In the Vineyard: July 26, 2021

In the Vineyard :: July 26, 2021 :: Volume 21, Issue 14

National News

We Need YOU, and your voice!

Our VOTF Board is seeking additional Trustees for appointment.

During this serious and difficult time, not only in our Church but also in our Country, we are seeking a diverse number of candidates who will further the Mission of VOTF and be dedicated to the advancement of the Catholic laity.

Our Board seeks Candidates to be diverse in geographical areas and dioceses, ages, interests, ethnicity, experiences and present or former occupations.

Board meetings are held both virtually and in person, about 10 annually, an hour to 90 minutes in length. Time zones with be taken into serious consideration.

To begin this process of participating as an integral part of our VOTF organization, please provide a resume and brief position statement to Elia Marnik.

Board responsibilities and VOTF By-Laws are available on our website.

We welcome your application!

Join a Virtual Gathering for Feast of St. Phoebe

REGISTER TODAY: Discerning Deacons hosts a virtual liturgy and gathering on the Feast of St. Phoebe, Friday, Sept. 3, at 7 p.m. (Eastern).

Discerning Deacons invites Catholics to gather virtually to pray for the intercession of St. Phoebe, listen to powerful testimonies from Catholic women engaged in diaconal ministry, and express their collective hope that the Church would “receive them in the Lord,” just as St. Paul asked the Church in Rome to receive Phoebe the diakonos in Romans 16:1-2.

The liturgy will take place in both English and Spanish.

Embrace | Witness | Hope

We embrace the ministry of deacons.
We witness the diaconal ministry of women.
We hope in the Holy Spirit for healing and renewal

Click here to register for the Zoom liturgy.

New Videos from Association of U.S. Catholic Priests

The AUSCP Assembly in Minneapolis in June featured Michael Sean Winters, prominent Church historian and author, and a columist for the National Catholic Reporter, and Dr. Shannen Dee Williams, a Catholic History professor at Villanova as the keynote speakers. Although Dr. Williams’ presentation will not be available until after publication of her new book on Black Catholic History, the one by Mr. Winters and by other conference speakers is available for viewing. You can find the videos at these links:

Michael Sean Winters: The Politico-Theological Merger That Is Shaping the U.S. Catholic Church

Bishop William Wack, CSC: Pastoral Directions for Our U.S. Church Going Forward

Fr. Michael Joncas as retreat leader: Living in Apocalyptic Times (this is a retreat, so it’s two segments and each is about two hours long)

Personal Note: I attended the Assembly and I highly recommend Michael Sean Winters speech–it’s funny and informative, and frightening. Plus, be on the lookout for Dr. Williams’ book, working title “Why Black Catholic History Matters.” It will change what you think you know about the U.S. Church. — Donna B. Doucette, VOTF Executive Director

Controversy in U.S. Over Pope Francis’s Latin Mass Decision

Earlier this month, Pope Francis issued a decision restricting the celebration of the Latin Mass, also known as the Tridentine Mass. Reversing the decision of his predecessor, retired Pope Benedict XVI, Francis reimposed restrictions on celebrations of Latin Mass to require permission from individual bishops as well as requiring newly ordained priests to seek explicit permission before celebrating Latin Mass. Such permission must be in consultation with the Vatican.

Before giving their approval, bishops must determine if the group seeking permission accepts Vatican II. With this decision, Pope Francis seeks to foster unity and ensure that all Catholics are celebrating Mass in the vernacular, as well as leading traditionalists towards the modern, post Vatican-II reforms.

Critics of Francis’s decision may proceed as they did before, ignoring Francis’s decree and continuing to celebrate Latin Mass under sympathetic bishops. Traditionalists were already among Francis’s most outspoken critics. Pope Benedict’s original decision in 2007 to loosen restrictions on Latin Mass “allowed others to use it for division,”however, and the outcry from traditionalists reinforces that message, according to Christopher Bellitto, a professor of church history at Keane University.

One of many objectives in the original Vatican II decision to limit Latin Mass was to involve the laity further in the rite of Mass. By celebrating in the language of the people, and facing the congregation, priests involved the congregation in the Mass. Many of the more major aspects of Vatican II will remain controversial and perhaps unaccepted by traditionalists who prefer to reject those decisions and teachings, but Francis’s aim with the restrictions on Latin Mass appears to be to bring together Catholics of different views and leanings in such celebration.

Notably, most of the opposition to the decree, which came after the Vatican consulted with bishops across the globe, comes from a set of U.S. bishops and their backers.

For more information, please see here, here, and here.

To read about VOTF’s statement on clericalism, please see here.

Top Administrator for USCCB Resigns

On July 20th, Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill resigned from his position as General Secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops “to avoid becoming a distraction to the operations and ongoing work of the Conference” amid media reports of possible misconduct. The reports, notably, do not involve misconduct with minors and have somewhat murky origins.

Online Catholic newsletter The Pillar reported that it had access to information from a location-based dating and hookup app, Grindr, that indicated Burrill had used the app in 2018, 2019, and 2020. The Pillar’s report alleges that Burrill used the app and visited gay bars repeatedly in the time period for which they had information, although how they accessed and verified that information has yet to be clarified.

The location data from the app was apparently linked to a phone “correlated” with Monsignor Burrill. The authors say that data were purchased from a data vendor and authenticated by a separate independent data consulting firm. However, Grindr claimed on Wednesday that they do not believe they are the source of the data and that “the pieces simply do not add up” because such data could not possibly become public. As the week went on, questions about journalistic ethics and the financing of the operation also multiplied.

The USCCB said that they take “all allegations of misconduct seriously and will pursue all appropriate steps to address them,” according to Archbishop José Gomez, president of the Conference. Father Michael Fuller has been temporarily appointed as general secretary, pending a new election. Archbishop Gomez asks that Monsignor Burrill and the Conference staff be kept in prayers, as well as those who are affected by the allegations.

The controversy in this case has many tentacles, two of which include issues of data privacy and priestly celibacy. Priests take a vow of celibacy, which the use of a dating and hook-up app suggests Monsignor Burrill has broken. However, the privacy aspect of this report also raises questions. Are priests (or indeed, is everyone) subject to constant surveillance based on mobile phone location data? What does this mean for privacy, and what kind of an impact will it have in the future?

While none of the allegations against Msgr. Burrill reported by the Pillar indicate any kind of misconduct with minors, they suggest that he has broken his vow of celibacy. However, none of the allegations have been confirmed.

For more information about VOTF’s positions on priestly celibacy, please see here.

To read more, please see here, here, here, and here.

International News

Australasian Catholic Group Seeks Apology to Abuse Victims

The Australasian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (ACCCR) has started a letter apologizing to victims and survivors of clergy sexual abuse. After feeling like church leaders have not given sufficient support or an appropriate apology, the group decided to take matters into their own hands and show support for victims and survivors by drafting an apology letter from ordinary Catholics, entitled “Ordinary Catholics Say Sorry to Victims of Abuse.” The petition can be found here for those wishing to add their name and reason for signing.

The Royal Commission Investigation into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released its final report in December of 2017, after fielding nearly 50,000 calls and 26,000 letters and emails. It sent over 2,500 referrals to police. Many Catholics feel that Church leaders have not been proactive or supportive of survivors after years of ignoring their claims, actively working against their attempts to get the assistance they need, and tell their stories. ACCCR is working to change that with this petition, hoping that their gesture of support will provide a measure of comfort to those left unsupported and alone.

One member of the Concerned Catholics of Wollongong (a committee of the ACCCR) is Father John Crothers, a priest and singer/songwriter. His recent song, “From the Depths of Our Heart” speaks to the message of the apology letter. His heartfelt lyrics and sentiment speak to the emotions that many ordinary Catholics experience in support of victims and survivors. The Australasian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform will be having a second convocation on August 26th at which point they will push to inform the Plenary Council of the results of the petition. Please see their website for further information about the group.

For VOTF’s statement on child protection, please see here.

For survivor support resources, please see here.

Painful Reckoning in Canada

An essay by Matt Dinan in Commonweal magazine July 25 on the unearthing of hundreds of bodies at residential schools run by the Catholic Church in Canada prompted these thoughts by a VOTF member in Canada.

By Diane Hogan

The problem that I see, that is very much a question in my mind, is whether those who ran these schools and committed these crimes really believed they were doing what they did for the good. Was it truly just a terrible error in judgement? When I listened to the survivors tell their stories, it was hard for me to come to that reasoning. When many children are told by nuns to play with those who are plagued with TB, or that periodically a child has been so beaten that he/she died of their wounds, you have to ask yourself how anyone who participated in causing the death of children could be oblivious to the impact of their actions, or inactions, words, or neglect.

It’s my understanding that the indigenous people were thought as lesser human beings. It brings to mind how the blacks were treated in parts of the U.S when they were enslaved. When people are thought of as lesser, in the mind of those who are oppressors it doesn’t matter what happens to them. Both the U.S. and Canada have a terrible black mark in our histories due to the treatment of “a different race.”

I really appreciate what the writer, Matt Dinan, wrote about reconciliation. Words are important, such as apologies, but the greatest act of reconciliation will be through our actions and support. We want to make sure our leader call for actionthat provides the indigenous people with what they need and what is rightfully theirs.

But, yes, the Pope has to apologize, and all of the Church has to stand up for what is “the right thing to do.” That will be our act of contrition for what our ancestors dared to do. The next step will be providing our support and action in creating healing relationships.

Don’t Forget to Register!

Join us on October 23 as we examine the body of the Church to see how structure, power, participation, and accountability can be brought together within the Church to fulfill its mission of bringing Christ to the world.

Two featured speakers at the conference will offer their views on re–membering the Church. Speaking first on the morning of Oct. 23 will be Sister Carol Zinn, S.S.J. Ph.D. She is Leadership Conference of Women Religious executive director and serves as Saint John Vianney Center consultant for women religious community health and transition. Formerly, she served as United Nations Economic and Social Council consultant.

Prof. Massimo Faggioli, Ph.D., will address the conference. Prof. Faggioli spoke at VOTF’s 2018 Conference, and his return is highly anticipated. He is a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University, a prolific author, and a leading international authority on Catholic Church history and ecclesiology, the inner workings of the Church.

Also during VOTF’s 2021 Conference, a panel comprising women liturgy leaders from the Paulist Center Boston (link is external) faith community will discuss lay-led liturgies, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and VOTF leaders will offer presentations on VOTF projects in diocesan financial transparency, Church governance by and through lay involvement in Diocesan Financial Councils, adherence to protection of children guidelines in parishes and dioceses, and women’s emerging voices in the Catholic Church.

Click here to register … (link is external)

Click here to download a registration form you can fill out and mail to VOTF …

Click here to register as an undergraduate student for FREE … (link is external)

Click here to see an agenda for the conference …


Multimillion-dollar maze: Vatican trial to test finance reforms
“The alleged mishandling of millions of dollars of church funds will bring several high-profile individuals to a makeshift Vatican courtroom set up in a multifunction room of the Vatican Museums. The surprise announcement July 3 that Vatican prosecutors indicted 10 individuals and entities, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu, former prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, on a slew of charges related to financial mismanagement and malfeasance was the latest twist in the seemingly unending saga of the Vatican’s controversial investment in a property in London’s Chelsea district.” By Catholic News Service in The Catholic Sun

Three years after the 2018 ‘summer of shame,’ what do American Catholics think about the sex abuse crisis?
“Nearly three years after a searing report issued by a Pennsylvania grand jury detailed the sexual abuse by clergy of thousands of children and the extensive cover-up by church leaders that followed, America asked the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate to survey Catholics nationwide about their understanding of the crisis, its emotional impact and how it has affected their faith.” By Mark M. Gray and Thomas P. Gaunt, America: The Jesuit Review

Connecticut diocese files for bankruptcy amid abuse claims
“A Roman Catholic diocese in Connecticut filed for federal bankruptcy protection on Thursday (Jul. 15) to resolve dozens of lawsuits alleging the abuse of teenage students decades ago at the former Academy at Mount Saint John School, a residential treatment center for troubled youth in Deep River. Documents filed by the Diocese of Norwich, which oversaw the facility, indicate it has $50 million to $100 million in estimated liabilities owed to 50 to 99 creditors. To date, nearly 60 former residents of the school have sued the diocese and a former bishop for damages, exceeding the diocese’s current financial ability to pay, according a statement issued by the diocese.” By Susan Haigh, Associated Press

Synod theologian says laity must make decisions, not just implement them
“Looking ahead to a looming Synod of Bishops on the concept of ‘synodality,’ a lay Venezuelan theologian says the time has come for bishops to grasp one key point: Lay people aren’t just called to implement decisions in the Church made by others, but to make those decisions themselves. Layman Rafael Luciani, who divides his year between Venezuela and Boston, where he works at Boston College, is one of three Latin American theologians who were chosen as consultants for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the matter of Synodality, to which he hopes to contribute ‘from a non-clerical vision.’” By Inés San Martín,

LatAm webinar says in anti-abuse fight, buck stops on the bishop’s desk
“Some 165 bishops from across Latin America are taking part this week in an on-line seminar on abuse prevention that includes top-level experts from both the region and Rome, based on the premise that although fighting abuse requires various forms of commitment and expertise, as far as the Catholic Church goes, the buck still stops on the bishop’s desk. ‘Following the crisis that became public in the Church with regard to abuse, in recent years much emphasis has been placed on the role and responsibility of bishops, not only for the correct treatment of cases that come to their attention, but also with regard to the prevention of these situations,’ said Argentine laywoman Maria Ines Franck, a bioethics and canon law expert who helped organize the seminar.” By Inés San Martín,

Click here to read the rest of this issue of Focus …


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