In the Vineyard :: July 18, 2022 :: Volume 22, Issue 13
Registration Open: VOTF 20th Year Commemoration
You can now register for Voice of the Faithful’s 20th Year Commemoration, which will take place on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at the Boston Marriott Hotel Newton. We’re organizing the event with plenty of time for interactive and social gatherings. Come join us to meet new friends, enjoy a reunion with old friends, reminisce about where we’ve been, and plan where we’re going.
Speaking of good friends, Prof. Thomas H. Groome, Ed.D., from Boston College will present an interactive keynote address called Putting Jesus at the Heart of Keeping the Faith and Changing Church. “I would like to spark people’s own thoughts about why Catholics often think of Church or Pope or Sacraments as the ‘heart’ of their faith and seldom Jesus,” Tom says. It’s a theme consistent with the listening and synod sessions we have been hosting along with parishes, dioceses, and other groups.
We also will have our own Synod update and report for you plus updates on the three major studies VOTF conducts: diocesan financial transparency and accountability, governance via Diocesan Finance Councils, and the first national analysis of all 177 dioceses and their child protection and Safe Environment practices.
Finally, you won’t want to miss a report on women’s roles and the collaborative advocacy VOTF conducts for greater input from the centuries-neglected half (and more) of the Church.
Join your friends for a day of socializing, learning, and planning.
Event: Voice of the Faithful 20th Year Commemoration
Date: Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022
Time: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (Lunch included) P.S. It’s a delicious buffet.
Place: Boston Marriott Hotel Newton, 2345 Commonwealth Ave., Newton MA
A venue familiar to us for its good food, comfortable meeting
space and accommodations, and a generous room discount.
Have an Eye for Details and a Few Hours per Month to Help?
The VOTF National Office is seeking a person to reconcile all credit card and online donations. The job involves a commitment of around two to three hours once a month. Activities include recording paper transactions in the appropriate Logs, producing Reconciliation Reports, and matching up the paper transactions and transaction lists with the Reconciliation Reports. Filing of original records and Reconciliation Reports is also required. The task requires great attention to detail. Assistance will be provided during the reconciliation process.
The job must be performed on-site, in the Needham MA area. You will be working among staff and volunteers who all are vaccinated and boostered.
Please send a brief description of your qualifications to Database Supervisor, P.O. Box 920408, Needham MA 02492. We need you!
VOTF Director Quoted in Article on AUSCP Support Project
An initiative by the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) to advise priests of their canonical rights when they are accused of misconduct, including sexual abuse, was the focus of a recent article in National Catholic Reporter. VOTF’s Executive Director was quoted in the article:
“‘I understand the anguish of priests who are wrongly accused and yanked out of a parish without any explanation. But for all of the anguish that they experience, it is minor compared with the pain, the loss and the betrayal experienced by survivors, their families and their parish communities,’ said Donna B. Doucette, executive director of the reform group Voice of the Faithful, which was founded in Boston after the 2002 reporting on abuse and cover-up in that archdiocese.”
Donna went on to say, “I think the fear among the clergy is that the hierarchy doesn’t care about whether they did it or not. [The bishops] just want to make it go away, and the priest will get trampled in the process. It’s a problem, and I think you have to look at each instance. There is no easy answer to this.”
Don’t Forget Our Major Monitoring Reports
If you have not yet reviewed the three benchmark measurements for diocesan adherence to child protection standards, compliance with Canon Law in the Diocesan Finance Council, and diocesan financial transparency, they are available on the website. Take a look!
- “Measuring and Ranking Diocesan Online Financial Transparency: 2021 Report” (VOTF’s fifth such annual report)
- “Measuring Abuse Prevention and Safe Environment Programs as Reported Online in Diocesan Policies and Practices: 2022 Report” (VOTF’s first such report)
- “Measuring Lay Involvement in Governance of the Church by and through the Diocesan Finance Council: 2022 Report” (VOTF’s first such report)
Australian Plenary Council Witnesses Upheaval
In a process that began four years earlier, an Australian Plenary Council met in Sydney earlier this month. Lasting for a week, the formal gathering included 277 people, ranging from laypeople, religious, and clerical members who have a consultative vote, to bishops who have a deliberative vote. The Council voted on binding resolutions that were then sent to the Vatican for approval.
The council meeting was an expression of synodality, and a statement about the council said, “Synodality is the way of being a pilgrim Church, a Church that journeys together and listens together, so that we might more faithfully act together in responding to our God-given vocation and mission.” However, a resolution the bishops at first refused to approve created significant (and synodal) upheaval.
The topics under discussion included a vote on the formal recognition of a duty to care for the Earth and develop a plan of action to protect and care for the environment, in the spirit of Pope Francis’s Laudato Si encyclical, the more general use of absolution, and a vote on motions supporting women in the Church. It was the latter two that created the storm of protest. On July 6th, a motion entitled “Witnessing to the Equal Dignity of Women and Men” did not receive sufficient majority and in response, 60 members of the council stood in protest, refusing to return to their seats.
The first part of this motion, which was supported by a “strong majority” of laypeople and priests, sought to allow women to become deacons (notably, not priests), if authorized by the Vatican. The required supermajority (two-thirds) of bishops did not vote in favor. The second part, which was also rejected, was a motion for the Australian church to “foster new opportunities for women to participate in ministries and roles that are stable, publicly recognised, resourced with appropriate formation. These should engage with the most important aspects of diocesean and parish life and have a real impact on those communities.” They also called for women to be “appropriately represented in decision-making structures of church governance” and to ensure “the experiences and perspectives of women are heard, considered and valued.” Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth, the president of the Plenary Council, said “There is a long way for the church to go in understanding the proper role of women in the life of the church. The way we move forward to properly understand God’s plan in relation to women is important. As the people of God, we should understand that this moment is one of the calls of God to us.”
Those that stood up in protest were rightfully frustrated at the lack of support for half of the Catholic population. Sister Joan Chittister said, “Talk about cancel culture. What they really did with this motion was ‘cancel’ one half of creation. One half of the human race got dismissed with a simple little motion of recognition in the Roman Catholic Church. They said to the creative impulse of the universe, you missed, you lost, you made a mistake,” when the “reason” given for rejecting the motion was that women entering the hierarchy would invoke “a need for titles, roles of power or expensive committees,” which apparently should not be a concern for those “who work humbly and consistently” for the church. [Note that it was bishops, full of titles and power, who thought this.]
The cries of protest were not entirely in vain: Later that week, a revised motion, slightly modifying the proposed language, passed with the requisite number of votes.
In its closing statement, the plenary council explained that while some moments were “calm and harmonious,” others were “tense and difficult,” but “every moment has been blessed; the entire week has been grace-filled, though never a cheap grace,” and the experience demonstrated “practices of listening and discernment” as “essential dimensions of the implementations of this plenary council.”
For VOTF’s position on women’s roles in the Church, please see here.
For more on this story: “‘Embarrassing. Shocking. Scandalous and absolutely unacceptable.’ The 86-year-old Benedictine nun Sister Joan Chittister was in bed this week – recovering from a bout of COVID – when she read that the plenary council of the Australian Catholic Church had refused to pass two pretty gentle, anodyne motions supporting women in positions of leadership in the church. It felt like ‘a red hot poker’ ran through her … The proof is in. You needn’t wear yourself out trying to convince women that the church really appreciates them, their work, their presence, their talents. They know now – right out of the mouth of the episcopacy that voted against them.” By Julia Baird, The Sydney Morning Herald
- Catholic bishops backflip on status of women in Church, giving hope to reformers, By Matthew Knott, The Sydney Morning Herald
- After protest, Australian council agrees on ‘vastly improved’ document on women in the church, By Marilyn Rodrigues, Catholic News Service, in America: The Jesuit Review
- Fifth Plenary Council of Australia closes, By CathNews.com
- Vote on women throws Plenary into crisis, By Marilyn Rodrigues, The Catholic Weekly
- Pope names first women to office that helps select bishops, By Gaia Pianigiani
Updated Vatican Guidelines for Handling Sexual Abuse
“Version 1.0” of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith’s “How-To” guide for handling clerical sexual abuse allegations for bishops, religious superiors, and canon lawyers was published two years ago. “Version 2.0” was released last month.
Entitled “Vademecum on certain points of procedure in treating cases of sexual abuse of minors committed by clerics,” the guide reflects Pope Francis’s updates to the Code of Canon Law, including “Book VI: Penal Sanctions in the Church,” which took effect December 8th, 2021.
The statement accompanying the revised version notes that while the text “does not have the force of law, [it] is intended to meet a growing need for knowledge of the praxis in treating the situations described above by those who are called to take part in various procedural roles” in handling an accusation of clerical sexual abuse. The original document was one of the objectives of a meeting on protecting minors in February 2019. The meeting included presidents of the world’s Bishops’ Conference in Rome with the goal of combating abuse and better protecting young and vulnerable people.
Most of the updates other than those reflecting the new reference numbers to canon law sections and referring to the “dicastery” rather than the “congregation (in accordance with Pope Francis’s Curia reforms) are relatively minor. For example, the guidelines in 2020 stated that “The anonymity of the source should not automatically lead to considering the report as false,” and the revised guidelines state “The anonymity of the source should not automatically lead to considering the report as false, especially when it is accompanied by documentation that attests to the likelihood of a delict.” Another change mandates, rather than advises, that the accused cleric be assisted by a lawyer or advocate.
The accompanying statement also explained how the revision reflects contributions from “academic centers and studies in the field that have come in the last two years,” in addition to survivors and victims and those who work to support them.
Since its original publication, the document has helped standardize responses to clerical sexual abuse allegations, appropriately train those who deal with victims and alleged accusers, and resolve legal issues that did not previously have a clear answer in existing texts. The Dicastery remains open to future updates to better protect victims and survivors and streamline the process of dealing with alleged abuses, and remains open to input and suggestions.
Pope names three women to Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops
“Pope Francis on Wednesday (Jul. 13) named three women to the Dicastery for Bishops, the first time women have been appointed to the Dicastery responsible for identifying future bishops globally. The Holy See Press Office published the Pope’s latest appointments to the Dicastery in a statement on Wednesday. The female members are Sister Raffaella Petrini, F.S.E., Secretary General of the Governorate of the Vatican City State; Sister Yvonne Reungoat, F.M.A, former Superior General of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians; and, Dr. Maria Lia Zervino, President of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations.” By Deborah Castellano Lubov, Vatican News
- Pope Francis say he will appoint women to Dicastery for Bishops, By Vatican News
- Pope Francis names three women to Vatican office that recommends new bishops, By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter
- Pope names women to bishops advisory committee for first time, By Philip Pullella, Reuters
- For the first time ever, Pope Francis appoints three women to Vatican office that selects bishops, By Gerard O’Connell, America: The Jesuit Review
Voice of the Faithful report addresses lay involvement in Catholic Church governance
“Just 10% of U.S. dioceses received scores above 60% in Voice of the Faithful’s recently published 2022 report of lay involvement in Catholic Church governance. This is the first online review of diocesan finance councils’ composition and compliance with Canon Law as represented on diocesan websites. ‘With diocesan finance councils that adhere to the letter and spirit of Canon Law, Catholics can be more confident that diocesan finance councils exercise proper stewardship and oversight of the secular goods of the Church,’ said Joseph Finn, C.P.A., former VOTF treasurer and trustee and longtime advocate for lay role in Church governance.” By Voice of the Faithful on PRNewswire
- Voice of the Faithful report addresses participation in Catholic Church governance, By Business News on biz.crast.net
Letter to the Editor
With a Calendar reminder near the bottom
It is thanks to Mr. Paul Cravedi that this note comes to you. He has been fervent in his praise for your own prep for the Synod on Synodality; so, as soon as Paul heard of a new and global prep, he suggested that you be contacted post haste. With pleasure!
Here’s the scoop. Before the pandemic struck, a committee at St. Paul’s Church in Harvard Square invited a Venezuelan Social Action theologian who was teaching at Boston College (BC), Rafael Luciani, to give a special talk on Archbishop Óscar Romero, martyred by the death squads in San Salvador. His talk was well received. [NOTE: Prof. Luciani’s webinar with Prof. Kristen Colberg can be found on VOTF’s Vimeo channel.]
Rafael went on to work closely on the team formed by Pope Francis to prepare the world for the Synod on Synodality. Rafael wrote to me to ask if the course sessions offered by the Synod prep team could be advertised at St. Paul’s and beyond. So this is what we’re doing!
The course sessions are free. They are offered, all through the month of July, by specialists from all over the world, and they are posted online in six languages. The host site here was set up by Rafael himself at BC.
Folks are welcome to register on either one of two sites and then to watch however many of the weekly seminars as they like, when they find it most convenient. A smart arrangement!
Also, you could choose to follow any session, any time, in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, or German!
You can register here: https://formaciononline.bc.edu/es/register-home/
Or, if that overloads, then at: https://bit.ly/registersynod
The ultimate point of each talk online is how we can best prepare ourselves to contribute! What could be more appealing to the VOTF?
Here’s hoping you’ll join me in signing up, following as much as you choose, and then using the points to develop local support for the Synod and, of course, your own lay contributions to the Synod. Just to remind folks of how important this Synod is, I’ve enclosed a snippet from a recent essay by my good friend Rafael.
In closing, I should like to encourage you in the work you do, indeed, “in the Vineyard!”
A very brief excerpt from Rafael’s 25-page paper on “Synodalization”:
In what has been his most important ecclesiological discourse, Francis maintains that “the path of synodality is the path that God expects of the Church of the third millennium.”
… … …
This call for the Church to think about itself is what motivates the calling of this Synod. Its coming to pass cannot be understood apart from the loss of confidence in the theological-cultural model that currently defines the ecclesial institution. This model characterized by clericalism needs to be radically surpassed because it reveals the asymmetric relationships in the exercise of power in all spheres of ecclesial life. The signs of the present ecclesial era point towards “a watershed or turning point” in the system. Some studies indicate a “possible institutional failure” that will require, not just revision and renewal of what already exists, but the creation of something new. It is worth remembering here the wise words of Congar:
We must ask ourselves whether aggiornamento will be sufficient or whether something else is not necessary. The question is pressing insofar as the institutions of the Church are rooted in a cultural world that is out of sync with the new cultural world. Our epoch requires a revision of ‘traditional’ forms that goes beyond plans of adaptation or aggiornamento; rather, it requires a new creation. It is not enough to maintain what has existed until now, with some adaptations; it is necessary to build anew.
[Academic notes deleted here; suffice it to say that the great French Dominican Cardinal, Congar, rang that call to action all the way back in 1972.]
Please send them to Siobhan Carroll, Vineyard Editor, at Vineyard@votf.org. Unless otherwise indicated, I will assume comments can be published as Letters to the Editor.
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