In the Vineyard: April 22, 2024


In the Vineyard :: April 22, 2024 :: Volume 24, Issue 4

April is Child Protection Month

April is Child Protection month and for the second year in a row, VOTF will be publishing its Protection of Children Report. The report is an independent, online review of all U.S. Roman Catholic dioceses’ level of compliance with child protection and safe environment guidelines. The report will also be published on the VOTF website once it is available. Please stay tuned for more info.

The USCCB has compiled a list of resources for parishes and lay people addressing child abuse prevention. The resources are available in a variety of languages and can be shared with all. Click here to view the resources.

Your Support is Vital

Please keep an eye open for our May appeal. Your support is vital for the work we do for on protection of children, financial transparency and structural change in our church.

Please Join Us!

Please join us for a Zoom webinar on April 29 at 4 pm ET.

“Deacons are ordained for the ministry of serving the People of God in the diakonia of the Word, in the liturgy, but above all in the exercise of charity.” 

All are invited to a focused synodal encounter with a listening presence from voting synod delegates. This will include a conversation in the Spirit to expand and deepen the discernment.  Simultaneous interpretation from English to Spanish will be available.

Please register here to learn more and reserve your seat!

We will be joined by experts including Deacon William Ditewig, esteemed scholar of the diaconate and Roman Catholic Permanent Deacon, Synod delegates including Deacon Geert de Cubber, the synod’s only Roman Catholic Permanent Deacon.

VOTF is proud to be one of the sponsors of this event

Remembering Bishop Tom Gumbleton

Tributes to Bishop Tom Gumbleton, after his death on April 4, 2024, call him a beacon of
hope to many throughout his long life. The first president of Pax Christi, Bishop
Gumbleton advocated for peace, nonviolence, and justice for the marginalized. He was
a man of deep compassion who reached out to the margins and was often found in the
places where there was the greatest suffering. With courage and integrity, Bishop
Gumbleton spoke truth to power with little regard for his own promotion.

I met Bishop Gumbleton during Voice of the Faithful’s first exhausting, all-consuming
year. Our mission and goals committed us to rebuild the breach caused by the horrific
revelation of the sexual abuse of children and its cover up by bishops. Trust was broken
and as laity we naïvely believed that our help to restore it would be welcomed.
Starting with Boston’s Archdiocesan Pastoral Convocation in March 2002, we prepared
a statement to introduce VOTF to Cardinal Bernard Law. The scheduled agenda had
been suspended to devote the day to “listening sessions.” We hoped to engage in open
and honest dialogue with Cardinal Law and with all the bishops.

Surely, if we could only meet bishops and share our goals, they would welcome our best
intentions. It was a shock to realize that we would be either ignored or denied but never,
in 2002, welcomed. Instead, we found that reporters and journalists were the only ones
eager to listen to what we had to say.

Our first “meetings” with bishops came in June 2002 when a small contingency from
VOTF headed to Dallas to hold a press conference at the USCCB summer meeting
where the bishops were preparing the Charter for the Protection of Children. Yet while
we were ready to engage the bishops, they had no interest in discussions with lay

A month later, on July 20, 2002, when we held our first VOTF Conference at the Hynes
Convention Center in Boston, we invited bishops to attend. Although the conference
drew more than 4,000 people (including survivors, clergy, and laity), invitations offered
to bishops went unanswered.

Undeterred, in November 2002, we followed the bishops to their USCCB winter
conference in Washington, DC. The bishops were staying and meeting in the Hyatt
Hotel, not far from the Capitol Building.

A group of us settled into the lobby of the hotel to wait for opportunities to meet them.
We hoped to catch the bishops as they came and went to their daily sessions. Time and
again, the bishops would emerge from the conference hall and immediately move away
from the reporters, journalists, and those of us eagerly awaiting a word with them. We found ourselves scurrying after the bishops to try to introduce ourselves and offer our
support, with limited success.

We were met with silence, or a nod, or the suggestion to return to our parishes. The
most startling response was the accusation made by a Cardinal after I introduced
myself, “You are a dissenter!” When I asked why, he responded, “because of the people
you invite to speak.” Pushing further, I asked who? He answered, “Garry Wills.” Before I
countered that we never even considered asking him, the Cardinal turned his back and
walked away.

Time and again we returned to our lobby seats and waited for the next break in the
closed-door meetings. Midway through that first day, a BBC journalist rushed to us and asked, “Are you VOTF? A bishop is looking for you!”

That bishop was Tom Gumbleton.

Seeking us out in the crowd, he approached us with a smile. He had a small notebook
in one hand and a pencil poised to write in his other. He asked us: “What do you want
on the agenda? What would you like me to say?”

And he listened. He wrote and listened.

It brought tears to my eyes. Not one other bishop had approached us. No other bishop
asked about us. No other bishop seemed to care why we were there. They went out of
their way to avoid us. But Bishop Gumbleton knew about us. Bishop Gumbleton listened
to us.

Since those early days 20 years ago, Pope Francis has called us to be a “listening
church.” Through a synodal process of listening and inclusion we are encouraged to be
the pilgrim People of God defined in Vatican II documents (Lumen Gentium): Praying,
listening, and discerning together in communion, participation, and mission.
In gratitude for his life, Bishop Gumbleton has been described as “a light in the

His light shone on me that gray November day.

Svea Fraser

What Happened at the Synod: The Call to Dialogue on Co-Responsibility and Women’s Participation in Our Church

In February, the Women in the Church Working Group of the Association of US Catholic Priests (AUSCP) hosted an interactive synodal webinar entitled “What Happened at the Synod: The Call to Dialogue on Co-responsibility and Women’s Participation in Our Church.”

The interactive webinar was conducted over Zoom and featured testimonies from Synod delegate Dr. Cynthia Bailey Manns, church leader Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, and other women who have studied and participated in the Synod. The target participant audience was Catholic priests and women. Over 425 priests and women registered for the call and over 400 either participated live or watched the recorded event afterwards. The demographics were roughly 40% priests and 60% women. Co-Chairs of the Women in the Church Working Group Dr. Sarah Probst Miller and Rev. Michael Hickin, a member of the AUSCP Leadership Team, served as co-facilitators.

The conversation began with Dr. Manns, Director of Adult Learning at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Minneapolis, sharing her experience of being one of the ten non-bishop voting delegates chosen to represent North America at the Synod’s General Assembly. Besides covering the procedural nature of the assembly, Manns said that the “Conversation in the Spirit” method is not “merely a generic exchange of ideas” but a “Spirit-led process” that enables participants to draw closer together. She emphasized that it is “a slow exercise” designed to “avoid artificial and shallow and prepackaged responses.” It is also a means to “honestly acknowledge the challenges and gifts of today’s church.”

To read the rest of this article, click here.

Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup

Florida woman facing trial for $700k parish theft– A former parish administrator could be in court next month, facing charges that she siphoned off nearly $700,000 from the Florida parish where she worked for more than two decades… Police began investigating True in December 2021, when the Diocese of Palm Beach reported its suspicion that the deceased former Pastor, Father Richard Murphy and True had embezzled more than $1 million from Holy Cross Catholic Parish between 2012 and 2020. The Pillar

Interview: The Catholic sister meeting with Pope Francis on women and ministry– The quarterly meetings of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinal Advisors generally do not garner much attention, but since last year’s synod, they have made headlines thanks to a series of presentations being given to the cardinals about women in the church. For the first time, the cardinals’ February meeting included a female Anglican bishop who spoke about the Anglican churches’ experience with incorporating women into the priesthood and diaconate. In their December meeting, the pope and cardinals heard presentations that challenged aspects of the theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar’s concept of Marian and Petrine ministries in the church. Balthasar’s concept essentially claimed that only men are called to ordained ministry as St. Peter was, while women are representative of the church as “Bride of Christ”—meaning that they are important, as Mary was, but not ordained. America Magazine

In a church that has yet to deal justly with women, I stay a keeper of the vision– I do not see myself as a victim of an intentionally discriminatory church, but as a keeper of the vision in an institution that has yet to deal scientifically, scripturally, theologically, morally or justly with women. National Catholic Reporter

9 facts about U.S. Catholics – Catholics are one of the largest religious groups in the United States, outnumbering any single Protestant denomination. The U.S. has more Catholics than all but three other countries – Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines – according to the Vatican’s Statistical Yearbook of the Church. Here are nine key facts about the U.S. Catholic population. Pew Research Center

A Podcast for you

Looking for something to listen to on your daily walk? America Magazine’s Inside the Vatican, Deep Dive podcast this week discusses, Why Pope Francis is worried about seminaries and young priests with ‘authoritarian attitudes’. Catholics from the pews to the pope are worried about young priests. At the October meeting of the Synod on Synodality, Pope Francis gave an unexpected intervention denouncing clericalism and lamenting the “scandal” of young priests and seminarians trying on fancy vestments in Roman shops. The synod’s final document echoed some of these concerns, pointing to the “formalism and ideology that lead to authoritarian attitudes” in some priests, and calling for a consultation of seminary formators on how to teach priests to lead in a synodal style. Listen here.

The Pope’s prayer intention for April – that the dignity and worth of women be recognized throughout the world.

“In many parts of the world, women are treated like the first thing to get rid of,” Pope Francis said in his April prayer intention.

“There are countries where women are forbidden to access aid, open a business, or go to school,” he said, adding: “In these places, they are subject to laws that make them dress a certain way. And in many countries, genital mutilation is still practiced.”

Let us not rob all these abused women of their voice. They are exploited, marginalized,”he said.

The Holy Father pointed out that “in theory, we all agree that men and women have the same dignity as persons. But this does not play out in practice.”

“Governments need to commit to eliminate discriminatory laws everywhere and to work toward guaranteeing women’s human rights,” Francis said.

“Let us respect women. Let us respect their dignity, their basic rights. And if we don’t, our society will not progress.”


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