In the Vineyard

June 2005

“All of us do what we do, think what we think, precisely because we love the Church and we want to see her sail safely and strongly through this sea of change.” Sr. Joan Chittister speaking in US Catholic

Viewing the DVD produced by VOTF Cincinnati recently, I was struck by the calm assurance of those who spoke on this video – priests, lay members of VOTF and survivors – that community is the only way we can move forward in our Church. The film is only 15 minutes long but packs a powerful incentive to belong to Voice of the Faithful and provides a compelling image of a Church in touch with itself. One of the survivors who speaks on film, attorney Gerard Ahrens, recalled the day survivors addressed the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 and the astounding courage it took to do so. Ahrens says, “I believe a wave of grace came across the Church that day.”

The DVD will be just one of the affiliate “wares” sold and/or on display during the Voice of the Faithful convocation in Indianapolis, July 8-10. We hope that all who are planning to attend the convocation will be comfortably engaged with Voice of the Faithful leaders from all over the United States as we chart next steps toward reform in our Church. To that end, the Voice of Renewal/Lay Education group has posted on our web site their downloadable materials, which are the products of three years of consistent effort toward a more educated laity. The Structural Change Working Group includes in this issue an introduction to their own impressive output since August 2002; the texts will be on our web site convocation pages shortly, along with the Protecting Our Children Working Group material.

Take a look at the items in National and Regional News and the Commentary in this issue; these tells us about the scope of work being done for our Church and the scope of the work ahead. Coupled with our Indianapolis convocation, “The Laity Speak: Accountability Now,” these works of faith are writing Church history in our time.

When you think about it, who else is gathering faithful Catholics for open discussion of an accountable Church and how to get there? Who else is offering a whole menu of grassroots training opportunities in media management, conflict resolution, handling closing parishes, and survivor support actions? Where else will you have the opportunity to talk with Catholics from coast to coast, to join a conversation with Fr. Donald Cozzens on the ordained and lay ministries, to participate in lay-led liturgies and to be a welcomed voice for reform?

If you are unable to be with us in Indianapolis, your donation will speak for you. If you are already booked, know that your voice will speak for many. If you want to attend and have been putting it off, think about how you will feel on July 11 when the voices for reform were heard and yours was not among them.

We want you to be part of the “wave of grace” that is clearly heading toward Indianapolis!

Peggie L. Thorp

National News

The Laity Speak: Accountability Now

Indianapolis Convocation July 8-10 – Speakers Francine Cardman, Justice Anne Burke, Paul Lakeland and David Castaldi will be joined by lay religious, VOTF members from over 24 states, David Clohessy and Barbara Blaine of SNAP, and Frs. Tom Doyle and Donald Cozzens. WHY? Because THIS IS OUR MOMENT! Look at the menu of training opportunities, breakout sessions and more on our outstanding program and REGISTER!

Affiliates will have “wares” to sell, exhibit/presentations to make, and plenty of volunteer opportunities. See inside under “Convocation News” and watch for the next Convocation Update on June 16.

  • Election results are in from 12 of 14 regions for the 26 seats on VOTF’s new National Representative Council – did your choice win?;
  • VOTF President Jim Post will give the response to Archbishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg, Canada at the 7th Annual Catholic Common Ground Initiative at Catholic University, Washington, DC on June 24;
  • a message from VOTF Vice-president Kris Ward on the upcoming USCCB meeting;
  • our new Executive Director Ray Joyce makes his Vineyard debut;
  • accused of sexual abuse by eight former members of the Legionaries of Christ, founder Fr. Marcial Maciel remains untouched by the canonical complaint filed against him;
  • VOTF San Francisco is circulating a petition to Archbishop Levada about the Fr. Maciel "investigation";
  • HBO’s “Twist of Faith” makes its TV premiere on June 28; CBS 60 Minutes (Wed) focused recently on an abuse case that has re-opened an old murder investigation;
  • the Jesuits’ national newsletter fired a writer for proposing dialogue on homosexuality;
  • the National Trust for Historic Preservation has identified Boston’s Catholic Churches among a list of 11 most endangered historic places in the country – is your church among them?;
  • our own Sr. Betsy Conway, former VOTF secretary, has been recognized by Regis College in Weston, MA for excellence in community service.


[CORRECTION: Last month, Project Millstones was identified as a LI VOTF initiative. In fact, LI VOTF is a strong advocate for the project, which was initiated by Frs. Patrick Collins (MI), Thomas Doyle (NC), Robert Hoatson (NJ) and Kenneth Lasch NJ). We apologize for any confusion caused and any slight to the project’s inspired founders. To read the proposal, click here. ]

  • VOTF NY has assembled a petition of protest over the forced resignation of Tom Reese as editor of America magazine; Boise, Idaho Catholics saddened by their bishop’s failure, even while they applaud many of his efforts;
  • Maine Attorney General releases documents naming deceased priests accused of abuse; thousands of confidential Church documents released in Orange County,
  • CA; NYC VOTF is preparing for a wave of parish closings to be announced in September – they met to brainstorm for a smooth transition; VOTF SW Florida – photos “lost” in the April issue;
  • Rockford, Il – VOTFers remained in the church after Mass to hold a meeting despite being banned from meeting on church property – THEN what happened?;
  • the survivor community brought the September 2004 VOTF Council Resolution on Bishop Accountability to a Rhode Island vigil;
  • remember the Boston “Mass on the Common”? Now you can have it forever on a DVD;
  • “Twist of Faith” made its Boston premiere on June 1 at the State House;
  • referencing Boston, Notre Dame professor Richard McBrien calls the condition of priests’ pensions “another body blow to priests”;
  • the Milwaukee diocese has rescinded its proposal on unannounced searches of priests’ rooms;
  • Kentucky diocese of Covington agreed to a $120 million fund to compensate victims.


QUOTE of the month: Sr. Mary McGeer for CBS 60 Minutes (Wed):

"Molestation of children is evil and there's no other name for it," says Sister Mary McGeer. "When we cover it up, it's evil. When people cover it up, the people that are covering it up are evil." [See National News for more information on this program]


[Comments are welcome at]

Message from VOTF Vice-president Kris Ward, Chair Charter Task Force:

The revisions to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People will be considered by the Bishops at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting June 16-18 in Chicago. Please be vigilant during this time for any updates and be ready to use your voice.

Voice of the Faithful obtained a Workbook that the Bishops used to gather comment from all United States Bishops on the revisions proposed by the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse.

Voice of the Faithful submitted a Workbook with our comments on the proposed changes and a letter with additional recommendations to Archbishop Flynn. The materials are available on our website.

Voice of the Faithful is opposed to any weakening of the Charter. Voice of the Faithful proposed language for strengthening the Charter and proposed the Bishops undertake a major education campaign in order to inform every Catholic about the provisions of the Charter.

CONVOCATION News – “The Laity Speak: Accountability Now

Working group papers now on the web site are from Voice of Renewal/Lay Education and the Structural Change group. The idea behind making this material available and downloadable now is to help attendees at the convocation to arrive with as much background information as possible. Consequently, we hope all attendees will find themselves comfortably engaged throughout the weekend.

What To Look For on the VOTF web site.
Structural Change Working Group package – an Introduction from Margaret Roylance

During the last month, the Structural Change Working Group (SCWG) has been preparing for the VOTF Convocation in Indianapolis this July. Several long-term projects should be completed in time for the meeting, including:

  • the first, and soon the second, edition of the Primer on Organizational Structures of the Catholic Church;

  • [now posted] 9 recommended operating Principles for Parish Finance Councils (a parallel set of recommendations to the diocesan-level principles, which were unanimously approved by the VOTF Representative Council meeting in Hartford, Connecticut in May 2004);

  • two proposals for structural change based on our work with Ladislas Orsy, S.J., who provided consultation to the SCWG on Canon Law and Church governance. These two proposals are entitled “Independent Judicial Review of Actions by a Diocesan Bishop” and “Diocesan Mutual Visitation as a Mechanism for Renewal”. They will be submitted for consideration by the convocation and the new National Representative Council, which will meet for the first time in Indianapolis, along with other structural change recommendations such as the Bridgeport Proposals (on the Bridgeport web site).

The SCWG has also submitted recommendations along with five other national Working Groups for a Project Workbook entitled “What Do We Do Next?” The Workbook offers concrete steps that may be taken at the parish or affiliate level to advance the mission and goals of VOTF. The completed Workbook was submitted to the outgoing Representative Council at its last meeting in May for approval, and should be available for distribution in Indianapolis.

In additional to these projects, the SCWG has assembled a series of recommendations on Parish Pastoral Councils and Safety Committees for the Convocation. The information on Parish Pastoral Councils (PPCs) includes the results of the survey carried out by the SCWG during the last two years; a set of sample By-Laws for PPCs, and links to successful PPCs identified by the survey. Sample By-Laws are included in the package because the survey showed that PPCs that operate under By-Laws or some other form of foundation document are perceived by their members to be more effective and that the recommendations of such PPCs are more often implemented.

For almost two years, VOTF members from across the country have participated in the work of articulating structural change within our Church. We have done so electronically, through the Structural Change Network and other electronic avenues. The Convocation in Indianapolis promises to be a wonderful opportunity to put a face with all those e-addresses!

Voice of Renewal/Lay Education Working Group has posted on the web site:

  • Model for a Day of Renewal

  • Faith-Sharing Groups

  • Education Resources

  • Origins of the Church – with a Timeline

  • Annotated Bibliography (pdf) on The History of the Church; Structures of the Church; Current Views of the Church; The Sexual Abuse Scandal; The Priesthood/Ministry; Prayer/Spirituality and more

CALLING ALL AFFILIATES - Don't be among the unrepresented! To register now, click here.

And when you get to Indianapolis, introduce yourselves with an exhibit or a brief presentation in the Exhibit Hall of the Conference Center. .

If you haven't received the e-message about display opportunities at the convocation exhibit hall, please contact . If you have “wares” to sell, contact John Moynihan at . Pat Gomez can help with your exhibit/presentation needs - contact

Remember! The Friday Training Sessions are FREE, i.e., included in your registration fee.

Spread the word: We are extending a special invitation to lay religious - contact Evelyn Mercantini at

Share a room? Have a housing concern? Contact Michelle at

Please visit the web site and see recent updates and news. Besides our impressive roster of speakers, we will be joined by Frs. Tom Doyle and Donald Cozzens, women religious, and affiliate representatives from over 20 states. Also, the first Council meeting of our newly elected National Representative Council will take place from 3-5 at the Hyatt Regency just before the 6-8 welcome reception in the same hotel, which is connected to the conference center.


Your response to our last call for volunteers was wonderful - we have all the lectors we could ask for! We would still like a few more volunteers to be greeters, singers and Eucharistic Ministers - contact Susan Troy at . If you would like to help with breakout sessions, transportation, hospitality and information, please contact

If you’re bringing any artistic creativity to Indianapolis, you are much valued. Prayerful Voice is looking for a group to make banners for the Saturday evening liturgy and Sunday’s Council Commissioning and Sending Forth. Contact


Please note the Friday evening 6-8 welcoming reception at the Hyatt Regency preceded from 3-5 by the first meeting of our new Representative Council also to be held at the Hyatt Regency. See the convocation pages for details.


The National Representative Council is to play a substantive role in establishing policy for VOTF concerning the VOTF Mission Statement and Goals.

From VOTF President Jim Post and Executive Director Ray Joyce:

The election results from 12 of 14 regions have been counted and verified by the election committee, which consists only of non-candidates. A complete report will be available within the next week and will be published in the next issue of In the Vineyard. .

Region 1: (5 seats) ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT - Donna Doucette (MA), Ron DuBois (MA), Jane Merchant (ME), Robert Morris (MA), Tony Wiggins (CT)

Region 2: (3 seats) NY - TBA

Region 3: (2 seats) NJ, PA - Bud Bretschneider (PA), William Culleton (PA)

Region 4: (2 seats) DC, DE, MD, VA - Evelyn Mercantini (VA), Rich Moriarty (VA)

Region 5: (1 seat) AL, KY, LA, MS, TN - Susan Vogt (KY)

Region 6: (2 seats) OH, MI - Mary E. Collingwood (OH), Edward Friedl (OH)

Region 7: (2 seats) IL, IN, WI - Mary Heins (IN), Genevieve O’Toole (IL)

Region 8: (1 seat) MN, SD, ND - Shari Steffen (MN)

Region 9: (1 seat) IA, KS, MO, NB - Bob Kaintz (MO)

Region 10: (1 seat) AR, OK, TX - Joe Turner (TX)

Region 11: (2 seats) CA, HI, NV - Jim Jenkins (CA), Hugh O’Regan (CA)

Region 12: (1 seat) AK, ID, MT, WA, OR - TBA

Region 13: (1 seat) AZ, CO, WY, NM, UT - Frank Douglas (AZ)

Region 14: (2 seats) FL, GA, NC, SC - Dinorah (Dee) Esteva (FL), Margaret E. Lynch (FL)

The formation of this nationally elected, representative Council is a true milestone in the evolution and development of Voice of the Faithful. Together we share a commitment that the voices of lay Catholic women and men from across the nation, and world, will be heard in all our deliberations. We trust that the Holy Spirit will guide our discussions and actions.

Thank you for participating in this election process and for your continuing efforts to help Voice of the Faithful be a clear and reasoned voice within our Church.

VOTF Cincinnati has produced a DVD – and right on time for Indy!
Submitted by Nan Fisher

A professionally produced 15-minute DVD about the mission and goals of VOTF is now available for use in outreach efforts. The DVD was produced by Cincinnati VOTF to be used in presentations to pastors, pastoral/parish councils and to domestic church groups (e.g., faith sharing groups). It features commentary from two survivors, two priests and two members of VOTF affiliates. It is not specific to Cincinnati and is intended for use in a facilitated meeting to introduce Catholics to VOTF and to provide a starting point for discussion about how Catholics can respond to the ongoing issues that have resulted from the sex abuse scandal and its cover up by bishops.

The DVD is part of Cincinnati VOTF’s outreach packet that includes their position on Structural Change, a brochure to explain VOTF and a response postcard to send to the Archbishop of Cincinnati. Affiliate members are committed to the two-fold approach of showing the DVD along with providing a way for viewers to respond. We believe that the viewing of the DVD will inspire others to respond and we want to capitalize on the opportunity to have impact.

The DVD is copyrighted but Cincinnati VOTF’s goal is to share it as widely as possible. Copies of the DVD will be available at the Convocation in Indy. Resource materials such as the facilitation guide and sample postcard will also be available in print, with the opportunity to have them sent to you electronically. Members of Cincinnati VOTF will be at our booth to share ideas and experiences of using the DVD.

An outcome of the Convocation will be a renewed interest to spread the message of VOTF—the DVD “Faithful Voices” will make that job so much easier!

San Francisco VOTF has put a petition on line asking Archbishop Levada, as head of the Confraternity for the Doctrine of the Faith, to continue the Fr Maciel investigation. The USCCB meeting in Chicago June 16-18 is an opportunity to raise the issue and support a positive response from the bishops. For more information and to sign this petition go to

A Dubious Distinction for Boston Churches
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has identified Boston’s Catholic Churches as one on a list of 11 most endangered historic places in the country. The churches are Blessed Sacrament in Jamaica Plain, Our Lady Presentation in Brighton, St. Catherine of Siena in Charlestown and St. Peter’s Lithuanian Church in South Boston. To learn more click here.

HBO premiere of “Twist of Faith” at the Boston, MA State House
About 75 people gathered in a sub-basement screening room of the MA State House on Beacon Hill to view the premiere of HBO’s compelling documentary about the day-to-day reality of living with abuse in one’s past. The film addresses with clarity the cloud that hovers over all aspects of a victim’s life, even decades later – work, family life, spiritual life – as well as the destructive force of trust lost. The film will air on HBO on June 28.

CBS 60 Minutes (Wed) provided national coverage of another tale of clerical sexual abuse, this one led to reopening an old murder investigation. There is a segment on the diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts and the case of former priest Richard Lavigne. Fr. James Scahill, who received the Priest of Integrity award from Voice of the Faithful at our regional conference in Worcester, MA last November, is also featured in this story. View the video here. Read the text of the story, “Murder Haunts the Catholic Church.”

VOTF president Jim Post to respond to Winnipeg, Canada Archbishop James Weisberger at the 7th Annual Catholic Common Ground Initiative Lecture on June 28 at Catholic University, Washington, DC. The lecture is “Building a Church of Communion.” The Catholic Common Ground Initiative was inaugurated by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin with the release of a statement “Called to Be Catholic: Church in a Time of Peril,” on August 12, 1996. It originated in a concern that unnecessarily polarizing differences among church leaders and members hinder efforts to build the Church community and to carry out its mission. The statement proposes working principles for dialogue within the Church and expresses the conviction that such an effort will transform those who engage in it as well as strengthen the Church for its mission in the new millennium. For more information on the National Pastoral Life Center and the Common Ground Initiative, click here.

Sr. Betsy Conway, former VOTF national secretary and ongoing VOTF activist, has received an award from Regis College for excellence in community service. In addition to her ministry in Framingham (Bethany House), the award highlighted Sr. Betsy’s involvement in Voice of the Faithful and framed her work with VOTF as one of many courageous choices. Sr. Betsy believes her VOTF work and commitment were significant factors in being selected.

Following on the heels of the resignation of Tom Reese from America magazine, a national Jesuit newsletter fired a writer for proposing in the newsletter that the Church have an open dialogue on homosexuality. See the National Catholic Reporter.

Also, NCR reports that the Maciel scandal won’t go away.” That editorial and John Allen’s coverage are at NCR.

BOOK ALERT: John Allen’s new book The Rise of Benedict XVI : The Inside Story of How the Pope was Elected and Where He Will Take the Catholic Church will be released on June 7, 2005. Watch and booksellers.

From Gaile Pohlhaus: Affiliates should send their meeting info to It would be wonderful to see something on every block of the calendar!

[Comments are welcome at]

From On May 27, 2005, the Maine Attorney General's office released the names of 21 deceased Roman Catholic priests who have been accused of sexual abuse. The release of these names had been ordered by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, in response to a lawsuit filed by Blethen Maine Newspapers, the parent company of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. The Attorney General's office also released 113 pages of supporting documentation on the accusations. Read more at

In the Boston, MA archdiocese, priests’ pensions are in jeopardy. Richard McBrien, Professor of Theology at Notre Dame calls it “another body blow to priests.”

The Boston Globe reports on Boston parish closings: Arguing that the Catholic parishes of Greater Boston belong to the parishioners and not to the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, critics of the parish closings said yesterday that they are turning to the judicial system for help after failing to persuade church officials to abandon their plan to shutter scores of local churches. Read more.

Boston’s “Mass on the Common” available on DVD

Copies of the Boston affiliates-sponsored “Mass on the Common” are now available. The DVDs/videos (please specify which you prefer) are $25 each. Proceeds are a fundraiser for VOTF - Boston affiliates.

For those interested in receiving copies, please contact Rose Walsh at 16 Hodder Lane, Framingham, MA 01702 and include your check payable to VOTF - Boston Affiliate.

This Mass was a major undertaking, made successful due to the donated services of so many talented people in VOTF. The music is especially wonderful to hear again. In spite of the hurricane threat, the buses arrived from so many directions. This Mass will be remembered as one of the stepping stones of Voice of the Faithful.

From the Survivor Community - Vigil in Rhode Island
submitted by Steve Sheehan

On the partly sunny afternoon of May 31, 2005, a small but determined group of clergy abuse survivors and supporters stood before the cathedral church of SS. Peter and Paul in Cathedral Plaza, Providence, RI as the assembled clergy and hierarchy processed into the cathedral for the installation of Thomas Tobin as the eighth bishop of the Diocese of Providence. Each member of the group carried photographs of various survivors at the age at which they were abused, and signs demanding justice.

Bishops and clergy processing into the installation ceremony of Thomas Tobin as bishop of the Providence, RI diocese

Their purpose was two-fold; to participate in a memorial tribute to the many victims of clergy abuse who are no longer with us; and to call upon the assembled members of the clergy to acknowledge the culpability of the hierarchy in its failure to address this tragedy as it unfolded and take the necessary action to protect children.

Survivors and survivor supporters outside the church

Paul Kellen of "People of Conscience" read the names and brief histories of some of the survivors who have died.

Paul Kendrick, of VOTF, Maine, is working vigorously to get Bishop Malone to release documents pertaining to numerous priests. Maine’s AG released files of 21 priests, now deceased, but accused of sexual abuse. The evidence and documents are not all present. The diocese has held back some of the papers. Unless all of the evidence is released and the perpetrators named, it will remain difficult for other victims to come forward.

Paul Kellen closed the program with the following remarks:

"We wish to conclude with a few messages. One, for our brother and sister Catholics, “business as usual” means more abused children.

Two, for BishopTobin, lofty words and phrases about healing are ‘business as usual.’ We will know you seriously heed the counsel of Jesus if you seek justice for Mary Ryan. (Mary is a survivor who for years has been refusing to take a cash settlement and continues to challenge the diocese in court to obtain the release of all documents pertaining to her abuse.) We ask you to call off the legal attack hounds. Open the files and reveal the truth. For as Pope Leo XIII told the world there can be no healing without justice.

Three, for the hierarchs, your splendid display in the procession here is ‘business as usual.’ We ask you to hear your fellow Catholics in Voice of the Faithful speaking in their inspiring resolution, passed on Saturday, September 18, 2004.” The resolution follows:


  • The U.S. bishops in 2002 adopted, and the Vatican approved, a policy of permanently removing from ministry any priest for even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor.

  • The harm done by predator priests was often greatly magnified by the actions of bishops who knowingly reassigned such priests, covered up their offenses, and placed the avoidance of “scandal” above the protection of children.

  • The gross failure of leadership of such bishops is at least as morally culpable as the crimes of abuser priests.

  • Justice demands and the manifest need for healing in the Catholic Church in the United States and elsewhere requires that such bishops be held accountable for their betrayal of the people of God.

  • Just as priests who have exploited their priestly ministries to abuse children are precluded from continuing in such ministry, those bishops who have failed to exercise their ministry of leadership in the service of the People of God should be precluded from continuing in any ministry of leadership in the Church.

  • The maintenance of such bishops in positions of leadership — exemplified by the appointment of Bernard Law to the position of the Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome and his continued service on important Vatican congregations — scandalizes the faithful, diminishes the moral authority of the episcopal office, and suggests to the Church and to the world that the Catholic Church is unwilling to hold its leaders accountable.

The Voice of the Faithful hereby resolves that no bishop or other hierarch who, knowing of the sexual abuse of minors by any priest, has failed to remove the priest from any exposure to minors or to take any other effective step to protect the people of God, or who has concealed the risk of abuse presented by such priests from the people to whom such priest was assigned to minister, should be permitted to hold any position of ecclesiastical leadership in the Church. The Voice of the Faithful directs the officers of the organization to advocate for the implementation of this policy in the Church and to take such steps as they consider advisable to secure that goal.

Paul concluded, "We suspect that if this resolution were adopted today's procession would be a significantly shorter."


From VOTF New York City - Preparing for Change in the Archdiocese of New York
Submitted by Mary Pat Fox

In Acts of the Apostles 1:15, which is the reading immediately preceding the Pentecost reading when Matthias was welcomed into the apostles’ midst, we read: "One day Peter stood up to speak to the brothers - there were about 120 people in the congregation...." Fast forward to 2005 on the eve of Pentecost when about 120 representatives of 41 parishes in the Archdiocese of New York gathered in the basement of St. Ignatius Church to address the upcoming church closings. The symbolic significance of our number was not lost on anyone.

The day was focused on the Laity and Clergy working together and taking on more responsibility to ensure that prospective closings in their areas would respect those faith communities in as smooth a transition as possible. The attendees included ten priests. We had experts discuss the spirituality of a parish; the future of the parish and the role laity must play; current lay ministry education; best practices on church closings and reorganizations; and some training on how to work with your pastor. We also had a panel discussion of parishioners in the Archdiocese who have experienced closings/mergers; some experiences were very bad and some were very positive. The difference in the two could be summed up under communications, involvement and respect.

The attendees broke up into neighborhoods or vicariates and formulated recommendations for the Archdiocese on what they felt they needed to have done prior to the announcement of the closings and what needed to be done after the announcement - the announcement is slated for September. These recommendations are being presented to Bishop Sullivan who is in charge of the "realignment." All of the attendees completed "commitment cards" in which they agreed to request a meeting with their pastor to discuss what collective action they can take. The day was a HUGE success.

Anyone wanting to hear more about this day and the next steps the NYC strategy team is taking can contact Mary Pat Fox

More from VOTF New York City – an invitation to sign a petition

Thomas J. Reese, S.J. was recently forced to resign as editor of America magazine. If you are as outraged as we are, join us in signing a petition of protest and signing it online.

You can also print out a copy of the petition in order to gather signatures, by clicking here: (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader, which can be obtained for free online.)

We will post the results of the petition on our web site. The petition and signatures will be presented to Archbishop William J. Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in early July.

Click here and follow the instructions there about how to send out your own email invitation.

We have found that many people are willing to sign this petition but they may not have access to email. A group of us gathered over 500 signatures one Sunday after Masses at our Parish. To sign the petition the signatories do not have to be VOTF members. This petition provides an avenue for all to express their concern and objections on this matter. Please mail the signed petitions to us at the address on the bottom of the petition page prior to June 30th so they can be included in the presentation to Archbishop Levada at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in early July.


From VOTF Cleveland, OH
Submitted by Fred McGunagle

The Diocese of Cleveland ordained only one priest in May as the priestly roster continued to fall. At the same ceremony, it ordained nine permanent deacons, bringing the total to 192 in a diocese that didn’t have any at all in 1971. There are now 18,000 deacons worldwide, Ken Piechowski, director of the diocesan deacon program, told the St. Christopher Parish Voice on May 3. Of those, nearly 14,000 are in the United States.

Of the Cleveland deacons, 38 are full-time diocesan employees. The others are unpaid “weekend warriors” at parishes. But that doesn’t mean they’re part-time deacons. They are deacons on the same weekdays that they are plumbers, opticians, teachers, accountants, salespeople, doctors and lawyers.

“There’s a great deal of ministry that takes place,” Piechowski said. “There’s some really good witness in living that particular lifestyle and being a sign of the Church in those areas. I think that’s one of the unsung virtues of the diaconate.”

Piechowski was in insurance before and after he felt the call to ministry. He attended night and weekend seminary classes. Though single men may be ordained, all the current Cleveland deacons are married; his wife also took classes. When he was asked to work full time for the church, he and his wife prayed before accepting the cut in pay. He still does double duty; besides his work at the diocese, he is administrator of the small Polish parish where he grew up. Still, he misses the opportunity to be church to people in the workplace. “Deacons minister 24 hours a day,” he said.

From VOTF Rockford, IL – What Happened On Pentecost Sunday?

Vineyard readers learned last month that VOTF Rockford, IL members determined after two years of requests for permission to meet on Church property and repeated requests for a meeting with Bishop Doran that they would remain in the church following Mass on Pentecost Sunday and hold a meeting.

Almost 75 people attended a Mass at St. Peter Cathedral in Rockford, IL (Rockford Diocese) with support from many VOTF affiliates in the Chicagoland area. Aimee Haraimani (Boston) VOTF National was in attendance, as was Janet Hauter, acting Regional Coordinator of a three-state region (IL, IN, WI). Attendees all wore red recognizing the Pentecost theme and wore VOTF buttons. A “pre meeting” in the parking lot in advance of Mass helped organize the many who were unfamiliar with the Church and the plan for the morning.

Mass en masse: The readings were clearly inspired as they spoke about the Church being One Body and how we must act from our gifts to follow the lead of the Spirit. The day’s theme coupled with the readings reaffirmed our purpose and clarified why Pentecost was the day we were to be present.

Target/s: The target of this action was twofold:

  • Bishop Doran for his inability to recognize his role in relation to the people he was chosen to serve, and

  • Attendees and invitees to give them a “taste” of a successful action not seen as an isolated event but rather seen contextually.

The local ABC affiliate television station and the Chicago Tribune were there. The T.V. station interviewed Mike, Janet, Aimee, Geneva representatives, and Don Bondick, from Rockford.

Additional Notes from Mike Mastrioanni:

Mike Mastroianni, Rockford regional coordinator, asked participants to sign up to make a call to the bishop on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, asking him for a time to meet either in person or on the phone. Mike and Pat LaSalle, other local coordinators, had prepared what to say when calling with a summarized list of concerns, should a meeting take place. Mike also mentioned that a “Letter to the Editor” action would be good, and that another recommendation was to email the Pope and tell him what is going on in our area.

Aimee and Janet spoke about the upcoming national convocation, the upcoming Regional Representative elections, the Bishop’s conference in Chicago in June, and other business. We adjourned at 1:45.

Father David Beauvais, a VOTF member, and the only vocally supportive clergyman in the city, along with all those who spoke out in the media, are hopeful that good will come of so much faith-filled commitment.

Boise, Idaho is struggling with recent news about their Bishop. For the story, go to

The Idaho Statesman on 5/27

A 5/28 article noting SNAP's response.

Diocese of Covington, KY agreed to the largest settlement to date for victims of abuse by clergy and other church employees. For New York Times (AP) story, click here.

In Orange County, CA, thousands of once-confidential Church documents were released. The documents detail sexual abuse by priests and expose the extent to which clergy members, one now a bishop, concealed the accusations of abuse. The story appeared in the New York Times on May 19, 2005. Go to for additional details and the Los Angeles Times story.

The Milwaukee diocese rescinded its intention to do unannounced searches of priests' rooms after a deluge of protests from laity and religious. Read more.

VOTF Palm Beach County, FL
Submitted by Ed Hill

Photos from the March 19th Healing Program in recognition of, and compassion for, victims of sexual abuse by the clergy:

Letters to the Editor
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From Christine O’Connor
“ What I think is that I plan to continue to think for myself with your help and advice. I plan on continuing to attend church and worship in my faith, there is nothing that Rome or my parish can do to keep me away. I disagree with many things and will continue to do so. This is my right and duty, but has nothing to do with my faith in the God whose daughter I became when I was baptized 87 years ago. Sorry if you guys in Rome are inviting me out, I don't plan to help you make our Church smaller and more easily managed.

I will miss Father Reese's opinions but have a feeling we will be hearing from him again and I will keep my eyes and ears open. I will be interested to see what happens now. Thank you Voice of the Faithful for what you are doing.”

From Sally Beers
“ I am appalled and not a little frightened by the dismissal of Fr. Reese. I have been a church-loving Catholic through Pius XII, Vatican II and John Paul II. I fear I will be stranded in my dotage, attached to my beloved Church by the single, mighty tie of the Eucharist brought to me be strangers. God bless us all.”

From Henry A. Smith, Yorba Linda, CA
“… there is more to life than preserving. We--the Body of Christ--now find ourselves in the rough beginnings of a non-hierarchical Catholic Church.”

From retired United Methodist minister Rev. Frank A. Halse, Jr.
“ I want you to know how deeply I feel about your effort at renewal. I was thrilled back when it started, and I remain so to this moment.

Know then that I continue to hold you all in my daily prayers, and that I want you to know that it is when you are most discouraged that you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing.”

From Paul Kendrick, Maine
“ If I'm not mistaken, the Episcopal Accountability Resolution passed on September 18, 2004 states that the worldwide membership of Voice of the Faithful is calling for all bishops who placed children at risk of sexual abuse to step down from any leadership position in the Church. Period.

According to news reports, two-thirds plus of all U.S. bishops would fall into this category. Yet, we certainly don't hear that most VOTF affiliates across the country are calling for the resignation of their bishops. And even more importantly, while our officers may talk about this subject in their speeches, VOTF is not identified or perceived by the public or the press as an organization that is calling for most bishops to resign.

Some say that the recent ad placed in America reflects the intent of the Resolution. Not really. The ad didn't specifically say that VOTF members want all bishops who placed kids at risk of abuse to resign, to step down, to no longer serve as bishop.

We didn't explain in the ad that this is one of the only means by which our Church can move forward. No, instead, we asked the same bishops who put kids at risk of abuse to discern what they should do to help heal our church. The last thing they're going to do is resign.

I hear more and more about the need to create better dialogue with these same bishops. Who could argue with that? Getting together, face to face, with our bishops is good business. Collaboration, after all, is our goal.

But we can't have it both ways. If we can't have it both ways, which way are we going?

In summary, will VOTF begin to implement the terms of the Resolution in a highly visible manner? Will our print ads, national speeches, press and media interviews always include a call for the resignation of bishops who placed kids at risk?”

From Anita Schepkler
“I believe that we must get much more active on a grassroots and local level about all the issues that face us today in the Church. I am worried that our children will leave and find a Christian community that is less punishing, less demeaning and more welcoming. Who can blame them?

We should have a communications and a letter writing campaign to all Bishops before they head off to their June meeting where several issues need our careful watching, especially if they try to weaken the document on sexual abuse and reporting. I encouraged our local VOTF to get this message in as many church bulletins as possible. I would personally volunteer to get up and speak at masses about these grass-roots campaigns if it were possible. We need to stop the possible attempt to weaken this document. If anything, we should have Bishops at the meeting trying to make it stronger.”

From Deborah Doyle
“ I am the product of a large Catholic family and 12 years of Catholic education. I will not allow the Vatican or the Catholic Church to tell me that I cannot debate a topic of have an opinion about the issues confronting the Catholic Church today. I do not want a smaller leaner church but a larger and much more inclusive one.”

From Lois Hatten, Boise, ID
“ The recent removal of Father Thomas Reese as Editor-In-Chief of America magazine brings me sadness and apprehension. I have long been a subscriber to America. I applaud and admire the magazine's efforts to be timely, fair, scholarly and spiritual in its content. Both (or more) sides of an issue are addressed. Does the removal of Father Reese mean censorship is alive and well and in the future nothing controversial will be published? Surely our Catholic faith is big enough and strong enough and universal enough for dialogue including different opinions and more than one side of an issue.”

From B. Cleary
“ Our title, ‘Voice of the Faithful,’ means to me that we have decided to speak (voice) of what in our hearts we believe (the faith-full). It does not mean that we will be forever ‘faithful’ to or uncritical of any once-upon-a-time set of beliefs like the Baltimore Catechism or the decrees of Vatican One (1869). It does mean that we pledge and claim to be faithful to our interior sense of things and honest experience. Our honest experience, for instance, of the funeral of the former pope may well have been negative – with all its extravagant praise for a flawed, theatrical, sometimes arrogant and narrow-minded man, as well as our experience of the bizarre gathering of hand-picked and subservient cardinals as they elected to the papacy one of their own, a man so isolated he can never really lead the whole church. The whole church: what a concept! Ask Jesus what it is and he'd say it's the world, everyone in the world – with all its indescribable diversity, where love overwhelms despair, and violence, and even gender. It's everywhere, that church, and most of us believe in it. That's what we are faithful to, and give our voice to in VOTF.”

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“Communicating with Bishops” – Part II: This is a concluding installment from Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., J.C.D. (Part I appeared in the May issue of In the Vineyard)

It is tragic that it took a nightmare such as the clergy abuse scandal to cause the laity to awaken from the spiritual coma induced by clericalism and to realize that they must be adults in Church as well as in their homes, their places of work and in secular society in general. The results have been predictable. Lay men and women who have confronted and questioned have been accused of everything from misunderstanding to heresy. Some, when asking for discussion and dialogue, have been told that there will be none unless the hierarchic authority is acknowledged. In other words, dress like a grown-up for the meeting, but! act like a docile, obedient and fearful child. Communicating with bishops on a level playing field is, by tradition, theologically and canonically impossible. Yet it is essential if the Church is to really be the Body of Christ and if the leaders hope to be seen as pastors and not bureaucrats in medieval dress. Catholic lay men and women are forced to acknowledge the irrational fears that always caused them to bow in deference before “father” much less “His Excellency.” They must meet these fears head on, acknowledge them and move past them. Too much is at stake.

The lay people must forge the new set of rules for communicating with the hierarchs. Heretofore there have been two basic behavior patterns from the pre-abuse days, and an additional pattern born of the scandal. In the days when all lived the reality of the Church as a stratified society, the lay people deferred to the bishops and generally believed that their assessments, conclusions and action plans were always right. This was almost always true in direct dealings with bishops. When out of earshot, however, some lay persons often expressed disagreement, disappointment or even anger! at bishops and their actions. Yet none would ever confront or question them. That simply wasn’t done. They were, after all, the divinely appointed successors of the apostles.

With the scandal came a third way of communicating and that was through direct and often angry confrontation. Forced by the media and the courts to face the issues, the bishops could hardly retreat to the security of their offices, confident that the clamor would dissipate in time and all would return to normal. The deference, respect and trust that had been seared into Catholic souls quickly evaporated and replaced by anger and disdain. In general, irrational anger has not served to persuade the bishops of the validity and urgency of the survivors’ complaints. However, the angry encounters with bishops, including the vociferous demonstrations that have taken place at chanceries and cathedrals, have not been without impact. Though the bishops have tried to give the impression of being above the fray and immune from the anger and emotion, it remains painfully true that this form of communication has shocked many bishops into the realization that they can no longer presume deference and respect.

Both sides of the conversation have been hardened. Some bishops won’t allow VOTF to meet on Church property, mindlessly accusing them of having “agendas,” being “anti-Catholic,” “fostering dissent” or, worst of all, failing to respect the bishops. Clerics openly associated with VOTF, SNAP or other organizations deemed unacceptable by some bishops, have been criticized, shunned or, in the case of some priests or deacons, unjustly penalized. Since there is no valid basis for accusing either group of being heretical, anti-Catholic or dissenting, they are vilified, not because their message is heretical or dissenting, but because their anger and confrontational tactics are more than the bishops can handle. What is being lost in all of this is the path to mutual understanding.

The victims and many lay people believe the bishops not only will not, but cannot get it. The bishops, for their part, are probably convinced that in their anger, the victims and their supporters will never be able to see and accept their side nor the honest and sincere concern many have for the victims. The goal should not be beating one or the other side into submission. The goal should be to arrive at a minimal degree of mutual respect so as to begin to listen to one another rather than talking at one another. Disagreement need not always be covered in anger.

The time for confrontation that is predominantly angry and irrational is past. In most cases the anger and rage have been amply justified. Yet it has caused many bishops to become hardened in their attitudes towards all victims and survivors and towards all lay people whom they believe have had the temerity to question them. The time for confrontation on a level playing field is not past and never will be. There is much to confront and many hard questions yet to be answered. Name calling and verbal abuse are as much a barrier to needed answers as is the infantile deference that has enabled clericalism to flourish and control. Fear must be banished.

Bishops who refuse to include lay people and survivors on every level of discussion and decision making about the response to the clergy abuse scandal must be confronted and, in a rational, firm yet respectful manner, asked to explain such an exclusion. Those who have accused VOTF, SNAP or other groups of having hidden agendas, of being dissenters, of heresy, or anti-Catholicism must be confronted and asked to explain in detail the reasons for these accusations and the sources of their information. Those who have refused to reveal the names of verified sex abusers or who have secretly reassigned known offenders must be confronted and asked to provide an explanation to the people of God!

There is no longer room for fear, secrecy or arrogance. Far too much is at stake and far too many souls have been devastated.

It is possible to confront the contradictions between the spirit of Vatican II and spirit of clerical mistrust. In doing so it is essential to understand the clerical context from which the opposition arises. The bishop is essential to the institutional structure of the Church. The theological and structural tradition teaches that the Church is founded on the bishops who are therefore essential for its very existence. The chain of authority in the three-fold office of the bishop is believed to be the divinely directed means whereby God communicates with mortals. Consequently, challenges! to bishops are perceived as much more than personal attacks or manifestations of disrespect. Such challenges are expressions of disbelief in an essential tenet of faith.

On the other side, the victims and others who challenge the bishops’ autocratic exercise of authority do not see such challenges as an affront to a doctrinal issue. Rather they see them as a reaction to the reality of authority either misused or abused. The bishops see themselves as divinely appointed leaders and their critics see them as flawed administrators.

The differences are not solely about power. The differences are about a variety of issues that are far more serious than ownership of power. Soul murder, rape, sexual assault, character assassination, slander and financial mismanagement are some of the known abuses that many are up in arms about. These issues will not go away nor will they be rectified unless drastic attitudinal changes take place, primarily on the part of the Church’s leadership.

Building bridges and opening lines of true communication between the bishops and lay people is a noble goal for members of the Christian community but it will never happen without integrity and trust. Trust will not happen until the traditional secrecy and its sibling, fear, are eradicated. Lay people should not fear honest confrontation with bishops or other Church leaders. This is an essential step in the search for truth and accountability. Banishing the fear that always lurked in the background is the beginning of authentic Christian empowerment. Searching for plausible answers does not equal disrespect nor is it a sign of dissent. Above all it is a sign that one has accepted the sometimes painful and challenging responsibility of adult membership in the Body of Christ.

Confrontation need not equal fanaticism. Working together begins with dialogue and dialogue cannot begin with capitulation. Lay persons have been nurtured by an ecclesial culture that made true dialogue impossible. The duplicity revealed by the sex abuse scandal led to the subsequent erosion of trust and respect for clerics and especially bishops. This will be reversed when both sides move beyond roles and see one another as Christians. This will be much more difficult for bishops but this does not mean that lay men and women can or should retreat to mindless deference.

In conclusion, I believe that authentic dialogue is essential and possible. This means calling the issues in truth with first concern for those harmed. Confrontation however does not mean irrational anger nor can it be productive if minds and hearts are closed to the possibility of good will.

“Thanks, But, No Thanks”
David Clohessy, National Director of SNAP

Cardinal Roger Mahony set up a chapel for us. Others pen apologies for the past. Some meet face-to-face with victims. A few others hold "healing masses" for us (often, however, neglecting to invite us). Others are talking about erecting statues or monuments in memory of what was done to us.

At the risk of seeming ungrateful, many abuse survivors say "thanks but no thanks."

One of my favorite Biblical passages comes from Matthew: "And what parent, when his child asks for bread, would give that child a stone?"

For years now, abuse victims and caring Catholics have sought real nourishment from bishops - real openness about past crimes and effective steps to prevent future ones. Yet increasingly, bishops give us stones - policies, procedures, and worse, symbols. These might make us feel better today, now, but are really illusory and leave all of us hungry.

We can heal with or without the bishop's help. We can conduct our own services and erect our own statutes. Others can apologize or meet with us.

But only a bishop can:

  • name the known, admitted and credibly accused abusive clerics in his diocese, thereby warning parents and protecting kids;

  • discipline church employees who refuse to be fingerprinted, or an accused priest who plays legal hardball and sues his accuser;

  • marshal an entire diocese's resources to lobby for tougher laws against child sexual abuse.

Which is a more effective way to reduce suffering? A one-time foot-washing ceremony, or on-going parish bulletin announcements urging witnesses and victims of sex crimes to call the police or SNAP (and include the phone numbers)?

In the months ahead, shrewd public relations firms employed by bishops will no doubt come up with other "innovative" steps allegedly intended to "bring healing."

When evaluating such moves, we recommend a two part litmus test.

First, where'd the idea come from? Is it something many victims and Catholics have long sought?

Second, does this action reduce a bishop's power in sex abuse cases or increase the power of police, prosecutors or the victims themselves?

If the answer to either question is no, then it's not reform. It may be well-intentioned even, but it is a symbol. It is not substance. And symbolism protects no one.

Why is this second question - lessening bishops' power - so crucial? Because one reason we're in this mess is that bishops have, and have had, too much power.

For decades, any bishop has had the power to play police, prosecutor, defense lawyer, forensics expert, judge, jury, and social worker - in other words, to handle the investigation and adjudication of crimes himself (usually with no training in any of these areas). At the same time, he's assessing risk in the victimizer and damage to the victim. But no one person can play all these roles. Nor should any one person try.

That's why SNAP so vigorously supports enlarging the role of the unbiased, experienced and independent professionals in law enforcement, and reducing the role of biased, untrained Church officials and volunteers. That's why we back legislative reforms like expanding the dangerously rigid and restrictive statutes of limitations. Those arbitrary and archaic time limits force victims to turn to secretive, untested internal Church processes, instead of what they really need – open, time-tested external judicial processes that have successfully evolved over more than 200 years of American jurisprudence.

So we're asking for bread, but getting stones.

And we're getting continued secrecy and more molesters. We’re seeing cover ups exposed only when forced by determined prosecutors and dogged journalists (the same pattern we've seen for years).

Sometimes we're told that "half a loaf is better than none at all." This is only true, however, when it's real bread, not something that looks like bread. At best, such symbolism is often a waste of energy. At worst, it's a distraction from the real remedy - substantive change. Such symbolism may enable some to feel less guilty or less inept. But it may also dissipate drives for genuine reform.

We want, need, and have repeatedly asked for the bread that only bishops have

  • names of perpetrators and names of enablers (and secret files)

  • the power to discipline either

  • access to parish bulletins (for outreach notices begging victims to step forward)

  • Church records that could shed light

Victims and Catholics have sought all of this and more. Instead we get PR stunts (like Orange County Bishop Tod Brown's shameless nailing of his promises to his own cathedral door, a la Martin Luther at Wittenberg), We get carefully crafted apologies (pre-emptively posted on web sites just before Church documents are disclosed, like Boise Bishop Michael Driscoll).

Sometimes, something that's supposedly "better than nothing" really isn't.

“Hans Kung and the Church We Want to Be”
Richard Cross

I was touched by your editorial in the current issue of In the Vineyard, with its beautiful concluding words from Rilke. As to the question of what kind of Church ours should be, it would be hard to improve on Hans Küng's formulation in a 1981 talk, “The Church from Above and the Church from Below.” Here is the relevant passage:

"The first thing we have to tell ourselves again and again is that we are the People of God. And the Church at its origin for all its weaknesses and defects regards itself essentially as God's community, God's people. The Church therefore can never be merely a particular class or caste, or a clique within the community of believers. And we have to abolish this use of the word 'Church' just for some people in the church.

The Church can only be the whole People of God, the whole ecclesia, assembly, community of believers. According to the New Testament, all are called by God, all are justified by Christ, all are sanctified in the Spirit, we are all invited to faith and active love. Consequently, we are all the chosen race, the royal priesthood, the holy people. And in this sense, in principle, we are all equal in the Church. And this basic equality is infinitely more important than all differences which obviously exist and have existed.

There are a lot of differences but all of this must not be made a system of domination. The Church from Below is also not merely the application of modern, enlightened understanding of democracy to the structures of the church. I have nothing against democracy, and, as a matter of fact, if anything would be nearer to the New Testament constitution of the churches, then certainly it will be democracy, not monarchy. But that is not the main point.

The main point is that the Church from Below is rooted in the New Testament origin of the church itself. It is a very primitive and Christian requirement. In as far as the Church is essentially God's people, charismatic community, fellowship of believers in Christ, it is essentially a Church from Below. The Church from Below therefore does not usurp power but exists on its legitimate right before the present rulers of the Church from Above."

I think of Küng's remarks when I hear Acts being read to us from the pulpit, as it is each Sunday at this season of the year. The kind of Church we emphatically don't want is the sort that tries to silence people like Küng or Leonardo Boff or, for that matter, Tom Reese or Roger Haight. It doesn't matter whether one agrees with their views or not. That's for each of us, in the freedom of his or her own mind and conscience, to determine. What matters is that we have the kind of conversation they seek to initiate.

NOTE from Ray Joyce, VOTF Executive Director – “One of the Many Voices”

Thank you!

I’ve only been on the job for a couple of weeks but I want to start out with a word of thanks. VOTF is for all intents and purposes a volunteer organization; affiliates, regional affiliates and coordinators, working groups, steering committees, subcommittees, national representative council, officers, and trustees are all volunteers along with nearly all the help at the national office. In addition the few paid staff/consultants, also regularly volunteer additional time and/or donate resources. This movement simply could not exist without the time and talent of so many dedicated volunteers. Thank you.

I’d also like to thank those of you who have contributed your financial resources, your treasure, to VOTF. Despite the ingenuity of our volunteers, there are only so many items we can barter. Your continued donations allow us to help expand this movement in order to meet our goals and honor our mission statement.

I’d also like to thank the many related organizations with whom we collaborate on a host of issues including supporting survivors and their loved ones, supporting the many good priests in their ministry and assisting in our efforts to reclaim and renew the Church through greater participation of the laity. Please know that everyone’s dedication to and support of for this movement, large and small, visible and not so visible, are very much appreciated.

I look forward to meeting many of you at our Convocation over the weekend of July 8-10th in Indianapolis. If you’re unable to attend please keep Voice of the Faithful in your prayers.