In the Vineyard: January 8, 2023


In the Vineyard :: January 8, 2023 :: Volume 23, Issue 1

International News

VOTF Asked to Comment on Benedict XVI

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died at 95 last week, leaving behind a complicated legacy and a lasting impact on Catholics across the globe. VOTF was asked to comment by the NBC News on its THINK webpage and by the Greater Boston news program on PBS’ Boston station WGBH-TV. VOTF Executive Director Donna Doucette wrote an opinion piece for THINK called A man of contradictions, Benedict leaves us two very different legacies. Margaret Roylance, VOTF Vice President, was interviewed on Greater Boston. Donna and Margaret both reviewed the positive changes the late pope made within the Church, as well as the darker periods of his papacy.

You can read Donna’s THINK piece by clicking here.

You can view Margeret’s Greater Boston interview by clicking here.

The Life and Times of Pope Benedict XVI

On January 5th, Pope Francis presided over the funeral Mass of the late Pope Benedict XVI, his predecessor, who died on December 31, 2022. Francis delivered a brief, seven-minute homily in St. Peter’s Square, reflecting primarily on the life of Christ, a topic of writing and study for Benedict, rather than their differing leadership styles and lives, as he had when delivering other eulogies. Often called the “grandfather of all grandfathers,” Benedict spent his final years in a monastery in the Vatican under the title of “pope emeritus,” and while he and Francis differed in their approaches in many ways, Francis praised him as a pastor who “spread and testified” to the Gospel.

That Francis presided over the funeral of his predecessor, or indeed that his predecessor resigned, is rare. The last pope to voluntarily resign was over 700 years ago, when Celestine V resigned in 1294. More recently, Gregory XII was forced to step down in 1415 to end a schism in the church, but this was not by choice. 

Visitors from all over the world passed through St. Peter’s Basilica in the three days prior to Benedict’s funeral, where he lay in state. Following standard protocol, a one-page document summarizing his nearly eight years of papacy and Vatican coins that were minted during his pontificate were placed in his coffin. The majority of the Mass was celebrated in Italian, but the Nicene Creed was recited in Latin and the prayers of the faithful were recited in many languages. Some scholars were disappointed at the lack of German representation: Rita Ferrone said, “I was sad to see so little of the German language in the liturgy, and really no suggestion of Benedict’s Bavarian roots. Liturgy can be both particular and universal. It seems to me that, at least on paper, this liturgy is weighted rather heavily on the side of universality. Yet he was formed in that particular [German] church, and I believe he carried it with him even though he lived and served for many years in Rome.” There were, however, many German flags and an official German state delegation in attendance. Cardinal Walter Kasper, the longtime leader of the Vatican’s office for promoting Christian Unity paid tribute to Benedict, praising his courage in stepping down and saying his “resignation wasn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength, a greatness because he saw that he was no longer up to the challenges of being pope.” 

Benedict’s legacy will likely linger for many years. While he showed great courage in his willingness to resign when he felt he was not well enough to continue in his role, he failed to show the same courage when addressing the abuse crisis during his tenure. While he apologized to victims of sexual abuse and asked for forgiveness, he managed to avoid accepting any responsibility or admitting any wrongdoing. Early last year, a report commissioned by the German Catholic church found him guilty of mishandling four cases, prior to being elected pope. He was known as a conservative priest but was progressive in his youth. His position did not change significantly, but the culture of the Catholic Church has, and many argue he did not keep up. 

In his death, he was honored by the nearly 200,000 people who came to pay their respects, as well as a beautiful funeral Mass. 

Vale, Papa. Ut vos in pace.

For more information:

Kansas AG Releases Report on Sexual Abuse in the Church

Late on Friday night, the 6th of January, the Kansas Attorney General released a report by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation on abuse in Kansas’ Catholic Churches. Their investigation, which took four years, discovered cover-ups and systemic problems, as many of these such reports have, and conducted 125 criminal investigations, leading to 30 affidavits that had potential for cases against 14 clergy members. However, due to the statute of limitations, many of the crimes cannot be prosecuted. The KBI believes that at least 15 suicides can be attributed to the clergy sexual abuse they unearthed. They also released a list of those with substantiated abuse allegations against them, with their current status. 

The report explains “The (Catholic) Church seems to be taking steps to correct some of its actions from the past. However, there are still measures that should be taken. It was more than 15 years ago the bishops ordered the creation of lay review boards in each American diocese. The lay review boards were charged with investigating accusations of sexual abuse by priests. However, the church must show it has a zero tolerance policy for any sexual abuse within the church. Everyone, but especially children, should feel safe and sheltered within their house of worship and with those employed or associated with the church.” 

In the process of the investigation, the internal task force reviewed over 41,000 pages of records and 224 tips. They also interviewed 137 abuse victims, identifying 188 clergy members who they suspected of abuse. 

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.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet Sues for Defamation over Sexual Assault Accusations

Cardinal Marc Ouellet filed a lawsuit in Quebec for defamation, claiming that a woman in a class action sexual abuse lawsuit falsely accused him. His statement in December 2022, read, “I have never been guilty of these reprehensible behaviors, much less of those alleged against other members of the clergy cited in the class action. This inappropriate association, intentionally constructed and widely spread for improper purposes, must be denounced.”

He is currently serving as the prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, which is tasked with assisting the Pope with evaluating potential candidates to be named bishop. 

The class-action suit includes 101 individuals who claim they were sexually abused between 1940 and the present by members of the clergy or Church staff, including 88 clerics. A woman known pseudonymously as “F.” claimed that the cardinal, who at the time was the archbishop of Quebec, touched her inappropriately and kissed her on multiple occasions while she was a pastoral intern between 2008 and 2010. Ouellet claims he “has no recollection of ever having met Mrs. F. He does not know her,” according to his defamation lawsuit. 

He is seeking 100,000 Canadian dollars in compensatory damages, for the “serious damage” to his personal and professional reputation as well as “significant psychological anguish.” He says he will donate any financial compensation he receives to fight sexual abuse against Indigenous peoples of Canada. The class action lawsuit in which he is named otherwise includes “other allegations involving serious acts against minors,” which is why he believes F. named him in her allegations only “to include a member of the high clergy in the case.” The Vatican, having received F.’s accusation as well, said there were no grounds to open an investigation. 

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

Jesuit case underscores secrecy, leniency for abuse of women
“Revelations that the Vatican let a famous priest off the hook twice for abusing his authority over adult women has exposed two main weaknesses in the Holy See’s abuse policies: sexual and spiritual misconduct against adult women is rarely if ever punished, and secrecy still reigns supreme, especially when powerful priests are involved …But under questioning by journalists, the Jesuit superior general, the Rev. Arturo Sosa, acknowledged the Congregation had prosecuted Rupnik for a separate, prior case from 2019 that ended with his conviction and temporary excommunication for one of the gravest crimes in the church’s in-house canon law: that he used the confessional to absolve a woman with whom he previously had sexual relations.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

Former bishop of French Guyana guilty of sex abuse, Vatican court says
“Bishop Emeritus Emmanuel Lafont of Cayenne, French Guyana, has been found guilty of sexual abuse in a canonical court and banned from public ministry, while the country’s civil authorities are investigating charges against him. ‘He is under house arrest, in a monastery on mainland France,’ the Bishops’ Conference of France told Agence France Presse. He must conduct a life of prayer and repentance. The bishops’ conference confirmed that the bishop faces a civil investigation.” By Kevin J. Jones, Catholic News Agency, in The Catholic World Report

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