In the Vineyard: September 6, 2021

In the Vineyard :: September 6, 2021 :: Volume 21, Issue 17

National News

Preparing for the 2023 Synod

As time for the opening of the 2023 Synod draws near, here are two resources to help you prepare:

  • A presentation on the timeline for the synod, including the background of Church synods and actions you can take to prepare
  • An upcoming Zoom webinar featuring Bishop John Stowe of Louisville

Donna Doucette, Executive Director of VOTF, presented the backgrounder and synod information last month to the VOTF/WATCH Charlotte affiliate, which is trying to ensure their diocese participates fully in the Synod process, as required by the Apostolic Constitution setting its rules for participation.

Bishop Stowe will speak Wednesday, Sept. 8, 7 pm, on a Zoom video session sponsored by the Association of Pittsburgh Priests. To RSVP for “A Way Forward: Understanding Pope Francis’ commitment to synodality,” use this link:

Read the Synodus episcoporum; it sets forth the Synod parameters (Note: This is a Google document and may take a few minutes to display.)

Episcopalis Communio is the 2015 Apostolic Constitution that establishes the rules for Bishop Synods.

Read the International Theological Commission’s study of synodality in the Catholic Church.

Join Us at Voice of the Faithful’s 2021 ConferenceRe–Membering the Church: Moving Forward

We will look closely at 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.

The online Zoom conference takes place 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.

VOTF supports a vision in the Church of openness and respect between hierarchy and the laity, more inclusivity within the church, and collaborations that lead to more activities and initiatives within the church that reflect lay voices. As outlined at a previous VOTF conference, “There is no body without its members. There are no members without participation. There is no participation without mutual recognition and accountability. Structural change is possible. Accountability is necessary. Re-membering the church is essential.”

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 …

Prayer for Labor Day

Lord on this Labor Day,
we thank You for the blessing of work.
We ask for strength to complete each day.
We ask for rest when we are weary.
We ask Your guidance
for everyone seeking employment,
and we ask that
You be with those whose faces
we might never see
but who work tirelessly each day
for the good of us all.

– from Our Sunday Visitor

Bishop DiMarzio Cleared of Abuse Allegationsby Vatican Investigation

Earlier this week, the Archdiocese of New York stated that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn had been cleared of the allegations made by two individuals who claimed he had abused them as children. The Vatican investigated these claims and found them “not to have the semblance of truth,” according to the Archdiocese.

The two men who accused Bishop DiMarzio of abusing them as children both came out publicly and filed civil claims against him for abuse that took place 50 years ago when he was a priest in New Jersey. The first accusation came from Mark Matzek, who said DiMarzio abused him as a preteen, when Matzek served as an altar boy in St. Nicholas Church in Jersey City. The second accusation was leveled by Samier Tadros, who sued both DiMarzio and the Archdiocese of Newark for abuse he said occurred beginning when Tadros was six years old at Holy Rosary Church in Jersey City.

DiMarzio denied the abuse, claiming, “I repeat what I have said from the beginning. There is no truth to these allegations. Throughout my more than 50-year ministry as a priest, I have never abused anyone.” He claims to have fully cooperated with the investigation and says “I now look forward to clearing my name in the New Jersey state courts.”

This case is particularly high profile, given that it is one of the first to be investigated under new procedures implemented by Pope Francis for sexual abuse allegations against high-ranking clergy. DiMarzio had been selected by Vatican leaders to investigate allegations against other prelates in the Buffalo Diocese prior to being accused himself.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, hired law firm Herbert Smith Freehills and a consulting group led by former F.B.I. director Louis Freeh to investigate the claims. Their findings were sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for review, who ultimately determined the accusations were not based in fact. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) called for better transparency and accountability, explaining “true transparency and accountability will need to come from secular officials in New York and New Jersey, not Rome.” They urged New York Attorney General Letitia James to investigate the claims rather than relying on the Vatican’s findings.

Co-director Anne Barrett Doyle of called for Church leaders to release the documents pertaining to the investigation in the name of transparency. is based in Boston and collects and maintains documents and reports related to alleged sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. She said “Even if their investigation was thorough, only Cardinal Dolan had the power to filter and interpret the evidence” before forwarding the findings to the Vatican.

Cardinal Dolan announced that the Archdiocese “will not authorize any further canonical process to address the accusations.”

Joseph A. Hayden Jr., Bishop DiMarzio’s lawyer, praised the investigation’s leaders, Mr. Freeh and John O’Donnell, a partner at the law firm and former federal prosecutor, as “former law enforcement officials with proven experience and impeccable integrity.” Mitchell Garabedian, the lawyer for both accusers, believed the investigation was “subjective and biased” because it was conducted by church officials in New York and Rome in addition to outside investigators those officials selected and paid.

For more information, please see here and here.

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

For survivor support resources, please see here.

International News

Commission on Women Deacons Begins Work in September

Led by Cardinal Guiseppe Petrocchi, Italian Archbishop of L’Aquila, a commission for the study of women in the diaconate is due to meet for a week in Rome, beginning on September 13 (COVID-19 permitting).

This will be the fourth such commission to consider the issue at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has twice discussed the concept in the last several decades. The 1997 meeting found no conflict with allowing women to be ordained as deacons once again, as they had long ago. The conversation ended abruptly, however, when then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who served as the prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith at the time, refused to promote their report. He instead commissioned a second subcommittee that issued a report in 2002, which left the final decision up to the magisterium. His subcommittee found that not only did male and female deacons perform different duties, there was also a clear delineation between the diaconate and the priesthood. However, Pope John Paul II did not act on their findings.

Pope Francis created a commission to study the topic of women deacons in 2016, at the request of the International Union of Superiors General (USIG). This commission’s report was completed in 2018, and Francis presented some of their findings to the USIG, adding that he had additional documents they could request. It is unclear if the USIG requested any of the additional documents.

The upcoming commission appears to have only one official from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, secretary Father Dennis Dupont-Fauville. The remaining members include some who have written about the diaconate, one who denies women deacons, connecting the diaconate directly to the priesthood, and two deacons, among others.

Scholar Phyllis Zagano says that the central topic of the commission may be what roles and duties deacons currently fulfill today, as Pope Francis’s last commission explored the roles of women deacons in history. Earlier this year, Francis changed canon law to formally permit women to fill the roles of lector and acolyte, as well as establishing a ministry of catechism, open to both men and women. During the Synod for the Amazon in 2019, bishops requested the ability to “share our experiences and reflections” on the permanent diaconate for women.

Although Petrocchi and Dupont-Fauville met with Pope Francis in October 2020 about the commission, Dupont-Fauville said he was unable to discuss the contents of the meeting or any instructions related to the commission, as it was covered by the pontifical secret.

For more information, please see here and here.

For VOTF’s statement on women’s roles, please see here.


Overdue Justice for Sexual Abuse Survivors: States Repeal Statutes of Limitations Throughout the Country

Women deacons’ commission to hold first meeting
“Almost two years since Pope Francis announced he would be re-forming a commission on the female diaconate, The Tablet can report it is due to hold its first meeting in Rome in the middle of next month. The gathering of the commission comes just ahead of the launch of a global synod process which will bring lay people, priests and bishops in local churches together to discern new pastoral priorities. Women deacons are sure to be on the agenda … Pandemic permitting, members are expected in Rome for a week of discussions beginning on 13 September.” By Christopher Lamb, The Tablet

New women deacons commission to meet with unclear agenda, By Phyllis Zagano, National Catholic Reporter

He blew the whistle on the Catholic Church in 1985. Why didn’t we listen?
“In May 1985, Jason Berry, a Catholic journalist in Louisiana, wrote his first piece on child sexual abuse in the church, for the National Catholic Reporter and the Times of Acadiana. Mr. Berry called himself a ‘reluctant muckraker,’ but his exposé on the Rev. Gilbert Gauthe would prove to be only the first in a series of exhaustive investigations over the years, including his 1992 book, ‘Lead Us Not Into Temptation.’ Mr. Berry appeared on national television programs … so why did it take another decade or more for this scandal to truly break?By Ben Proudfoot, The New York Times

A paradigm-shifting lectionary for the whole church
“Reviewing the Rev. Wil Gafney’s new A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church (Church Publishing) has filled me with gratitude and delight. This long-awaited resource is a rare combination of impeccable scholarship and pastoral usability. A Hebrew and rabbinic scholar and professor of Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School, Gafney also happens to be an Episcopal priest who preaches regularly. In the introduction to the new Lectionary she asks: What does it look like to tell the Good News through the stories of women who are often on the margins of scripture and often set up to represent bad news? How would a lectionary centering women’s stories, chosen with womanist and feminist commitments in mind, frame the presentation of the scriptures for proclamation and teaching?” By Christine Schenk, National Catholic Reporter

Catholics aren’t disappointed—they’re exasperated
“My ministry focuses on speaking and writing about race and sexuality. Lately, in discussions after online lectures or webinars, I hear the following questions and comments with increasing frequency: “How can I remain a member of the church?” “I don’t know how long I can stay.” “Why should I stay in the church?” “My kids/friends/relatives have left, and I don’t know what to tell them.” “Why would a gay or lesbian person stay Catholic?” “If the church doesn’t value or care about Black Catholics, why stay?” By Father Bryan Massingale, U.S. Catholic

Vatican exonerates Brooklyn Bishop accused of sexual abuse
“The Vatican has concluded that allegations of sexual abuse dating back a half century against the Roman Catholic Bishop of Brooklyn do ‘not have the semblance of truth,’ but an attorney for the accusers said they will continue to pursue their civil cases. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, said Wednesday that the Vatican has closed its investigation into allegations made separately by two men, who accused the Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of abusing them a half century ago when he was a priest in New Jersey.” By Bobby Caina Calvan, Associated Press, on

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

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!

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Click the Amazon Smile logo, and if you have an Amazon Smile account, go ahead and order to benefit VOTF.

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