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"Reforming Church governance is not about shared power but about mutual empowerment in the Holy Spirit." Fr. Patrick Collins, VOTF Cleveland, OH from his essay on "Thomas Merton on Ecclesial Reform and Renewal" in Commentary.
In a final plea to his fellow bishops before his death in August 2003, Msgr. Philip Murnion called for "dialogue, dialogue, dialogue." Go to for more information about Msgr. Murnion.

In this Issue:


VOTF president Mary Pat Fox delivered a petition signed by over 8,000 Catholics to the Most Reverend Gregory Aymond, Bishop of the Diocese of Austin and Chair of the Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The meeting was described as positive by Mary Pat who was encouraged by the bishops’ concern for survivors and the protection of children. They discussed the need to make the victim assistance coordinator information easily accessible and the importance of safe environment training. The meeting took place in Baltimore on Friday, November 10, 2006. See the VOTF press release. See more National news in NATIONAL News Update.

  • Mary Pat Fox and national secretary Gaile Pohlhaus met with Patricia Ewers, chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) National Review Board on Monday Nov. 13 at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel, site of the USCCB meeting. They discussed the review board’s plans for more complete audits starting next year once the initial compliance issues were complete. Dr. Ewers also expressed the willingness of board members to speak to affiliates in their area.
  • All the U.S. bishops received an open invitation to meet with the two attending national officers, Mary Pat and Gaile, on Monday of the USCCB meeting. While no bishop was able to accept the invitation, there were several opportunities to engage with bishops in the lobby. Affiliate leaders also noted their own communications with local bishops.
  • On Monday of the USCCB meeting the bishops voted unanimously to release funds earmarked for the causes and context of sexual abuse by clergy. Meanwhile VOTF will continue to push for full funding and the Vineyard will keep you up to date on the preliminary results of the study, which are expected sometime next year.
  • VOTF National organized a screening of the new documentary “Deliver Us From Evil” held on Monday of the USCCB meeting at a local theater in Baltimore. About 60 people attended the screening which was followed by a lively panel discussion with Barbara Blaine, President of SNAP and John Moynihan from the VOTF national office.
  • The Washington, DC area affiliates gathered for the third consecutive year on the eve of the US bishops meeting to view the new documentary “Hand of God” – read the affiliate report in AFFILIATE Highlight under DIOCESE/State Watch.
  • For a recap of the U.S. bishops' meeting in Baltimore, click here.

The National Representative Council (NRC) welcomed Lisa Kendzior, from Ft. Worth, TX. Lisa was recently elected Representative to the NRC from Region 10 (TX, OK, AR). NRC met last weekend in St. Louis, MO for their third in-person gathering. A report on the Council’s St. Louis bi-annual meeting will be in the Nov. 30 Vineyard.

Accountability Campaign Plans for Advent: See Letter to Readers – An Advent Invitation.

Why an Accountability Campaign? Another Catholic priest has been deemed credibly accused after an internal Church investigation. The Archdiocese of Chicago removed Rev. Robert Stepek from St. Albert the Great Catholic Church in Burbank IL on Saturday after finding the allegations of sexual abuse of two former altar boys during the 1980s were credible. Unfortunately, criminal charges cannot be filed because Illinois’ three year statute of limitations law has long since expired. Click here for more information on this case. Click here to get more involved in our Protect Our Children effort to reform these antiquated sexual abuse laws and ensure justice for survivors.

VOTF National’s Goal #2 – to support priests of integrity – is under new leadership with representation across the US. See chair John Ryan’s update on our web site. John has also reviewed Freeing Celibacy by Donald Cozzens – see Book Review in this issue.

DIOCESE/State Watch:
EYES on Erie, PA: Closed to the public, the Church trial of Msgr. Charles Kavanagh, accused in 2002 of sexual abuse that took place 20 years ago, began this week in Erie, PA. VOTF, SNAP and CTA have asked that some part of the trial be open to the public. Msgr. Kavanagh was once a prominent fundraiser in the Archdiocese of New York. In 2004, the archdiocesan response to the accusation brought a rare public confrontation with Cardinal Egan from Msgr. Kavanagh. The trial was moved to Erie, PA to reduce media coverage. Some background and an update on this case follow:

Spokane, WA – A church divided, a diocese in bankruptcy proceedings, and priests are looking for hope; Brooklyn, NY – VOTF appealed to their bishop as he headed to last week’s USCCB meeting; Palm Beach, FL – another blow to another parish; AFFILIATE Highlight – the VOTF Washington, DC area affiliates gathered to view “Hand of God” on the eve of the bishops’ meeting.

Commentary: Fr. Patrick Collins’ commentary studies Thomas Merton’s attitude toward reforming the Church – giving primacy to spiritual renewal out of which the external reforms would flow. See Commentary for “Thomas Merton on Ecclesial Reform and Renewal”; also, see your invitation in Letter to Readers.

Fr. Tom Doyle walks us through the controversial Vatican instruction “Crimen Sollicitationis” of March 16, 1962. “The document is essentially a set of procedural norms for processing cases of accusations against priests for soliciting sex while in the act of sacramental confession…. It has come under discussion by canon lawyers and Vatican officials on several occasions in the past few years. Nevertheless the secrecy under which the document was originally distributed has possibly resulted in restricted awareness. Though some have claimed that “Crimen Sollicitationis” applies only to solicitation in the confessional, and not to other sexual crimes perpetrated by clerics, the opposite is true. The very words of the document itself clearly establish that those acts included under the classification of ‘the worst crime’ (de crimine pessimo) are to be processed according to the norms set forth for the crime of solicitation.” Read the Doyle study on the VOTF website. (PDF)

SITE-Seeing, Etc.

Sr. Christine Schenk of FutureChurch wrote an illuminating commentary in the Nov. 3 issue of National Catholic Reporter. “Vatican shows a new openness to women”.

  • Also note: Pilgrimage to Archaeological Sites of Women Officeholders in the Early Church. Rome-Ostia (plus an optional day in Assisi, Florence or Pompeii)
    March 13, 2007 to March 22, 2007. For details, click here

An editorial decision at National Catholic Reporter speaks volumes to all Catholics. Editor Tom Roberts said, “This is going to be a longer than usual Inside NCR column because I think it is essential to talk about this crisis, where it is today, why we will keep covering it, and what it could mean for us and the church at large in the future.”

Saints Are Us? Read the Nov. 1 editorial in the New York Times “Saints That Weren’t” by Jesuit priest James Martin who wrote, in part: “But, as some saints knew firsthand, a sincere intention is no guarantee that everybody in the church will listen -- even today. Members of Voice of the Faithful, the lay organization founded in response to the sexual abuse scandals, are sometimes barred from meeting in Catholic parishes. Local chapters often gather in nearby Protestant church halls. Who knows which future saints are lurking there?” Read more.

A response from Maine’s Paul Kendrick of the Ignatius Group to Donna Doucette’s Commentary in the last Vineyard “Conflict/Confrontation as Tactics” directed readers to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” The full letter is available here.

QUOTE for our time: Speaking of the Donald Cozzens book Freeing Celibacy, John Ryan made this comment that is true of many other issues we face as reform-minded Catholics: “It is also a ‘must read’ for those of us who need to understand the deeper theological, cultural and historical issues in the Church if we are to bring intelligence and compassion to our efforts at reform.” Bottom line – history matters!

In the Vineyard
November 16, 2006
Volume 5, Issue 20
Printer Friendly Version (PDF)

Page One

Diocese/State Watch

National News Update


“Thomas Merton on Ecclesial Reform and Renewal” – Fr. Patrick Collins, VOTF

A response from Maine’s Paul Kendrick of the Ignatius Group to Donna Doucette’s Commentary in the last Vineyard - The full letter is available here.

Letter to Readers: An Advent Invitation from VOTF

BOOK Review: VOTF Chair of the Priests’ Support Working Group John Ryan reviews Fr. Donald Cozzens’ book Freeing Celibacy.

Structural Change Working Group

Voice of Renewal/Lay Education

Prayerful Voice

Goal 2 - Priest Support



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