In the Vineyard: December 21, 2021


In the Vineyard :: December 21, 2021 :: Volume 21, Issue 24

National News

In This Holy Season …

As we celebrate the miracle of Jesus’ birth, we are reminded that the birth of a child is a sign of hope, especially in these dark times. May the joy of the birth of our Savior, the love of God and the comfort of our family and friends sustain us and renew us through Christmas and into the new year. — From all of us here at the VOTF National office

In This Holy Season

Lord, in this holy season of prayer and song and laughter, we praise you for the great wonders you have sent us: for shining star and angel’s song, for infant’s cry in lowly manger. We praise you for the Word made flesh in a little Child. We behold his glory and are bathed in its radiance.

Be with us as we sing the ironies of Christmas, the incomprehensible comprehended, the poetry made hard fact, the helpless Babe who cracks the world asunder. We kneel before you, shepherds, innkeepers, wise men. Help us to rise bigger than we are. Amen. — Author Unknown

Hearing the Pope’s Christmas Homily

The Vatican publishes details each year of the Pope’s Christmas calendar. You can find the news release on dates and times at the Vatican web site. Look for the link in the right-hand sidebar labeled “THE POPE’S AGENDA.” Click it to open a calendar listing the events, and then click to open the event you would like to see or hear. For example, clicking “Solemnity of the Nativity-Midnight Mass” will open a You Tube video of the Mass. 

Have You Heard the One-Minute Homilies?

The Jesuit Post (online) offers a one-minute homily video for the 4th Sunday of Advent. You can find other one-minute homilies for other dates y scrolling down. 

Please Consider Donating to VOTF

As we embark this Christmas season on our journey together in the three-year Synod on Synodality that culminates at the Vatican in 2023, we ask you to share your spiritual and financial resources to help raise our Spirit-led voices — Voices for transparency, for accountability, for the protection of children, for survivors of clergy sexual abuse, for leading roles for women, for the destruction of clericalism, for a more pastoral episcopate, for an ordained women’s diaconate, for lay participation in the governance and guidance of our Church — all issues for which we need your support so that Voice of the Faithful can continue addressing them with its programs, projects, and initiatives.

Synod Notes 

Did you know that in the United States we have a decades-old tested and demonstrated structure and experiences in a synodal movement? Our Hispanic brothers and sisters, who constitute almost half of U.S. Catholics today, have been journeying together in the Encuentros for decades. Bishops who have been so reluctant to start the synodal journey within their dioceses have not only the Vatican documents and videos to help them, but also can turn to those who participate in Encuentros here for guidance. Prof. Hosffman Ospino of Boston College has described the Encuentro experience and its potential.

Remembering a Great Friend

On Thursday, December 9, 2021, VOTF lost a great friend. Reverend Donald B. Cozzens was a steadfast supporter of our mission and goals since VOTF’s earliest days. While we mourn his death, we give thanks for the friendship, counsel, and inspiration he gave to so many of us. Svea Fraser provided this remembrance of Don and his impact.

Dorothy Day’s Candidacy for Canonization

Earlier this month, 17 cardboard boxes full of documents, files, and works of art about and in honor of Dorothy Day were packaged up with red ribbon, sealed with wax, and sent off as evidence of her holiness for her consideration for sainthood. Members of the organization she founded, the Catholic Worker Movement, disagree as to whether or not Day would have wanted to be considered for sainthood. She is recorded as having said both “Don’t call me a saint; I don’t want to be dismissed that easily,” and “We are all called to be saints. We might as well get over our bourgeois fear of the name.”

Dorothy Day was born in 1897 and did not grow up particularly religious. As a young woman passionate about social justice, she wrote for socialist newspapers and participated in demonstrations and protests. She was arrested for the first time while demonstrating for women’s suffrage, and she is described as running with a circle of Greenwich Village bohemian intellectuals. She became pregnant while in a relationship with reporter Lionel Moise and had an abortion. She married another man, unhappily, and then met and settled down with Forster Batterham, with whom she had her daughter, Tamar Theresa. After Tamar’s birth, Day became interested in the Catholic Church, as the church of many of the poorest immigrants in New York. She joined the church with her daughter and separated from Batterham, who did not agree with her conversion. 

Many see Day’s life as a “before and after”: before her conversion to Catholicism and after her conversion, but Day feared this description would serve to reduce her. 

After her conversion, she continued to write, covering social justice events auch as a hunger march in Washington, D.C., for Commonweal, a Catholic magazine. While in Washington, she prayed for God to show her how to serve the poor and workers. Upon her return home to New York, she met French itinerant preacher and former Christian Brother Peter Maurin, who would eventually co-found the Catholic Worker movement with her. 

Together, they began the Catholic Worker newspaper as an alternative to the communist Daily Worker. They sought to publicize Catholic social teachings as an alternative to communism. Their movement grew rapidly, opening Catholic Worker houses that function as soup kitchens, homes, and gathering places for the poor and for workers to live together and work towards social justice. Many of their positions were radical; Day herself was arrested several times during and after World War II, protesting American participation and demonstrating for farm workers, among other causes. 

Nearly 20 years after her death, several people who knew her well gathered to discuss the possibility of the archdiocese forwarding Day’s cause for canonization. However, some had reservations. One was cost. “The other was a concern that the church would make her the ‘saint of abortion,’” explained George Horton, vice-postulator of her canonization cause.

The requirements for consideration of canonization are costly, with strict formatting requirements of transcriptions of essentially everything that the candidate has written. For Day, who was a prolific journalist and diarist, this is not an insubstantial hurdle. The cost of transcribing her writings alone would be staggering. To reduce costs, volunteers completed much of this work for Day’s cause. 

After all of the documents are sent to the Vatican, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints reviews the materials to determine if the candidate lived a life of “heroic virtue” and led others to prayer by example.

Following the Congregation’s decision, the Pope can then declare the candidate “venerable,” if he agrees with their conclusion. Then, the Vatican must verify one miracle if the person was martyred, or two if not. After one miracle is verified, the Pope beatifies the candidate and they receive the title “blessed”; after two, they become a saint. Any of these requirements can be waived by the Pope as well. 

Critics of her candidacy for canonization believe the money spent transcribing the documents supporting her cause could have gone directly to the poor. Her own fears of being reduced to a simple before-and-after story were evidenced in the homily Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, delivered at the mass sending off her documentation. He referred to her “promiscuity” before converting to Catholicism, and failed to mention her political activism afterwards. When asked whether canonization was a good idea, however, those who lived by her ideals offer that she would be a saint who is really “just like us.” Difficult to live with at times, according to her friends, she had the courage and conviction to live her life called by God. She was fiercely uncompromising and lived her values. She made mistakes, as is human, and cannot be reduced to a “perfect” life, but offers an example of how deeply flawed individuals can follow a life of holiness. 

For more information about Dorothy Day’s canonization, please see herehere, and here.

For VOTF’s position on women’s roles in the Church, please see here


Swiss Catholic church orders study of past sexual abuse
“The leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Switzerland have asked two academics to lead a study into the Swiss church’s history of sexual exploitation since the mid-20th century, joining other churches in other countries in Europe and beyond to undergo such a reckoning. The Swiss Conference of Bishops and two other organizations announced Monday (Dec. 6) that two University of Zurich history professors, Monika Dommann and Marietta Maier, will assemble a team in the coming weeks before formally launching the project and detailing its full ambitions in March.” By Jamey Keaten, Associated Press

Pope approves updates to norms for dealing with ‘grave crimes’
“Pope Francis has given formal approval to a series of updates and modifications that have been made over the years to the norms regarding clerical sexual abuse and other crimes reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The newest version of the so-called ‘Norms on the delicts reserved to the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith’ does not introduce any new crimes, but it does seek to improve the procedural norms regarding the penal process and to update those canons connected with the recently revised ‘Book VI: Penal Sanctions in the Church’ that was to go into effect Dec. 8.” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, on

A priest ordained in 2017 is now serving a life sentence for sex abuse. How did he slip through the cracks?
“Just two years after his ordination in 2017, the Rev. Robert McWilliams was charged with a cascade of sexual assault and child pornography charges. He was sentenced to life imprisonment a few weeks ago, on Nov. 9, in a federal criminal court in Cleveland. The McWilliams case came as an unhappy shock to Catholics in the Diocese of Cleveland and all over the United States who might have hoped that years of procedural changes and an enhanced screening process for seminarians would have put an end to the ordination of priests like Father McWilliams.” By Kevin Clarke, America: The Jesuit Review

Religious institutes in France determined to fight clergy sex abuse
“In the wake of a recent devastating report by a special commission in France investigating sexual abuse of minors by clergy, a new committee has been established by the religious men and women’s conference (the Conférence des Religieux et Religieuses de France or CORREF) to hear testimonials of victims of sexual abuse by religious men and women, including abuses suffered by adults and members of religious communities. Many stories of abuses against nuns have been reported without action being taken. This new committee will allow any potential victim to state their case.” By Elisabeth Auvillain, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

After two decades, abuse crisis has humbled the Catholic Church
“From when the Catholic Church’s sex-abuse crisis erupted in 2002 until his death more than three years later, St. John Paul II never met with a victim of clerical sexual abuse. In contrast, Pope Francis has met numerous times with abuse victims and their advocates since his election in 2013. He plans next year to meet with representatives of indigenous people from Canada who are protesting the historical abuse of children at church-run residential schools there. Those meetings are a sign of how the Catholic hierarchy has transformed its response to abuse scandals, which have left the church poorer and less influential in the countries where they have emerged.” By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal

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

In ‘Procession,’ Survivors Heal as They Document Trauma

A new documentary streaming on Netflix follows six survivors as they try to heal from experiences of childhood sexual abuse in the Church through writing and dramatizing their experiences. With the help of documentary filmmaker Robert Greene and drama therapist Monica Phinney, the men wrote, directed, and acted out dramatized scenes of their experiences.

Greene said he became interested in working with the men when he saw a press conference by attorney Rebecca Randles urging Missouri and Kansas authorities to investigate 230 alleged pedophile priests, who appeared onscreen with four survivors.

The group of six survivors, including Joe Eldred, Dan Laurine, Mike Foreman, Ed Gavagan, Michael Sandridge, and Tom Saviano, Greene said “became” the story, as they took complete control over the narrative. He said that there were two reasons the subjects were in control. The first, because Greene had seen firsthand how documentaries change the lives of those they depict. He explained, “A film has to be useful to the participants on screen because while there is a lot of talk about how documentaries change the world… I know for sure that they change the lives of the people you are filming.”

The second reason, he said, is because of Attorney Randles. “She told me very early on, ‘These guys have had their power taken away over and over again, and all you have to do is never, ever take their power away.’”

Eldred describes the process of making the film as “emotionally charged” but ultimately cathartic.

The men struggle with their anger at statutes of limitations and other ways in which the church was protected from prosecution, despite other victims corroborating the accusations. The film switches perspectives between the survivors remembering the details of their experiences and the scenes in which they dramatize and act them out. The men portray themselves and their abusers as they revisit the scenes of the crimes, allowing themselves to see what happened with a new perspective. Collaborating together and supporting each other, they dive into their worst memories: some scenes are filmed on a set, while some take place in actual churches and vacation homes where the abuse occurred. While not explicit, the scenes are difficult to watch.

Greene hopes that the documentary can help others heal: “if there are any survivors who feel empowered by our film and feel that they can take a step forward to find healing, then that’s what we want most of all.” For more information about the film, 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.