Please send comments and inquiries to

“Collective discernment and decision-making is the most important lesson learned over the last forty years.” Fordham University theology professor Bradford E. Hinze in his new book. See Site-Seeing, Etc. in this issue.

VOTF Campaigns for Accountability: How our Church made our case. See “Facts and Figures”; visit the VOTF web site additions to the Campaigns for Accountability page; and see where you fit in!


In this issue: Chicago’s Cardinal George apologizes following investigation findings of rampant failures in the application and intent of the USCCB Charter; audits for abuse prevention training and background checks find failures in Boston, MA and Portland, ME. (In all, five dioceses nationwide are not in compliance with a Church standard for background checks and 23 nationwide are failing to meet the youth training standard); the priests’ group Voice of the Ordained proposes mediation between Abp. Murphy and LI VOTF; VOTF Ireland is welcomed by local bishop – see “Message from Ireland” in Commentary; VOTF Atlanta, GA finds a “new day” with their archbishop; Lent’s reflection riches; VOTF working groups – re-introduce yourself. See “Have you met?”; children are a little safer in Virginia – legislatively; not only VOTF National but VOTF affiliates are using ads in their regional press to get their message out – see Diocese/State Watch in NY, OH and CT.


Affiliate reminder – A link from your web site to In the Vineyard will go a long way to keeping all of us on the same page.

VOTF, Inc. takes its own financial transparency seriously. Click here for VOTF Financial Statements.

Survivor Community News – See Kathy Dwyer’s message in Commentary – “A New Commandment: Honor Thy Children.”

  • Go to the SNAP web site for comments on the Chicago breakdown.
  • Read the March 19 issue of New Hampshire’s Union Leader article “Protecting Children: The idea is to strengthen the law”.


VOTF Dublin, Ireland: No standstill in Ireland after abuse numbers are made public. The government and the Church in Ireland are working together with quick determination to put an end to decades of abuse of children by priests. Read more in the Belfast Telegraph. See Sean O’Conaill’s update in Commentary “Message from Ireland.” Note that VOTF Ireland will soon have its own web site.

  • There is excellent coverage of Ireland’s abuse crisis in the Jurist; see a March 9 column “Irish clergy sex abuse study shows many suspected, some sued, but few convicted” by Angela Onikepe.

Chicago, IL: A March 14 story on reports that a nun’s warning to the Chicago archdiocese about a priest sexually abusing children was met with far less than concern for children. “‘If the parents aren’t pushing it, let it go.’ That’s what a nun was told by an Archdiocese of Chicago official, a lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges.”

  • VOTF Chicago continues to listen, learn and discern actions. Read the letter sent to the Cardinal by VOTF Chicago and follow their meeting minutes at the VOTF Chicago web site.
  • Cardinal George’s statement of apology and the diocese investigation findings are available in full at the Archdiocese of Chicago web site:
    • In part, the published findings state, “An effective monitoring system geared toward reducing the further sexual victimization perpetrated by accused priest abusers does not exist.”
    • SNAP’s response is available on their web site. On Feb. 25, SNAP called for the resignation of Cardinal George as head of the Chicago archdiocese.
  • Associated Press reporter Rachel Zoll noted, “Whatever trust the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops had restored with their response to clergy sex abuse has been badly eroded in recent weeks by a combination of missteps and outside criticism.” The story at also noted, “On Friday, Voice of the Faithful called for an independent investigation of George and Skylstad, and urged them to temporarily step down.”
  • Individuals from several states are planning a Good Friday silent vigil in Chicago to demonstrate their hope that Cardinal George will step down from his vice-president position in the USCCB, as well as his leadership position in the Chicago archdiocese.
    • For more information, contact Jim Field at and Sheila Boyle at The vigil will be held on Good Friday, April 14, 2006, 2:00 p.m. CST at Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago, IL.

VOTF Long Island, NY is also using ads to get their message out – the ad launches a petition drive for financial accountability in the Rockville Centre archdiocese headed by Abp. William Murphy: Newsday reported, “The group is asking Bishop William Murphy to create a finance council made up of elected lay members of the church. The group would work alongside an existing appointed council to ‘make sure that spending priorities reflect the values and priorities of the faith community,’ according to the petition.” For details go to

  • Cardinal Edward Egan of the Archdiocese of New York has announced the recommendation by Church officials that three dozen parishes and a dozen schools be closed. A panel of 52 lay leaders and priests has been convened by archdiocesan officials to review the recommendations. Subscribers may access the full story at the New York Times (March 17).
  • The New York Times reports: “Saying that Long Island Catholics cannot continue to endure deep divisions in their diocese, a group of priests is calling on Bishop William F. Murphy and an influential lay group, the Long Island Voice of the Faithful, to let a mediator help settle longstanding differences.” The Voice of the Ordained is the priests’ group. The story appeared in the Long Island, NY section of the March 19 issue of the New York Times.

VOTF Dayton, OH: VOTF Dayton, OH ad offers Catholics a hands-on, user-friendly approach to financial accountability in their diocese by sending a clear message to Archbishop Pilarczyk. See details at Also, see the Dayton Daily News.

VOTF Northern Virginia: Senate Bill 253 is awaiting the governor’s signature. Read how this bill got there in Commentary “Success in the Virginia Legislature” from Bill Casey, VOTF Northern Virginia.

  • More good news in Virginia – According to the Washington Post, "Catholic parishes across Northern Virginia will be allowed for the first time to use girls and women as altar servers, Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde said yesterday, leaving Lincoln, Neb., as the nation's only Catholic diocese barring females from that role.”

Spokane, WA: According to the Catholic Explorer, “Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has denied a woman's claim that he sexually abused her more than 40 years ago when she was a minor.” Many observers are recalling the 1993 false claim of sexual abuse against now-deceased Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. It had been filed by a former seminarian who later dropped the lawsuit.

  • From Associated Press: “The individual parishes of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane do not want to help pay for a $45.7 million settlement offer made by Bishop William Skylstad to 75 victims of sexual abuse by priests, an attorney said Wednesday. The 82 parishes were expected to shoulder a hefty portion of the settlement costs, but instead will ask U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Patricia Williams to reject the settlement offer, said Bob Hailey, an attorney and spokesman for the parishes.”

Massachusetts: In a Boston Globe op-ed: A “justice gap for victims of child sex abuse” might be narrowed, according to Jetta Bernier, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children, and John Mackey, retired police chief of Tewksbury. Both are members of the Coalition to Reform Sexual Abuse Laws in Massachusetts.

  • A Boston Globe editorial on March 15 noted: “The urgency of lifting the statute of limitations is shown by the case of a Maynard high school teacher accused in January [‘06] of abusing a teenager three and four years ago. But other people, now adults, say Magno abused them when they were in high school decades ago, and their cases are now beyond the law.”
  • On March 14, hours of testimony before a Joint Judiciary Committee may produce a step forward in legislation that will offer children more protection than they have today. VOTF, survivors, and survivor support organizations took to the floor at the Boston State House on March 14 for hearings on the reform of state sexual abuse laws. Speaker after speaker “urged lawmakers to pass bills extending the civil and criminal statutes of limitations and lifting immunity protections afforded to charitable organizations” according to the SNAP web site. “By the time some survivors are ready to come out and admit they were sexually abused, ‘the clock has stopped ticking,’ said Jetta Bernier. The vast majority of survivors will never be able to bring their abusers to justice.”
  • Disturbing news from a vibrant faith community – they’ve been “absorbed.” See Commentary – “When a Faith Community Works – Beware”. To receive the VOTF Boston newsletter twice monthly, contact Dorothy Kennedy at
  • From the Boston Globe, March 22: An independent audit found the Boston archdiocese in compliance with most requirements of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002. However, the audit also found that 40 percent of Catholic school children did not receive the safety training mandated by the plan. ''Passing the audit as presently constituted does not guarantee that child sexual abuse will not continue," said Ray Joyce, executive director of Voice of the Faithful. ''The Archdiocese of Chicago was found to be in full compliance in their last audit, and yet the Chicago media is right now full of accounts of clerical sex abuse and the failure of the archdiocese to supervise their priests who were known to be abusers."

Portland, Maine: “Maine's Catholic Church is falling short on two fronts in its battle to rid the institution of sexual abuse problems, according to an annual audit of the diocese. The examination found the diocese needs to step up background checks on volunteers and employees and increase efforts to teach children how to protect themselves against sexual predators.” The story appeared in March 22 issue of the Portland Press Herald.

VOTF Atlanta, GA: The 1/12/16 Vineyard reported that Archbishop Wilton Gregory had lifted a ban on VOTF meetings on church property. VOTF member John Dearie reports in Commentary that there is “A New Day in Atlanta, Georgia.” Visit the VOTF Atlanta, GA web site.

VOTF Maryland: Hearings have been held before the House Judiciary Committee on two bills that would significantly ease restrictions on the reporting of sex abuse. One bill, would allow victims to file suit until age 42. A second bill would open a two-year window during which victims of any age could file lawsuits. According to the Washington Post, both bills are being opposed by local Catholic Church officials. VOTF Baltimore and SNAP spoke in favor of the bills.

Denver, CO: In the Rocky Mountain News: “A sex-abuse bill in the legislature was endorsed Wednesday by Colorado’s three Catholic bishops. HB 1088 gained their approval after Rep. Rosemary Marshall, D-Denver, axed a provision that lengthened the statute of limitations for filing civil cases against sexual predators of children and their nonprofit or church employers. Now, the amended bill addresses only the issue of lifting the statute of limitations on crimes against children committed on or after July 1, 1996.”

  • The Denver archdiocesan web site notes: “The California law changed the civil statutes of limitations for childhood sexual abuse, allowing a disastrous one-year revival period for expired claims. This has brought forward cases from as far back as 63 years ago. In many of the cases, the alleged offender and all witnesses are long deceased.”

VOTF Mid-Michigan is sponsoring a healing prayer service with a talk by Bishop Thomas Gumbleton on April 2. Details are available at On April 4, Bishop Gumbleton will speak at the Paulist Center, Boston, MA.

VOTF Bridgeport, CT: The affiliate’s ads are promoting the April 29 Symposium on “Elect Our Bishops? Why Not?” Click here.

SITE-Seeing, Etc.

From an Associated Press report: “Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday he will consider increasing women’s ‘institutional’ role in the church, but reiterated that they would remain barred from the priesthood.”

US Catholic, April 2006 issue: The magazine conducted a survey of Catholic readers on the qualities they would like to see in a candidate for Holy Orders. Go to, click on “About the Claretians,” and choose “Publications.”

The March issue of the quarterly Catholic Common Ground Initiative publication Initiative Report includes an excerpt from Practices of Dialogue in the Roman Catholic Church (New York, Continuum, 2006) by Bradford Hinze, Fordham University theology professor. Hinze confirms a VOTF practice when he notes, “Collective discernment and decision-making is the most important lesson learned over the last forty years in all of these practices.” For more information, click here.

PRAYER: LENTEN Reflections – The season is rich with prayerful moments – on our web site; in this issue (see Jack Rakosky’s “The Lenten Call to the Desert”); and in publications noted below.

US Catholic, March 2006: “Women’s words for the 40 days” is made up of prayers for the weekly Lenten journey. The reflections cover a wide range of writing – from the 14th Century mystic Julian of Norwich to contemporary Joyce Rupp.

America magazine, March 13, 2006: “Polluted” is the second essay in a series for Lent and Easter. This one addresses a tale told by the 13th Century Sufi poet Rumi.

  • Please remember in your prayers Donna Doucette and her family. Donna’s husband Gene died suddenly on March 18. Donna is an NRC representative from Region 1(CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT) and co-chair of the Voice of Renewal/Lay Education Working Group. Gene was a supporter extraordinaire of Donna and her work in VOTF. Gene’s obituary appeared in the Boston Globe.

COMMENTARY – your comments and inquiries are welcome. Write to Peggie Thorp at

[March 19, 2006, New York Times: “Mr. Donohue [Catholic League] said that church reforms in the wake of the priest sex-abuse scandal left groups like Voice of the Faithful that were formed in response to the scandal without a purpose. ‘Once the reforms were instituted, that meant groups like Voice of the Faithful should pack their bags and say ‘mission accomplished,’ he said.” Comment: It seems Mr. Donohue hasn’t read about the Archdiocese of Chicago breakdown.]

QUOTES for our time:
“It’s a sign that nobody’s in charge,” Illinois Justice Anne Burke, former chairwoman of the National Review Board, commenting on developments in Chicago, IL

“When the welfare of the institutional Church takes precedence over the welfare of God’s people and fidelity to the Gospel, we find ourselves at the very borders of idolatry.” Fr. Donald Cozzens in his book, Faith That Dares to Speak

In the Vineyard
March 23, 2006
Volume 5, Issue 6
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Page One

Commentary and More

“Have You Met?”

Structural Change Working Group

Voice of Renewal/Lay Education

Prayerful Voice



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