In the Vineyard: February 21, 2023


In the Vineyard :: February 21, 2023 :: Volume 23, Issue 4

International News

Update on the Synod

As Synod meetings continue throughout the world, there are both similarities and differences – depending on where you are on the globe – in the discussions being held. In some parts of the world, the focus of the Synod was on the effects of climate change on both daily life, and the future. Elsewhere it was on setting up structures to enhance and continue synodality.

In Europe, for example, the key points centered less on climate and more on problems such as the ongoing war in Ukraine, the clerical sexual abuse scandals, and historic divisions between European countries. Topics discussed included the need to accompany people who have been wounded or are suffering in some way, and to empower young people and women, while showing greater attention to “marginalized” groups in the church. Most notably, the Continental gathering there included 200 onsite participants and almost 400 online participants in the first phase, a far cry from the online-only bishops assembly planned for the North American continent. In the second phase, the presidents of the 39 national episcopal conferences of Europe met behind closed doors to draft a text to “accompany” the first document drafted by the full gathering.

In the Middle East, as a part of their closing statement, the Synodal assembly of Catholic churches put together a list of “constants,” which include (in translation):

  1. Synodalism is a core of the heritage of our Eastern Churches.
  2. Unity in diversity through unity in communion and the mission and testimony of churches.
  3. The roots of common churches are the basis of a unified message.
  4. The presence of seculars (i.e., lay people) and their talents in the service of the Body of Christ. The role of youth, their capabilities, and their expectations for a renewed Church reflect the challenges they face.
  5. The importance of the role and mission of women in the church and their participation in decision-making and service.
  6. The liturgy is our life, and the call for a liturgical renewal that is compatible with the aspirations of our youth while preserving its essence and symbols.
  7. Calling for a creative and renewed ecumenism and stimulating ecumenical dialogue.
  8. The Church of openness to others who are ecclesiastically and religiously different, by listening, dialogue, and togetherness, living together, cooperation, and mutual respect, in order to show the face of the One God.
  9. Fellowship and Hope in Suffering: Towards a Church as humble as a “mustard seed” (Matthew 13/31-32), called to grow and expand amidst the challenge of survival and the rejection of emigration.
  10. The mission, witness, and renewed structures of a more synodal Church.
  11. Pastorates specialized in dealing with families, women and youth.
  12. The importance of media and digital culture as an effective communication tool in the hands of the church to deliver its message in a more comprehensive manner.
  13. Continuing the synodal spirit in each Church with the central question: How can each Church be more synodal in the light of the actions of this Continental Assembly of Catholic Churches in the Middle East?

In El Salvador, where the first of four regional meetings making up the continental assembly for Latin America and the Caribbean is taking place, Sister Genoveva Henríquez, president of the Conference of Religious in El Salvador, said the meetings held in Latin America are an opportunity “to contribute to the opening of horizons of hope for the fulfillment of the mission of the church,” based on St. Oscar Romero’s example of prioritizing those on the peripheries.

“We must see with eyes wide open and feet well planted on the ground, but with a heart well filled with the Gospel and with God (synodality),” she said, saying this consists of establishing “a circular, participatory, and less hierarchical and pyramidal style of government” for the church.

To learn more about the Synod and VOTF’s participation, please click here.

To read more about Catholic responses around the world to the Synod, please click herehere and here and here.

Also of interest:

Is Prayer Our Only Option?

By Scott Kruize

We are in crisis here in Washington, with declining Mass attendance and a shortage of priests to cater even to our reduced numbers. This is not new, not unexpected, and not local. All over the world, Catholic churches are in this crisis. The question is what to do about it.

We can continue to exhort each other to pray for vocations. This is what we’ve been doing for years,  even decades, with no appreciable effect. It amounts to slacking off on the work we need to do for ourselves, instead telling God, “Rules we set up for ministry in your church here on Earth prevent most of us from wanting to do it … so you have to MAKE some of us serve the rest.”  

By now, it’s all too clear God’s not going to do that, and we need to get over it and fix our problems ourselves.

As alternatives, of course, we can start consolidating our existing parishes–closing down and eliminating many of them. This is worse: It’s giving up. It’s saying to God that we won’t put in any effort to make the Church here on Earth a portal to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Both these approaches evade acknowledging that God has showered us with divine gifts: intelligence and reason, common sense, judgment and discernment, memory and imagination. Also a willingness to put these gifts to work, doing what needs to be done for ourselves and for others. We may have arrived as helpless, clueless infants, but we’re all past that. We’re supposed to behave like grown-ups, developing our abilities as we advance through life … and following prompts from the Holy Spirit to do the right things.

By now we’re perfectly well aware that if we quit driving people away from the Church, more would come: divorced Catholics, women who have had abortions, women who can’t accept inferior status, LGBTQ+ people, and lots more. We need to drop “gateKeeping” and instead engage in making our Church the Apostolic Catholic (universal) one God intends it to be.

We’re also aware that young men can’t respond to being told that we require them to give up divine gifts of love and sexual fulfillment forever. Nor can we keep telling the laity that only celibate men can minister to them, leading Mass and dispensing the sacraments. We need to eliminate clericalism, deferring to hierarchical authority even when it’s obviously in opposition to Jesus’ commands for us to love one another and worship in His name. We see married people of both sexes in other faiths doing just fine, without such hoary old arbitrary rules.

We know these are not theological matters at all: just administrative. Whatever the traditional sources of those man-made rules, they’re a hindrance. We made them; we can change them.

We need to stand up now as sensible adults, and use God’s gifts to fix our Church’s problems. Let’s get on with it!

VOTF 2022 Conference Videos

Don’t forget–you can revisit the presentations from our annual conference or, if you missed the event, catch up on what you missed. You will find all the videos on the 2022 Conference page.

Top Stories

More than 4,800 victims of sexual abuse uncovered in Portugal’s Catholic Church
“An independent commission looking into the sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church says it had documented cases pointing to at least 4,815 victims. Set up by the Portuguese Episcopal Conference to examine abuse in recent decades, the commission added this was the tip of the iceberg. Presenting the report, the commission’s president, child psychiatrist Pedro Strecht, described its objective as ‘giving voice to the silence’ of victims. He paid tribute to the hundreds who contacted its staff to provide testimony. ‘They have a voice; they have a name,’ he said.” By BBC News on YouTube

Catholic Church in Germany has paid $43.5 million to more than 1,800 victims of abuse
“The Catholic Church in Germany has so far paid more than $43.5 million (40 million euros) to victims of sexual abuse, German Catholic KNA agency has reported. The Independent Commission for Recognition Payment approved an average amount of $24,000 (22,150 euros) in 1,809 cases. The commission’s annual report was presented in Bonn Feb. 3. There have been a total of 1,839 applications from victims of sex abuse seeking compensation from the Catholic Church.” By OSV News in America: The Jesuit Review

CIrish Catholic Church in ‘terminal decline’ after sexual abuse scandals
“Ireland was once regarded as the most Catholic Country in the World. That, though, is no longer the case. Mark Vincent Healy was sexually abused by a member of the Spiritan Order while at school during the 1960s and 70s. He says the sexual abuse he experienced destroyed his life. ‘It had a profound psychological effect on me and the way that I made decisions in things that I wanted to do with my life, even more recently and obviously when this matter came forward and it surfaced in my life, everything changed,’ he revealed to Euronews.” By

Which U.S. dioceses have declared bankruptcy? Here’s a map
“Cardinal Robert McElroy announced last week that the San Diego Diocese may have to resort to a second declaration of bankruptcy in 2023 to manage the cost of hundreds of new abuse claims. The Santa Rosa Diocese in California might also declare bankruptcy, according to local media reports. At issue, McElroy said, is a mounting number of abuse claims filed under a three-year window opened by California’s governor, which began in 2020 and expired on Dec. 31, 2022. Some of the new abuse claims brought to the diocese date back 75 years, the cardinal wrote.” By Jonah McKeown, Catholic News Agency

Click here to read the rest of this issue of Focus


Focus on Francis – Ten Years In

Georgetown University is hosting a series of events, both online and in-person, that focus on Pope Francis’ mission and message, his priorities and leadership, his impact, and the challenges he offers to U.S. Catholics.  

The Initiative’s inaugural Public Dialogue in 2013 was on “The Francis Factor,” examining how Pope Francis’ new leadership of the Catholic Church might shape our Church and nation. Now, a decade later, this landmark dialogue will focus on the mission, message, and impact of Pope Francis after 10 years and into the future.

This Public Dialogue is part of the Initiative’s Tenth Anniversary Celebration and will be an occasion to welcome the leadership of Kim Daniels as director and recognize John Carr as he moves into a new role as founder.

Georgetown President John J. DeGioia will open the evening with a brief conversation with Kim and John on the past and future work of the Initiative. A conversation on “The Francis Factor at Ten Years” follows with Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Sr. Norma Pimentel, M.J., E.J. Dionne,  and Helen Alvaré.

The participants will explore these and other questions:

  • How has Pope Francis’ leadership challenged and changed the Church, the world, and each of us? 
  • What have been Pope Francis’ successes and shortcomings? 
  • What has been the response of different groups, especially in the United States, to Francis’ papacy? 
  • What are Pope Francis’ current priorities and future challenges? 
  • How has Pope Francis’ mission and message shaped the work of the Initiative over its first decade? 

Kim Daniels, director of the Initiative, and John Carr, founder of the Initiative, will moderate the dialogue.

Please join them on Tuesday, February 28, 2023, from 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. EST. RSVP Required.

Location: Dahlgren Chapel of the Sacred Heart at Georgetown UniversityThe event will be posted online at a later date.


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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