In the Vineyard: June 30, 2021

In the Vineyard :: June 30, 2021 :: Volume 21, Issue 12

National News

Will U.S. Bishops Support the Pope’s Synod Vision?

With the global formal opening of “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission” rapidly approaching (October 2021, and the USCCB embroiled in its fight over the Eucharist, there is some question as to whether all U.S. bishops will follow the path envisioned by the Vatican.

Perhaps not, but that should not preclude the particiption of lay people and parish clergy in the synodal process, even if they must resort to issuing a “supplemental opinion.”

As demonstrated in the recent gathering of bishops for their spring meeting, the resistance to Pope Francis and the doctrines of Vatican II is deeply embedded among the USCCB leadership. The Vatican will issue a preparatory document and questionnaire, but the key to process will be implementation and true listening to the people of the diocese. Will those intent on opposing Pope Francis follow the steps? (See also the item below this issue’s Focus, on Pope Francis’ comments during his weekly audience.)

Fortunately, there are national bishop conferences, such as Germany, where the synodal process already has been modeled. There are dioceses in the U.S. where synods have already been conducted. Aside from those models, parishioners can use the same diocesan synodal process to model the process in their parish–and forward the results to the diocese.

The upcoming three-year synodal process offers an opportunity to begin breaking down the hierarchical clericalism that infects the Church and provide an opening for lay voices to be heard.

Here is the overall process Vatican News has posted for the Synod:

Keep your eyes open for further information and resources on the Synod. There’s an opening we can use, with or without a supportive bishop.

Don’t Forget to Register!

Join VOTF’s online Zoom conference this year on Oct. 22-23, 2021. At 7 p.m., Oct. 22, conference registrants can gather for free Zoom listening sessions to talk about issues affecting the church today.

The full-day conference on Oct. 23 will begin at 8:30 a.m., as registrants gather in a Zoom waiting room for the 9 a.m. start. The cost will be $50. Undergraduate students will be admitted free when using the link below(link is external) or filling out the mail-in registration form.

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 …

Iowa Dioceses’ Review Finds Sexual Abuse but Improved Standards: Hope for the Future

According to Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller’s report released this week, his office investigated 50 complaints of sexual “impropriety” by 70 Catholic clergy, non-clergy, and other spiritual leaders. Among the 50 complaints were 17 victims who had not previously reported their abuse to authorities. Forty five of the complaints were against Catholic clergy and other Catholic church members, and five were against non-Catholic pastors or spiritual leaders in other faiths.

In total, 36 Catholic priests and brothers were accused. Twenty-nine of the complaints were in relation to priests already included in the dioceses’ lists of credibly accused priests. Some of the complaints did not name a priest because the accuser did not know the identity of the abuser. The abuse allegations span decades, with the earliest allegations as far back as the 1930s, and three of the reports involve active priests.

The report concluded that none of the complaints against Catholic clergy fell within the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution, although survivors may still have the opportunity to file civil lawsuits. It also explained that the extensive cover-up put the reputation of the church ahead of the harm caused to young individuals experiencing abuse.

Iowa’s dioceses have put many reforms into place in the last two decades. These reforms include better responses to clergy abuse allegations and better reporting — all accusations are reported to law enforcement.

The focus on clergy sex abuse in Iowa began after the 2018 report released in Pennsylvania found that more than 300 Catholic priests in the state sexually abused children for 70 years. Only five priests have been accused of misconduct that occurred since 2002, suggesting that the reforms have had a major impact. However, the investigation found “plenty of evidence of priests being moved and things not being disclosed,” according to Lynn Hicks, Attorney General Miller’s chief of staff.

The Iowa report process began in November 2018 by gathering information on child sex abuse by clergy. Miller began meeting with survivors and with church officials to try to develop a process that would offer truth, in addition to some accountability and closure for victims. He also set up an independent hotline through which victims could report abuse complaints as part of a strategy to reach out to possible victims.

Two of the allegations against non-Catholic pastors are within the statute of limitations for prosecution and involve possible adult victims. Another is against an active pastor in the Cedar Falls area.

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

To read more about VOTF’s position on child protection, please see here.

For survivor support resources, please see here.

Priest Association Holds Assembly in Minneapolis

By Donna B. Doucette, Executive Director

One of the pleasures of my position is that I can attend the annual meeting of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests. We have collaborated many times with the Association in the past few years, on projects as important to their identity as Vatican II priests as they are to us, a voice for the faithful. It is reaffirming to see their commitmemt–sometimes at significant personal cost–to the ideals of an inclusive Church, The AUSCP press release on its work is here; when the links to the presentations by speakers Michael Sean Winters and Dr. Shannen Dee Williams are availble, we will post them. I highly recommend both as “must see” presentations.

Remembering Early Days

“People have the right to know how we spend the money that is given to us.”Jesuit Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, Vatican News(link is external), June 25, 2021

Comment by Margaret Roylance, VOTF Vice President and Chair of the Financial Working Group

Of course this is exactly what we have been saying for years. VOTF haters said it was none of our business. Now we’re hearing our own words from the Vatican.

This reminds me of the early days of VOTF. We were talking about structural change to provide more collaboration, dialogue, and lay input into church decisions. Every bishop who would speak to us said advocating for any change in church structures was tantamount to heresy and becoming Lutherans. But in Novo Millennio Ineunte (At the Dawn of a New Millennium) John Paul II said: “Communion must be cultivated and extended day by day and at every level in the structures of each Church’s life.”

He also said:

“The theology and spirituality of communion encourage a fruitful dialogue between Pastors and faithful: on the one hand uniting them a priori in all that is essential, and on the other leading them to pondered agreement in matters open to discussion.”

And finally:

“To this end, we need to make our own the ancient pastoral wisdom which, without prejudice to their authority, encouraged Pastors to listen more widely to the entire People of God. Significant is Saint Benedict’s reminder to the Abbot of a monastery, inviting him to consult even the youngest members of the community: ‘By the Lord’s inspiration, it is often a younger person who knows what is best’. And Saint Paulinus of Nola urges: ‘Let us listen to what all the faithful say, because in every one of them the Spirit of God breathes’.”

None of those bishops [who criticized VOTF] would say Pope St. John Paul II was a heretic!

Unfortunately, now there’s a USCCB caucus more than happy to call Pope Francis a heretic. Transparency and accountability are still anathema in some quarters.

International News

More Children’s Remains Found in Canadian Catholic Church Schools: Victims of Abuse

Up to 751 unmarked graves were found at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School, a Catholic residential school in Saskatchewan, Canada. The Cowessess First Nation Chief, Cadmus Delorme, has vowed to put a headstone and grave for each body. The exact number is unknown, although the margin of error of the ground-penetrating radar could be up to 10%, meaning that at least 600 bodies could be buried in the area.

The Marieval school was located almost 100 miles east of Regina, Saskatchewan, opened in 1898, operated until 1997 and was demolished two years later. It was run by Catholic missionaries until 1968. Indian Residential Schools are a product of colonialist history that forcibly removed Native children from their families and abused them. A knowledge keeper in the Cowessess community, elder Florence Sparvier, attended the Marieval school and said “they made us believe we didn’t have souls” of the Oblate missionaries and nuns who ran and taught at the school.

The Archdiocese of Regina agreed to pay $70,000 to help mark unidentified graves. Archbishop Donald Bolen has apologized previously for the abuses perpetrated in the Indian Residential School system, but says “I extend that apology again and pledge to do what we can to turn that apology into meaningful concrete acts-including assisting in accessing information that will help to provide names and information about those buried in unmarked graves- and to stand by you in whatever way you request.” He addressed Chief Delorme and members of the Cowessess nation after the news conference in which the discoveries were made public, saying “I can only imagine the pain and waves of emotion that you and your people are experiencing right now… As you have communicated elsewhere, Chief Cadmus, even for those of us who were not there or not involved, it is nonetheless the painful legacy that we need to carry. The incredible burden of the past is still with us, and the truth of that past needs to come out, however painful, as only truth can lead to reconciliation. As you said of the gravesite, ‘the truth is there.’ Thank you for your courage as chief and that of your whole community as you seek out the truth and search for a reset that brings an end to racism and opens a path to justice and to healing.”

In a trip originally scheduled last year but postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a delegation of “elders/knowledge keepers, residential school survivors and youth from across the country” that represent First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities will travel to the Vatican. Pope Francis will be able to listen to the stories of these delegates and respond to their needs of him and of the church. One of the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report was a call for a papal apology as part of the healing journey, and this delegation hopes to receive such an apology, which has yet to be offered.

For more information, please see here and here. Note also that the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation project is one that VOTF studied in the project that led to esablishment of the Broken Vessel Healing Circles we make available.


New Vatican laws on clergy abuse not enough, says former papal commissioner
“A respected former member of Pope Francis’ commission on clergy sexual abuse has expressed disappointment in the recent revision of the criminal section of the Catholic Church’s canon law, saying the changes do not go far enough to protect children and vulnerable adults from possible predators. Marie Collins, an Irish survivor who resigned in frustration from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in 2017, pointed during a June 15 webinar to the fact that the new provisions do not mandate that a priest found guilty of abuse be removed from any office he may hold, or from the priesthood.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

A Vatican office rallies the strength of the laity
The Holy See’s Dicasteries recounted from the inside: history, goals and mission – a look at how the offices work that support the Pope’s ministry. The prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, Cardinal Kevin Joseph Farrell, describes the work of his office in this interview.

Five years in existence and three areas of competence as big as the world can be summarized in a single word: laity. Pope Francis created this new structure of the Holy See in response to his wish to bring together men and women of every background, culture and part of the world. The Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life is the privileged place and observatory to discern and promote all that can give prominence to the lay vocation in the Church and the world … The aim is to promote reflection in anthropological, moral, and philosophical areas, as well as action in political, economic, and ethical spheres in order to protect and promote the dignity of human life..” By Alessandro De Carolis

The abuse crisis and the elusive horizon of a repenting church
“The Catholic Church enjoyed a bit of a renewed honeymoon with the global media after the May 21st announcement of the ‘synodal process 2021–2023.’ But the love fest lasted only about a week. It was brought to an abrupt and ugly end when law enforcement officials in Canada discovered 215 unmarked graves of indigenous children at a former Catholic-run residential school in British Columbia. International organizations quickly demanded that the Church in Canada and the Holy See admit responsibility for the tragedy … For the Catholic Church in the 21stcentury, the present is unmanageable, the future continues to slip away, and the hope of a fresh start has become elusive.” By Massimo Faggioli, La Croix International, in National Catholic Reporter

In Canada, Another ‘Horrific’ Discovery of Indigenous Children’s Remains
“The remains of 751 people, mainly Indigenous children, were discovered at the site of a former school in the province of Saskatchewan, a Canadian Indigenous group said on Thursday (Jun. 24), jolting a nation grappling with generations of widespread and systematic abuse of Indigenous people. The discovery, the largest one to date, came weeks after the remains of 215 children were found in unmarked graves on the grounds of another former boarding school in British Columbia. Both schools were part of a system that took Indigenous children in the country from their families over a period of about 113 years, sometimes by force, and housed them in boarding schools, where they were prohibited from speaking their languages.” By Ian Austen and Dan Bilefsky, The New York Times

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

Pope Francis’ Weekly Wednesday Audience: Those who insist on ‘keeping the truth’ over preaching the Gospel have always threatened the church

This week Pope Francis spoke of Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

“Today too there is no shortage of preachers who, especially through the new means of communication, can disturb communities. They present themselves not primarily to announce the Gospel of God who loves man in Jesus, Crucified and Risen, but to insist, as true “keepers of the truth”—so they call themselves—on the best way to be Christians. And they strongly affirm that the true Christianity is the one they adhere to, often identified with certain forms of the past, and that the solution to the crises of today is to go back so as not to lose the genuineness of the faith. Today too, as then, there is a temptation to close oneself up in some of the certainties acquired in past traditions. But how can we recognize these people?

For example, one of the traces of this way of proceeding is inflexibility. Faced with the preaching of the Gospel that makes us free, that makes us joyful, these people are rigid.”

To read more of the Pope’s Weekly Wednesday audience, click here.


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