“You could not watch with me one hour?” Mt 26:40

In this Issue:

  • Special Section – preparing for February 27 National Review Board release of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice “Study of the Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse by Catholic Clergy in the United States.” VOTF Officers Jim Post, Kris Ward, Sr. Betsy Conway and Ann Carroll share their perspectives on the importance of the upcoming 2/27 study release. Read More.
  • Survivor Community – A survivor gives thanks; Jim Post’s “takes” from the successful “Fireside Chat” that featured SNAP’s David Clohessy, the Linkup’s Sue Archibald, author Jason Berry, survivor advocate Fr. Tom Doyle and psychotherapist and author Richard Sipe; The Lighthouse lives! See update.
  • Council minutes - 193 parish affiliates, including those in British Columbia, New Zealand and Tasmania. What else is new? Read more.
  • Letters to Editor One writer argues for lay persistence and another for financial accountability; another observes, “… the Reformation started just because indulgences were being sold. This is much worse.”
  • National Working GroupsPrayerful Voice looks ahead to a postponed Spirituality conference; Voice of Renewal is setting up a listserv; Structural Change Working Group invites you to its parish pastoral council survey.
  • Events, Etc. Jim Post speaking coast to coast; this month’s Best Practices choice goes to “Putting Muscle into Parish Councils” in Hingham, MA; author David France to speak in Winchester on Feb. 21.
  • Affiliate News – Chair of Parish Voices Mary Ann Keyes reports on travel; Saanich Peninsula VOTF loses a member; Cleveland, OH VOTF newsletter VOTF Perspectives makes its debut.
  • Another bishop resigns in the wake of abuse accusations - Bishop Dupre of Springfield, MA. Watch the VOTF Web site for developing news
  • Working with Church leadership to effect structural change – VOTF Washington, DC offers an impressive chronology (Voices, Voices Everywhere!)
  • “We have urgent questions about whether the bishops, whose actions horrify us even more than those of the pederasts, will be held accountable in any credible way.” Read “Task for the Next Church Council” by Fr. Raymond G. Helmick, S.J., reprinted with permission. The article appeared in Human Development Magazine, September 29, 2003 Vol. 189 no. 9. What Do You Think?
  • Prayer of the Month a survivor’s “Benediction”
  • Need a speaker at your affiliate? Check out David France, author of Our Fathers – The Secret Life of the Catholic Church in an Age of Scandal. His book tour itinerary is available through former VOTF press secretary Mike Emerton at jmemerton@comcast.net. Excerpts from David’s book are on the SNAP web site.
  • If you attended the VOTF convention in 2002, you will remember Francine Cardman, theology professor at Weston Jesuit School of Theology. Her message, “Pay Attention to How You Listen” resonates still. Francine spoke at the Paulist Center, Boston, MA on Feb. 10. This time, Francine took on “Participation, Power and the People of God: Becoming The Church. Watch the next VOTF quarterly for a re-cap
  • Need some VOTF buttons and/or bumper stickers? It’s a great way to use your voice. Call the graphic artists who designed our logo - the Healys can be reached at 508-866-5931.
  • Ever the epi-center, Boston, MA is facing a troubling number of parish closings as are and will many dioceses throughout the country. The “VOTF Statement on Parish Closings in the Boston Archdiocese” and “Church Closings and Diocesan Finances Financial Implications: A Boston Overview” make thoughtful reading for Catholics everywhere.
  • Black and white ribbons are catching on. The survivor-generated idea to mark the courage of survivors has spread from Alabama to New Hampshire. Supporters are asked to wear them during Lent and on Easter. Ribbons are available online at thefirstsiteonline.com.

  • Donate to VOTF
  • Join VOTF
  • To receive the winter VOTF quarterly Voice please call the office at 617-558-5252 or contact your Council Rep.
  • REMINDER: To contact an affiliate in your area, just go to VOTF Parish Voice, identify your state by region, click appropriately and you're there.
  • Please send comments and inquiries to leaderpub@votf.org
  • Copy deadline for the March 2004 issue is Monday, March 1.
  • Our postal address is VOTF, Box 423, Newton Upper Falls, MA 02464-0002


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In the Vineyard
February 2004
Volume 3, Issue 2
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Voice of the Faithful began in January 2002 with a question asked all over the world – how could this happen? How could our children have been victimized for decades by priests and knowing bishops? Where were we?

The struggle to address these questions and arrive at answers we can live with makes up VOTF’s goals and work.

That the USCCB produced a “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" and “Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons” was one welcome response to what befell the Roman Catholic Church in 2002. That the Audit summary on the implementation of the Charter indicates near total compliance with the bishops’ own criteria might also be hopeful. But if we pay attention to SNAP, The Linkup and SurvivorsFirst.org, we have a clearer understanding of what’s missing in self-grading. As one survivor put it, “Putting something in place that you said you were going to put in place doesn’t tell me what you’re going to do with it, how you’re going to treat it.” And another, “What happens to the guilty – offenders are being ‘handled’ but when do the bishops answer for what they did?” It isn’t lost on many observers that the criteria for the USCCB scrutiny were determined by the very people who covered up the abuse of children for decades – bishops. One look at www.bishopaccountability.org will delineate more clearly just what survivors are talking about.

Perhaps the most painful moment in this crisis will arrive on February 27 when the USCCB National Review Board releases the John Jay College of Criminal Justice “Study of the Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse by Catholic Clergy in the United States.” American Catholics will see the glaring truth reduced to numbers. It is the beginning of addressing where we go from here. And it is the beginning of knowing precisely where we are. Catholics cannot afford to ask again – Where were we? The driving vision of VOTF is to ensure that our Church will never again hurt a child and that the laity will be key players in that assurance. How else might we hope to arrive at a commitment to “communio,” as USCCB president Bishop Wilton Gregory has said? To lay people, genuine communion begins with openness and depends on accountability. We believe this case has been made and will be reinforced on February 27.

Many readers will be making a case for their own voice; we’d like to hear from you. We invite your comments and/or questions on the study’s findings as you digest them. We encourage dialogue in your parishes and we promise a comprehensive consideration of the study’s message for Catholics in forthcoming issues of In the Vineyard as well as on our Web site at www.votf.org. In this issue, we offer a special section of background information and perspectives worth considering.

And if you need a jump-start? As a pre-Lenten exercise, consider Jesus’ question, above, and ask yourself with us – Where was I? Know how many fellow Catholics were right beside you. And know, as VOTF president Jim Post has said repeatedly in the past two years, “It doesn’t have to be this way.”

Peggie L. Thorp, Ed.