On the Road - VOTF president Jim Post to give the response at the annual Common Ground Initiative’s Cardinal Bernardin lecture in Washington, DC on June 24; Kris Ward leaves a message as she prepares to leave for Rome.

Commentary – Survivor support activist Steve Sheehan reflects on the legacy of Pope John Paul II; Mary Heins (IN) asks – “Just How Round is the ‘Roundtable’”? Mary comments on the report; John Allen comments on VOTF and “hope” during his visit to VOTF LI, NY; VOTFer Bill Flannigan wrote a recap of the Boston Catholic Men’s Conference – contact pthorp.ed@votf.org for a copy of Bill’s report.

Prayer – Our web site is rich this month with prayers written by Prayerful Voice and Kris Ward on the death of Pope John Paul II; “Pentecost Prayer for the Gift of Spiritual Freedom” by Jack Rakosky.

Site-seeing, Etc. – VOTF president Jim Post will participate in a “Virtual Conclave” hosted by Beliefnet.com - the list of “cardinals” is a story in itself; the death of Pope John Paul II promises to introduce a new vocabulary to many observers (who or what is the camerlengo?) AND did you know that “any baptized man who is not a heretic, or in schism, or notorious for simony can be elected Pope”?; Boston College conference on the priesthood is under way for June; not only lay people protested Cardinal Law’s visibility during the mourning period in Rome; NCR online offers superb Rome coverage; AP poll indicates a call for change; new web site for chatting, from VOTF NJ member Maria Cleary



Write to us! Questions, ideas, comments are welcome at pthorp.ed@votf.org.






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In the Vineyard
April 2005
Volume 4, Issue 4
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“More and more today, we’re seeing a do-it-yourself church. No longer can we simply ask or tell the pastor or the bishop to do it. If we want it to happen, we’re going to have to make it happen ourselves.” Thomas Reese, S.J., editor of America magazine in a concluding remark for the “Report of the Church in America – Leadership Roundtable 2004”

The world looked small and vulnerable last week. As tens of thousands stood vigil in St. Peter’s Square in witness to Pope John Paul II’s last moments, media viewers were struck by the broad swathe of the crowd – Christian and non-Christian, all ages and all corners of the globe represented, even the self-described “faithless.” Huddled either with eyes uplifted or heads bowed, silent and focused, this disparate throng covered the square like a blanket, numbed in the arresting grip of history and mortality.

On the other hand, our Christian faith loomed large, enduring, and vibrant. The Pope’s death found the words written and spoken in prayer around the world rising like incense capturing this circadian drama in ancient Christian eloquence. Our faith’s abiding message of resurrection colored everything.

While this paradoxical pontificate will be long considered in the light of what Pope John Paul II was and what he wasn’t, we recall Robert Burns words, “A man’s a man for a’ that.” We will remember this Pope’s bold strokes in his time and we continue to pray for guidance as we add our own strokes to our own time.

Catholics face an uncertain future, sure only that change is afoot. We share a fresh hope that a new paradigm for dialogue in our Church will emerge and that new leadership will indeed be new, in substantive ways. We are heartened by the words of Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Sao Paolo, Brazil: "The church, inserted and active in human society and in history, does not exist in order to exercise political power or to govern the society," he said, but to "organize and promote the common good…. The church must constantly promote dialogue."

We hope to do precisely that – promote the common good – at our July 8-10 VOTF convocation in Indianapolis. Many roads seem to be leading to this VOTF meeting on accountability now: The ongoing VOTF Survey documents a membership seriously invested in the future of our Church – over 4000 responses already; the so-called Roundtable discussion (“Report of the Church in America”) among lay Catholic leaders and bishops in 2004 has produced a non-profit organization aimed at repairing management and financial issues plaguing the Church. Our regional coordinator in Indiana found the report well worth reading for obvious, and not so obvious reasons – see Commentary for Mary Heins’ remarks; Kris Ward is bringing VOTF to Rome while Jim Post participates in an on-line “Virtual Conclave”; and Joe O’Callaghan (CT) is urging a return to “the ancient Christian tradition of counsel and consent of the community.”

It seems that all sides are talking these days and some are getting closer to each other. One day soon, might all “sides” dissolve around our common calling?

Peggie L. Thorp, ed. pthorp.ed@votf.org.