In the Vineyard: January 23, 2023


In the Vineyard :: January 23, 2023 :: Volume 23, Issue 2

National News

Your Chance to Comment on the Continental Synod Stage

Voice of the Faithful is participating early in February in discussions with the national USCCB Synod team to provide comment on the Continental stage. You can help us prepare that input

We will hold two Synod comments sessions: Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 3 pm (Eastern; 2 pm Central, 1 pm Mountain, Noon Pacific), and Friday, Feb. 3, at 6:30 pm (Eastern; 5:30 pm Central, 4:30 pm Mountain, and 3:30 pm Pacific). Please choose the one best suited to your schedule; the questions we address will be the same in both sessions, drawn from the Continental Document itself.

Please register ahead of time so that we have enough facilitators on-hand for the breakout sessions. 

Preparing for the Session

I know, homework isn’t much fun even when you’re all grown up. But to prepare for the Continental Stage discussion session, a little homework is needed. Here’s what we suggest:

  • Watch the video summarizing where we are in the Synod process and the results so far. (Not essential, but it will help.)
  • Read the Continental document (DCS) itself. Reading the document ahead of time is extremely important. Note especially pages 45-47 and 49 (item 4).

These are the questions we will ask during the sessions. They are taken directly from the Continental document “Enlarge the space of your tent.” We assume these will be the focus of the session scheduled by the USCCB for input from reform organizations.

  • After having read and prayed with the DCS, which intuitions resonate most strongly with the lived experiences and realities of the Church in your continent? Which experiences are new, or illuminating to you?” 
  • After having read and prayed with the DCS, what substantial tensions or divergences emerge as particularly important in your continent’s perspective? Consequently, what are the questions or issues that should be addressed and considered in the next steps of the process?” 
  • Looking at what emerges from the previous two questions, what are the priorities, recurring themes and calls to action that can be shared with other local Churches around the world and discussed during the First Session of the Synodal Assembly in October 2023?

Register for one of the sessions here

Help Us Move Forward on Synodality

The response to the Continental Document is only the first step in VOTF’s ongoing Synod efforts. If you would like to help us organize working sessions to help implement synodality in the Church, please send your name, email address, and a brief statement about your interest to Donna B. Doucette at The working group will develop ways for VOTF members and others to continue learning about and cultivating synodal processes throughout the Church.

Another Opportunity to Discuss Vatican II and Synodality

The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests Vatican II Working Group is hosting two sessions focusing on ways the “People of God” image in Vatican Council II’s Constitution on the Church interfaces with the synod Continental Document “Enlarge the space of your tent.” Dates for the Zoom discussions are:

The Working Group asks you to read the Continental Document before the meeting. They also welcome inviting others to join in, especially persons involved in parish and other ministries—whether members of AUSCP or not.  “Looking forward to a stimulating conversation,” the organizers say. 

Just Church: Phyllis Zagano’s Latest Book

Early in February the Paulist Press will release Just Church: Catholic Social Teaching, Synodality, and Women by Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D., the latest work in her groundbreaking efforts to illuminate the buried history of the Church’s ordination of women deacons. In his Foreword for the new volume, Dr. Richard Lennan, Professor of Systematic Theology and chair of the Ecclesiastical Faculty of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, writes these words:

“The vision for the ecclesial community that the two dimensions of Catholic life [Catholic Social Teaching and synodality] depict is compelling and attractive. Like all visions, however, this one for the Church is vulnerable to more than a few ‘shadows.’ Not least among these shadows is the danger that efforts to translate the vision into practice fail to be as all-encompassing as the vision itself. Phyllis Zagano writes with a clear awareness of this danger, particularly as it applies to the exclusion or marginalization of women in the Church. Just Church is a compelling reminder to the Church, at every level and in every setting, that true justice and authentic synodality require the inclusion of all the baptized in discerning what constitutes constructive mission in the Church’s present moment in history. … The crux of her very articulate argument is that women’s voices have been, are being, and most probably will be ignored by a Vatican hide-bound in its rules and customs, which seems incapable of taking women seriously. Why?”

In her introduction, Dr. Zagano notes, “Even though synodality is the buzzword of the day, the fact remains that members of the hierarchy are, or at least consider themselves, insulated from the opinions about Church from those members on the periphery—and the people most cut out of the conversation at the highest level are women. … The top-heavy structure does not listen to the people, and the people, increasingly, do not listen to the structure. Women have been the ministers, silently, efficiently, and professionally keeping that same top-heavy structure afloat.”

 If you would like to participate in a discussion group using Dr. Zagano’s book, please email with your name, address, and email so we can organize group(s).

International News

Death of a Traditionalist: The Legacy of George Pell

On January 10th, in Rome, Cardinal George Pell died of heart complications following hip surgery at the age of 81. Pell served as Pope Francis’s first minister of finance for three years before he returned to Australia to face charges of sexual abuse, having been accused of molesting two choirboys while archbishop of Melbourne. His conviction was overturned in 2020, and he was freed after 404 days of solitary confinement. 

Pope Francis has credited Pell with having laid the groundwork for many of the financial transparency reforms currently underway. He was appointed by Francis to the Holy See’s Secretariat for the Economy, serving as prefect from 2014-2017, and implemented budgeting and accounting standards across all Vatican offices.

However, Pell and Francis disagreed on many aspects of Catholic life, especially the focus on inclusion and soliciting the opinions and thoughts of the laity for consideration of the future of the church. This led Pell to publish an anonymous memo under the pseudonym “Demos” on the Vatican blog Settimo Cielo (“seventh heaven”) sharply criticizing many of Pope Francis’s actions as well as his overall leadership as “a disaster in many or most respects; a catastrophe.” The irony, of course, is that Pell did not consider himself to be “common” at all, and that his views do not reflect the majority of actual “commoner” views as expressed globally through the synodal process.

The formerly anonymous memo directly criticized Francis himself, taking aim at Francis’s involvement in the financial fraud investigation over the London property real estate deal. In the memo, Pell noted how Francis issued secret decrees “to help the prosecution” that the defense has argued violated the suspects’ human rights. Pell defended Cardinal Angelo Becciu, one of the defendants, saying “He did not receive due process. Everyone has a right to due process.”

On the same day, conservative magazine The Spectator published what it claimed was a signed article by Pell shortly before his death. In the article, Pell called Francis’s Synod on Synodality, where he is canvassing the Catholic laity on issues that matter to practicing Catholics worldwide, a “toxic nightmare.” He described the summary of the canvassing a “deepening confusion, the attack on traditional morals and the insertion into the dialogue of neo-Marxist jargon about exclusion, alienation, identity, marginalization, the voiceless, LGBTQ as well as the displacement of Christian notions of forgiveness, sin, sacrifice, healing, redemption.”

The Pope’s determination to involve the laity in the future and present of the church is a sore spot for many conservative members of the clerical old guard. His desire to move away from clericalism toward an inclusive church has been seen as “the weakening of faith in the Western world and the moral crisis of the family,” especially among the U.S. hierarchy supported by the Napa Institute. This deeply pained clerics like Pell. The ideals that he sought to defend were, as he saw them, strength against reform and modernization.

Like the late Benedict, Pell was a member of the clergy who strongly believed that women should not be ordained as deacons–or involved in church life as anything other than obedient laity–and now that increasing numbers of Catholics are walking away from the church, “often led by the women of their families who have had enough,” this strategy may be backfiring. These two late traditionalists were the leaders of their movement, and their deaths may weaken the anti-synod underground movement to inhibit Church reform. 

For more information, please see herehere, and here.  

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

For VOTF’s statement on financial accountability, please see here. 

Cardinal Who Filed Defamation Suit Accused Again

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who in December filed a defamation lawsuit against a woman, “F.,” who accused him of sexual misconduct as part of a class action lawsuit against clerics in the diocese who were accused of sexually abusing children, has been accused of sexual misconduct by a second woman in the Archdiocese of Quebec. “F.,” or “Ms. F.,” as she was known until recently, came forward publicly under her real name, Paméla Groleau. She is demanding “more justice and transparency,” for “the victims of the clergy [and] all Christians who are hurting for their church and wish to see it purged of all types of abuse, so that it regains its relevance and credibility.” She had initially chosen to remain anonymous to protect her family, job, and mental health, but has come forward publicly “to find the dignity that was taken from me.” 

This second alleged victim, known as “Marie,” reported the abuse, about which few details are known to the public, to Quebec Cardinal Gérald Lacroix. Lacroix wrote of the allegations to Pope Francis in September 2020. He then wrote back to the woman, explaining “the allegations of sexual misconduct that you brought to my attention a few months ago, directed at His Eminence Cardinal Marc Ouellet, have been directly transmitted to me by Pope Francis, the cardinal’s immediate superior,” in June 2021.

According to Lacroix, Francis had evaluated the allegations and found “no reason” to continue with a complete Vos Estis Lux Mundi investigation. Vos Estis Lux Mundi is the law, established in 2019 by Pope Francis, that established the system by which claims of abuse or misconduct by Catholic bishops are evaluated. The letters between Lacroix, “Marie,” and Pope Francis were published in a Catholic weekly, Golias Hebdo, from Lyon, France.   

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.

Top Stories

Hierarchy’s sacramental betrayal in abuse scandal obstructs synodality
“What I eventually came to understand about the scandal affected not only my career … It would also ultimately place in question much of what I knew and understood about the church. What transpired regarding the scandal in the more than 35 years since that phone conversation continues to be the dominant lens through which I view developments in the church, including the synodal process underway. I agree with theologian Massimo Faggioli and Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner, who wrote recently in this space: ‘It must be understood that the chances of the synodal process that will soon begin its continental phase are closely tied to what the Catholic Church is doing and not doing on the abuse crisis. It’s about the abuse crisis even when it’s not explicitly about the abuse crisis.’” By Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter

The life and complicated legacy of Pope Benedict XVI
“Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died at 95 on Saturday (Dec. 31), leaving behind a complicated legacy and a lasting impact on Catholics across the globe. Margaret Roylance, vice president of Voice of the Faithful – a lay group that supports survivors of clergy sexual abuse – and Thomas Groome, professor of theology & religious education at Boston College, spoke to Liz Neisloss about the positive changes the late pope made within the Church, as well as the darker periods of his papacy.” By WGBH-TV News

Exclusive: Vatican must treat abuse victims better, pope’s lead investigator says
“Pope Francis’ lead clergy abuse investigator has acknowledged survivors’ frustrations with the Vatican’s strict culture of secrecy about Catholic bishops accused of misconduct or cover-up. Victims who bring a claim forward have a right to know how it is handled, said Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna. In a National Catholic Reporter interview, Scicluna admitted the Vatican is not at what he termed ‘an optimal point’ with regard to how it follows up with abuse victims, calling the matter ‘something that needs to be developed.’” By Joshua J.McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

Traditionalists, reform and women
“As the Catholic Synod on Synodality enters its ‘continental phase,’ some have wondered if the church is moving toward Vatican Three. Of course, there are still fights going on about Vatican Two. Not long ago, Sister Nathalie Becquart, undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod, said the current synod would lead ‘to a new reception of the Second Vatican Council,’ allowing the reforms of the mid-1960s to finally take hold. A small but vocal cadre of Catholics fears that precise possibility, which they caricature as a church overrun with bad liturgy, bad moral theology and guitar music.” By Phyllis Zagano, Religion News Service

Women and the Church
“We should not forget Sarah, but rather, we should remember her more than we do, and recognize her role in salvation history was at least equal to Abraham’s. What has happened to Sarah, the way we tend to forget about her and think only of Abraham, shows how easy it is for us to ignore the role women have played in salvation history. We must not think this is a problem only for those women born before Christ, for if we look at Christian history, it is clear that the role Christian women have played in history has been marginalized or forgotten, just like it was for their pre-Christian counterparts.” By Henry Karlson, Patheos

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

Pope Francis’ January Prayer Intention: For Educators

Pope Francis invites the faithful to pray “that educators may be credible witnesses, teaching fraternity rather than confrontation and helping especially the youngest and most vulnerable above all.”

To watch the Pope’s video, click here.


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