In the Vineyard :: June 30, 2011 :: Volume 11, Issue 12

News From National

Response to Lax Charter Upgrade

VOTF released a statement regarding the failure of the U.S. bishops to close loopholes that have become apparent in the Charter that is supposed to help protect children from sex abuse by clergy. National Catholic Reporter picked up the release on June 30.

Here’s what the release said:

U.S. bishops must finally institute strong measures of fraternal correction when bishops fail to follow their own Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People after clergy are accused of child sexual abuse, declared VOTF.

Disappointed but not surprised by the lack of substantive changes to the Charter during the recent United States Conference of Catholics Bishops meeting in Seattle, VOTF has sent a letter to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, USCCB president, asking USCCB to make its position on child protection absolutely clear by resolving as soon as possible to do the following.

VOTF National Meeting Follow Up
If you could not attend or if you missed one of the presentations on Friday, you can still review some of the handouts and visuals available at the meeting from this page.

We also have posted photos on our VOTF Facebook page. If you are a fan of our page (and you should be) check it out. If you are not a fan, try this link to see the photos (but then go become a fan too!).

You also can order copies of the ACC speeches. Just go to the ACC home page and click the link there. Or you can go directly to the DVD/CD order form by clicking this link. Each one is well worth the effort.

For media coverage about the ACC, here's a thoughtful summary. We are posting other reports on a special media page as well.

Reflections from Our Members on the ACC
The day before the ACC was about to start, downtown Detroit lost electricity in the vicinity of Cobo Hall where the ACC was to meet. Conservative bloggers suggested that it might be a sign from God. If it was, the sign I took from it was that the Spirit was saying that the Church needed a fresh kind of power and it resided in the deep faith of many Catholics not in the traditional form of power of the hierarchy. We did have electricity by the time the ACC was ready to start, but we also witnessed the power of many people rediscovering the essence of their faith and the spirit of Vatican II.

Speaker after speaker educated the participants with scripture, theology, canon law, and common sense that rang true. But the ACC was not just a passive experience of listening to experts, it was also an experience of listening to each other. Not everyone agreed about everything, but the discussions were civil and respectful, seeking where the Holy Spirit is inspiring us to move.

One unique dimension was the “Reform In Action” process which opened the discussion to all participants and invited us to post topics which we wanted to discuss. Then, on Saturday evening, anyone who wanted to gather in small groups to discuss these topics in more depth, did so. 27 different topics were proposed and many people gathered in small groups scattered throughout Cobo Hall. It reminded me of how the early Church might have worked—the people of God taking responsibility for their faith and trying to figure out what actions they might take to live it more fully.


Book Review

Submitted by Thomas F. Malone

Bruce, Tricia C., 2011. Faithful Revolution—How Voice of the Faithful Is Changing the Church. Oxford, 215 pp.

In a pithy sentence early in this book, (an expanded version of her 2006 doctoral dissertation at the University of California, Santa Barbara), Tricia Bruce encapsulates its theme: “This book examines how the collective of a few spawned a nationwide movement of lay Catholics urging reforms from within the Catholic Church.”

In point of fact, this “reform” initiative began much earlier in this century with Vatican II's proposal of an aggiornamento involving a reformulation of authority in the church to embrace “all of the faithful except those in holy orders and those in the state of religious life specially approved by the Church.”

Sadly, we are only at a very early stage in pursuing this reform. Bruce's book is a notable contribution by providing a point of departure. Continued

VOTF Member Honored by SNAP

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (, is giving New Hampshire resident Carolyn Disco its highest award, Layperson of the Year, at the group’s national conference in Washington, D.C., in July.

As a member of VOTF, Carolyn has provided one-on-one support to clergy sex abuse victims coming forward for the first time, worked with the media to publicize sex abuse and cover-up within the Catholic Church, educated Catholics about the crisis, and urged lawmakers to pass anti-crime bills that protect children from abuse.

Disco also called repeatedly for the removal of Bishops John McCormack and Francis Christian for their endangerment of children, joining in the first known canon law case by laity to the Vatican to censure complicit bishops. Continued

Voices In Action

Sister Maureen Turlish recently blogged on the Catholics4Change website about the Philadelphia Archdiocese—she believes it behaves the way it does “because it can.”

In September of 1964 during the third session, eight women religious and seven lay unmarried women were named as auditors at the council. Pope Paul in his opening speech said, “And we are delighted to welcome among the auditors our beloved daughters in Christ, the first women in history to participate in a Vatican council assembly.”

Site Seeing

Letter to the Editor

I am so sick of reading lengthy and graphic accounts of the problems of the church, usually coupled with glowing descriptions of what ought to be, of what our goals are. I think we can all agree that we know the problems and have some common goals; what’s missing is: how do we get from here to there? I am going to suggest two simple things that can provide the leverage we need to move a hierarchy that is convinced it has its authority from God and therefore is not responsible to us, the laity.

The first or these is to claim the priesthood of the baptized by doing what the first disciples did before there was a Christian priesthood other than that of the Presence of the Risen Christ: celebrate Eucharists in house church settings where the presider is the host or hostess.

The second is take control of the money donated to the parish by forming a 501c3 corporations in each parish, the purpose of which was to receive the contributions and thereby grant tax deductions, but at the same time retain control over the money.  The bishop could not put his hand in to take whatever he wanted, and the pastor would have to comply with reasonable demands about financial controls and transparency before the money would be released to the parish.

The biggest problem in implementing the first, and I know this from several years of trying,[is] that the laity does not really believe in their priesthood. They have been hoodwinked by two “teachings” absorbed in catechism: 

  1.  Apostolic succession: that the Spirit came down only on the 12 apostles and gave them the power of consecrating, which they passed on to others like a baton in  a race

  2. Ordination effects an ontological change in the ordinaned so that he becomes “another Christ” in ways that a merely baptized person is not.

This is not the time or place to treat these in detail, but I have to point out that there is only one Christ, and if we are baptized into Christ, we are baptized into His priesthood. And there is only one priesthood. The hierarchy does teach that there is no difference between the priesthood of the parish priest and the bishop—or the pope. The difference is one of authority. I submit that it is the same difference between the “lay” state and that of Orders. 

For an exposition of these ideas go to:

The possibility of Eucharistic meals in the house church setting are enormous. (N.B. I am not speaking of Intentional Eucharistic Communities, which are generally larger and tend to function as a parish, but I have nothing against them.  The house church is a small group of family/friends/interested parties, no more than what can fit around the table, which meets in a home to have a real meal based on the Lord’s Supper ritual, which was a discipleship meal.) The setting offers the opportunity for discussion, sharing of thoughts and of our struggles and joys on the journey. It is to act as a cell of the parish structure.

The setting of a meal where there can be civil discourse, permission to speak of your spiritual life, and a focus on Christ present in community, will appeal to young people, to disaffected Catholics, to those of other faiths, etc. It also has the advantage of being within your own power—you don’t need the bishop’s permission and it is totally non-violent. 

The second program, the 501c3 corporation, has the tremendous power of bundling contributions to give power. If only 40 % of parishioners participated, it would still be a significant amount of money. Also, there is the real possibility that many pastors would welcome such a program for their own reasons. It is not difficult to set up a corporation whose charitable purpose is to support the parish. Contributions are by checks, the officers can give reports and feedback by email, and the money can be held in an interest bearing account as long as necessary.

“Money talks” is usually said as a rather negative statement, but if God is in everything, God is in the finances too. And it is our money as well as our church.

Brother Tom Draney, cfc 

Questions, Comments?

Please send them to Siobhan Carroll, Vineyard Editor at Unless otherwise indicated, I will assume comments can be published as Letters to the Editor.

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