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“Without dialogue, we shoot each other.” Hans Kung, 2005

VOTF officer election dates for 2006-8:
Feb. 1 web site posting of nominees and candidates’ statements
Feb. 7-22 electronic voting (see Election Committee letter for details)
Feb. 28 election results posted

All registered VOTF members are invited to participate in the election. Not registered? Click here.

VOTF at Work in the World
(Please note that many of the online publications require registering before viewing the articles mentioned.)

VOTF notes the fourth anniversary of the Boston Globe’s story on Fr. John Geoghan published on January 6, 2002. VOTF vice president Kris Ward wrote a prayer of remembrance.

LATE News items: Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, 75, of Detroit, Michigan, is the first U.S. bishop to disclose that he was a victim of clergy sexual abuse. He is also the first to endorse proposals in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and other states to follow California's example and open a one-year window for victims to file lawsuits over sexual abuse, no matter how long ago it took place, according to the Washington Post. also see VOTF Press Release: and Bishop Gumbleton's testimony. VOTF Atlanta, Georgia – Betty Clermont advises that Archbishop Wilton Gregory has given permission to VOTF-Atlanta to meet on Church property making this the second diocese to lift a ban on VOTF meeting on Church property (Brooklyn, NY was the first); also, note below a recent development in the diocese of Camden, NJ.

Bob Kaintz of VOTF St. Louis reports on the Christmas Eve Mass celebrated at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church by an excommunicated priest. (See Commentary – “Into the Light”.) The Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri continues to roil over the excommunication of a priest and six board members of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church. The Christmas Eve Mass celebrated by the new pastor drew so many parishioners and supporters that another parish building was needed to accommodate the nearly 2000 attendees. VOTF suggests you visit the following sites for additional perspectives and greater understanding of the issues that brought so much controversy to Catholics in St. Louis.

  • ARCC – James Coriden, JCD, Academic Dean Emeritus at Washington Theological Union, prepared for ARCC “The Canonical Doctrine of Reception,” which is a timely consideration of community as St. Stan’s situation, along with Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton, Mass. and parish closings continue to distort “communio.”
  • St. Louis archdiocesan web site provides text of press releases, inclusive of the Jan. 6, 2006 “Decree of Suppression of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish”; Also see Archbishop Burke’s Feb. 11, 2005 message regarding St. Stan’s.
  • See the St. Louis Dispatch for a chronology of the St. Stan’s story; and check your local library for perhaps the best coverage of this story by Suzanne Sataline in the Dec. 20 issue of the Wall Street Journal; some members of VOTF were interested in sending a donation or message to St. Stan’s. The postal address is St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, P.O. Box 31667, St. Louis, MO 63131. Their web site.
  • Update on Our Lady Help of Christians, Newton, Mass. – Both the parish pastoral and finance councils have published their findings after studying the details of the archdiocesan handling of Fr. Walter Cuenin’s forced resignation. According to the reports, in sum, the archdiocese had no grounds to remove Fr. Cuenin. Go to for details or contact
  • See Sharon Harrington, VOTF Weymouth, Mass. in Commentary – “Parish Closings: The Right Way”
  • A thaw in Boston? Archbishop Sean O’Malley provided priests for Christmas services in at least three of six vigiling parishes; the archdiocese is engaged in a new round of discussions with representatives of vigiling parishes. Read More.

VOTF Boston and elsewhere have taken no winter break. Advocacy Day at the Boston, MA State House on Jan. 10 to support legislation that will protect children drew 300 to a rally, which was followed by a press conference comprised of medical experts who verified the particular dilemma for abuse victims when faced with various statutes of limitation. To keep up with Boston VOTF activities, email Dorothy Kennedy for their one-page, twice-monthly newsletter at Also, a public forum site has been set up to post the opinions of key players in moving these various bills toward Mass. law. Go to and let us know what you think at

  • The Boston Archdiocese has extended a financial settlement proposal to a second wave of victims of sexual abuse by clergy members, offering far smaller monetary awards than the first settlement in 2003 and establishing a more rigorous burden of proof for accusers. Read more.
  • The Boston Globe reported: “A bankruptcy judge ruled [12/30] that the Archdiocese of Portland, not its parishes, owns church assets, dealing a major blow to its efforts to protect church property from lawsuits filed by alleged victims of priest sex abuse. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris, in a pair of opinions, ruled that church property and real estate is under the control of the archdiocese, not its individual parishes, as attorneys for the archdiocese had argued.”
  • Attorneys wanted assurance on Abp. Levada’s deposition scheduled for Jan. 9, 2006 to determine how the Portland diocese handled priest sex abuse allegations during his tenure there (1986–1995) before transferring to the San Francisco diocese. Abp. Levada now heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. Read more; for more on the same story, go to the Washington Post.
  • In Philadelphia, VOTF members and supporters gathered at Cardinal Rigali’s chancery office in lieu of a response to their 70-days old request to meet with the Cardinal. See Dick Taylor’s “Epiphany Vigil” in Commentary.

“Getting it” in one diocese – Springfield, Mass. The diocese of Springfield, Mass. is among the many that need to close parishes. Learning from the Boston, Mass. debacle around the same decision, the Springfield diocese is reaching out to its faith communities. The Boston Globe reported, “Springfield church officials are seeking input from parishioners and lay Catholic leaders, as well as from those outside the church, as they decide how to reorganize the diocese. They are holding a Web chat to get the input of parishioners from throughout the diocese, which sprawls across the entire western part of the state. And they are going to take their time when it comes to shutting down parishes.” In the article, VOTF Springfield spokesperson John Bowen was encouraged saying, “I think they’ve learned from Boston’s mistakes.” The article noted that diocese plans will include a two-hour “online chat, during which Catholics can question the Rev. John Bonzagni, the official in charge of the reorganization.”

  • And seeming to get it in another diocese: Bishop Galante of the Camden, NJ diocese has a new vision for the laity in that diocese. According to the Inquirer (Phila., Penn.), the bishop said, “his ‘vision for the future’ involves lay Catholics assuming a more vigorous role in guiding their parishes.” Stay tuned! For the full story, click here.

SURVIVOR Community Update
Fr. Tom Doyle says, “No religion or church offers anything to its members or to civil society that can possibly justify any degree of deferential treatment for the sexual, emotional and spiritual devastation of the young and the vulnerable.” See Tom Doyle’s message in Commentary – “It’s Still About Healing”

  • Note: In Ohio, SNAP has advised that the Judiciary Committee hearing on SB 17 scheduled for the 12th of January has been postponed. (The bill would extend the civil statutes of limitation for victims of child sexual abuse and create a window to allow for those who previously couldn't bring a claim to have their day in court. The bill passed unanimously in the Ohio State Senate last year.)

Survivors and survivor supporters gathered in community on Saturday in Dorchester, Mass. to share pizza and fellowship., Speak Truth to Power, Coalition to Reform Sex Abuse Laws, and People of Conscience were among those who gathered. The Boston Globe reported, “While group members were critical of the church, they said that the friendships they made over the past four years have been strong. ‘There are people who want to change the law, change the practices of the bishop, but we realize we need to change people's consciences . . . by exposing the truth,’ Kellen [People of Conscience] said.”

Convocation Implementation Team Progress Report

REMEMBER the July Convocation and the nine ideas that were generated for prospective action in 2006? Over the past few months, the Convocation Implementation Team (CIT) has been receiving input from affiliates around the country on the draft action plan for Financial Accountability and the template for Legislative Action. The plan reflects considerable grassroots input and is broad-based with action recommendations for the confident as well as the faint of heart. All input is expected by January 13th. The CIT will meet the weekend of January 21-22 to finalize text for distribution to the National Representative Council and officers for a final review. The CIT anticipates releasing these documents in late January-early February.


National Catholic Reporter: How fine is the line between “manifestation of conscience” and protecting children? NCR reports on a remarkable consideration of confidentiality (or is it?) in an abuse case.

The Jan 2-9 issue of America magazine includes an excellent look at historicity in the Bible, written by Richard Clifford, Weston Jesuit School of Theology. The current issue includes an editorial that is “singing our song” – “In the Vineyard.” While it is not about this publication, it is nevertheless about all of us. “The call to ‘lay ecclesial ministry’ is a unique call within the church, distinct from the more common ‘lay ministry’ that all Catholics are to perform in the secular world, and different from the volunteer work that many generous Catholics offer the church. As the bishops note, this ministry is clearly a ‘sign of the Holy Spirit’s movement.’ That the hierarchy is taking this call seriously, particularly during a time when collaborative ministry between the ordained and the laity has become indispensable in many parishes, schools, hospitals and retreat houses, is a sign of health in the church.”

What inquiring minds might like to know about this change of ecclesiastic heart is this – Is the “sign of the Holy Spirit’s movement” recognized among women and men alike? What do you think? Write to

Proposal: “A THINKING Church!” Response: “Not in my back yard.” Read the good news about Hans Kung’s visit to Phoenix, AZ and Bishop Olmsted’s difficulty with the thousands-fold gathering, which was part of an interfaith outreach by Jesuit Alumni of Arizona to promote what Kung has represented all of his life – a thinking Church. . Kung leads the Foundation for Global Ethics in his hometown of Tubingen, Germany. The foundation works to identify the commonalities in all religions and proposes using them to foster peace.

  • The Arizona Republic covered the controversy over Kung’s visit noting that Bishop Olmsted refused to permit an ad for the event in diocesan newspapers and church bulletins. He also refused the distribution of free admission tickets offered to seniors in Catholic high schools.
  • Kung’s comments on “Declaration of the Religions for a Global Ethic,” endorsed by the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1993.

Next issue of In the Vineyard: January 26

In the Vineyard
January 12, 2006
Volume 1, Issue 1
Printer Friendly Version (WORD)

Page One

Reflection and Prayer



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