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“May the peace of our Peacemaker lighten our heaviness, soften our tongues and engage us in true communication.” Penny Duggan, a VOTF and SNAP supporter

The Pope’s first encyclical on love “Deus Caritas Est” is a timely consideration, arriving as it does just before the feast of St. Valentine on Feb. 14. The document has drawn lively discussion from readers – see Commentary “There’s Love and there’s love.” As VOTF begins our fifth year, we continue to find much work ahead: the VOTF officer slate for 2006-8 is ready and posted (Election News); dioceses around the US are in courts and/or the news; the survivors once again give all of us something to think about (Commentary – “Silence: Less is More”); Tom Doyle reflects on this time of transition in VOTF’s leadership (“VOTF – Remaining a Voice of Hope”); and more! Read on and let us know your thoughts at


Every nominee who accepted his/her nomination is a candidate for the office for which they were nominated. Be sure to read their statements as well as the election process details. Elections commenced Feb. 7 and will close Feb. 22.

President – Kris Ward (OH); Mary Pat Fox (NY)
Vice-president – Margaret Roylance (MA); Sally Vance-Trembath (CA)
Secretary – Gaile Pohlhaus (PA)
Treasurer – Mary Freeman (RI)

For candidates’ statements and voting details, click here.

SURVIVOR Community News:
Long-time survivor advocate, and survivor himself, Fr. Robert M. Hoatson of the diocese of Newark, NJ filed a civil action against the New York Archdiocese, Cardinal Edward Egan, the Newark Archdiocese, Archbishop John J. Myers, the Congregation of Christian Brothers, Fr. John O’Brien, Br. Laurence Boschetto, Br. Paul Kevin Hennessy, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, and Bishop Howard J. Hubbard. Subsequent to the December filing, Fr. Hoatson was placed on administrative leave by the Newark Archdiocese. Read more in Commentary – “Silence: Less Is More.”

The newly assigned pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians has resigned his post following pronounced disaffection in the parish over the ousting of the former pastor Fr. Walter Cuenin. Go to for updates.

  • Fr. Cuenin, meanwhile, was appointed by the Archdiocese to serve as Catholic chaplain at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA. The appointment is full-time until June, when the position will be re-assessed. Stay tuned via Our Lady’s web site!
  • Changing tacks: The Archdiocese has scheduled a parish wide consultation meeting for the selection of the next pastor* of Our Lady's. Our Lady’s web site will keep readers up to date.

[*For others facing similar parish changes, we recommend a comprehensive pastor selection process with meaningful lay involvement as outlined in Changing Pastors, A Resource for Pastoral Transitions by Thomas P. Sweetser, SJ and Mary Benet McKinney, OSB (Franklin, WI: Sheed and Ward, 1998). The process includes meetings with key parish staff and with lay leaders of the parish (the PPC, the Finance Council, and key parish ministries.) This process also provides the consultation committee with the valuable insight required to recommend a future pastor skilled in parish healing and reconciliation.]

The Church we want to become has taken a major step in Boston, MA The Paulist Center has published an audited financial report. Donna Doucette reports in Commentary - “They Get It!”

Message from Philadelphia, PA: “On the Sunday when the announcement came out of the wrong doing of the priests in Philadelphia, Monsignor Mullen of St Elizabeth Church in Uwchlan Township, got down on his knees and asked forgiveness of the people in the parish for the wrong deeds of his fellow priests. It was a most stirring moment.” Another attendee at the service wrote, “Would that every bishop and priest in the US would do as much on a given Sunday in churches filled with survivors and their supporters.”

DIOCESE/State WATCH: “I should have done more.” Cardinal George, Chicago

See today's New York Times for "Arrest of Chicago Priest Raises Questions About Reform"

The Chicago Tribune reports that Archdiocese of Chicago’s Cardinal George apologized recently to parishioners for not removing an allegedly abusing priest even after the priest had been interrogated by police on questions of child molestation. The Cardinal said that USCCB guidelines thwarted more aggressive action since the boy did not bring his charges to the Church, but to civil authorities. The priest was removed from the parish only after he was criminally charged. Cardinal George has vowed to replace the existing monitoring policy (in place while an accusation is being assessed for its credibility) with a “non-judgmental leave” action. The Feb. 6 issue of the Chicago Tribune reports another priest in another parish in the Archdiocese has been removed from ministry. Also, see the story in Chicago Sun-Times .

Good news in Virginia – VOTF Virginia and area affiliates and supporters are pleased with an important first step toward protecting children. The Virginia Senate on Thursday narrowly passed Senate Bill 253; the bill would add clergy to the list of professionals required to report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect, joining 43 states that already do so. The story appeared in the Virginia Beach News.

VOTF Bridgeport, CT – has been studying a return to Bishop election. See Commentary – “Elect Our Bishops? Why Not?”

Archdiocese of Boston: The resounding defeat of the Sen. Marian Walsh bill in Boston, MA brought to light another perspective, articulated by VOTF’s John Moynihan, “The legislature couldn’t do it for us; … parishioners will have to take action for themselves in their own parishes.” See Jim Post’s thoughts in Commentary – “Making Lemonade.”

Archdiocese of Detroit, MI: Diocesan financial decision making alarms many in at least one US diocese. Although financially strapped, the Detroit Archdiocese continues to subsidize the Washington, DC John Paul II Cultural Center. See the National Catholic Reporter, Feb. 2 posting.

Archdiocese of Denver, CO: The Archdiocese of Denver lost their argument to have several lawsuits alleging clergy sexual abuse moved from state to federal court. According to the Denver Post, the Archdiocese’s counsel argued, “… the sexual-abuse lawsuits raise critical First Amendment questions by asking a court to review religious doctrine and policy rooted in centuries-old church law.” A motion filed by attorneys for the alleged victims stated, “Defendants invoke the First Amendment, not as a shield from improper governmental intrusion into their affairs of governance, beliefs or religious practices, but as a shield to immunize them from the consequences of years of sexual abuse of young boys.” Follow this story in the Denver Post.

  • Also note: SNAP reports that on Feb. 13, the “Colorado Senate will hold a hearing on legislation that would give victims of child sex abuse a two-year window to expose their predators.” According to the Denver Post, “In a joint statement Monday, the state's three Catholic bishops said changing statute of limitations rules for Catholic and other private entities would create a double standard. Colorado law strictly limits a family's ability to sue a public school, for instance, and caps damages.”

Archdiocese of Spokane, WA: On Feb. 2 the New York Times reported, “The Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Wash., one of three in the country to have filed for bankruptcy in the aftermath of the sexual abuse scandals, agreed Wednesday to pay nearly $46 million to settle claims by 75 people who allege abuse by priests, lawyers involved in drawing up the settlement said…. If approved by a bankruptcy court and the plaintiffs, the agreement will provide one of the largest payouts per victim of any of the settlements reached across the nation since the church encountered crisis in 2002 with disclosure of abuse in the Boston Archdiocese.” Bishop William Skylstad of the Spokane diocese is president of the USCCB. See the Bishop’s statement on criminal statutes of limitation reform on the VOTF web site.

Hard to believe: The Miami Herald reports that the Archdiocese of Miami, FL blamed a 10-year-old for “his own negligence” when the alleged victim, now 19, filed a sexual abuse lawsuit against the Miami Archdiocese recently. According to the Miami Herald, “The criminal case against [the priest] is significant because he represents the first Catholic priest in the archdiocese to be charged with sexual battery on a child younger than 12. Now retired, he served parishes in South Florida for three decades.” Go to the Feb. 5 Miami Herald.

COUNCIL Update: National Representative Council notes a newly elected representative from Region 7 (IN, IL, WI). She is Deirdre O’Neal from Naperville, IL. Read Deirdre’s statement in Council News.

National Office News from Ray Joyce: I’m happy to announce that John Moynihan, our press liaison has accepted a new role within the organization. He will be our nearly full-time development officer while continuing his role in media relations on a part-time basis. John has a deep commitment to our mission and many talents that will serve this movement well as we look to enhance and diversify funding sources. Please join me in congratulating John.


Ronald Rolheiser, a Roman Catholic priest and member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, is president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. The edited version of a much appreciated 2002 talk delivered by Fr. Rolheiser, “Carrying the Scandal Biblically,” is available (pdf) on his web site.

Boston College’s online workshops and courses create an exceptional educational opportunity no matter where you live. Visit the web site and see course offerings. How does it work? ONLINE LEARNING THROUGH C21 ONLINE AND IREPM: IREPM/C21 Online courses are available 24/7 in a password protected Web site available only to participants and facilitators. Each participant will be assigned to a small community for conversation and faith sharing, guided by a facilitator. The site is open to participants at least one week before and one week after the course ends. The only technical requirement is a minimum 56K access to the Internet; no special software is needed. There is an orientation available to assist participants in navigating the Web site. Technical assistance, if needed, is available Monday through Friday.

  • For a glimpse of a Boston College C21 Online course, check out their new video

Maria Cleary of VOTF NJ is a member of the Coordinating Team for NJ VOTF. This affiliate has been offering an online course to their members called “The Catholic Church: A Short History.” It is based on Hans Kung’s book of the same name. The course is over for now, but will re-appear with a Spring opportunity later this month. It will be open to anyone interested in this kind of educational exchange. To visit the site and/or register, later this month click here. Watch the Vineyard for an update.

The Jan. 27, 2006 issue of Commonweal Magazine has an outstanding consideration of divergent views within our Roman Catholic faith community. The “creative tension” that informs our faith is often lost among labels and labeling. After the Big Chill: Intellectual Freedom and Catholic Theologians by Luke Timothy Johnson, a New Testament professor at Emory University, goes a long way toward working with that tension.

Also note:

  • a National Catholic Reporter, Jan. 27 editorial on an item in the Tidings (the Los Angeles diocesan newspaper) that essentially denied the trafficking of clergy sexual abusers by bishops: “The activists who run the Web site have done a good job gathering as much information as possible about abusive priests and their assignments, but they are constrained because bishops, including Mahony, continue to deny the Catholic community information we should have about abusive priests.” Go to ;
  • and in the Jan. 30 issue of America magazine, a Pittsburg, PA pastor replies to “Blueprint for Change,” an article about the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Administration (America, 9/26), and its members’ efforts to improve the stewardship of the church.” In his letter, the pastor identified difficulties with the Roundtable’s recommendations. It is an instructive and articulate look at this ministry.

DATES to remember:

Feb. 27: Boston College Church in the 21st Century will host “Catholic Politicians in the US: Their Faith and Public Policy.” Tim Russert of “Meet the Press” will be moderator for panelists James Carville (political analyst and former advisor to President Clinton); E. J. Dionne (Washington Post columnist); Edward Gillespie (former chair of the Republican National Committee); and Peggy Noonan (author and contributing editor to the Wall Street Journal). Go to their web site or call 617-552-4820.

March 24-26: “The Church Women Want” at the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center, Garrison, NY. 845-424-2111 or go to the web site.

April 20 to April 29 - Panel discussion at Fairfield University, CT: “Elect Our Bishops? Why Not?” For more information, click here.

MAY 26-8 Kirkridge Retreat Center, Bangor, PA: Fr. Gary R. Hayes is a Roman Catholic priest in the diocese of Owensboro, KY and a well-known, longstanding survivor advocate. He is promoting a unique weekend retreat for clergy survivors of clergy sexual abuse. This week-end of recovery is being offered for clergy of all faiths who are survivors of sexual abuse by clergy. Survivor clergy are defined as present or former priests, ministers, monks, nuns, or their equivalent from any other religious expression. Confidentiality and emotional safety will be central to the success of this week-end of recovery. Personal healing and continued support and connection with Jordan’s Crossing are anticipated outcomes. Contact for additional information or call 610-588-1793. To register online, go to their web site.

LETTERS to the editor – The Catholic Church in Switzerland; priest shortage in Santa Barbara, CA

QUOTE for our time: "This should be a wake-up call for all the dioceses in the country to look at themselves," said Anne Burke, an Illinois appellate judge and the former leader of the National Review Board, the lay panel American bishops created in response to the clergy abuse crisis in 2002. "Are we really doing it right?" Anne Burke commenting on Cardinal George in the Archdiocese of Chicago, Associated Press

In the Vineyard
February 9, 2006
Volume 5, Issue 3
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