In the Vineyard: June 20, 2023


In the Vineyard :: June 20, 2023 :: Volume 23, Issue 11

International News

General Secretariat Releases Working Document for October

On April 20, the General Secretariat released the Instrumentum Laboris (working document) for the synod gathering of October 2023 where bishops from around the world and 70 lay people will gather in Rome. The English text of the document, along with the Italian, are the official versions according to the General Secretariat, because the document was written simultaneously in both languages. There also are translations into other languages, generated in collaboration with various bishops’ conferences.

The Secretariat also issued an Executive Summary of the document, which they call an FAQ; you can find that on the Vatican website pages devoted to the Synod along with the additional translations and documents from earlier stages of the synod consultation.

Publication of the 60-page document concludes the first phase of the Synod and opens the second, which consists of two sessions in October 2023 and October 2024. The 2023 gathering is where, for the first time in centuries, lay people will have a direct voice in the consultations and conclusions developed for presentation to the Pope as “final” results. Synodality itself, however, should have no end point but should become the way of being Church in the 21st century.

The Instrumentum Laboris uses a new format for the presentation. The first part describes the process and structure and summarizes the work so far. The second part consists of 15 worksheets with numerous questions and suggestions as starting points for discernment.

Among the key issues to be considered during this phase, as gathered from all the continental reports, are such topics as women’s roles; the experiences of migrants, refugees, and other marginalized and poor people within the Church; treatment of victims of sex abuse and other violence; treatment of the divorced and the disabled, people in polygamous marriages, and LGBTQ+ Catholics; and ecumenism.

We urge you to read the document and the FAQ as preparation for making synodality a key part of your own work within the Church.

For additional reports on the release today, here are a few sources:

AUSCP Assembly Focuses on Unity Through Synodality

©2023 pder

The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests met last week in sunny (it was cloudy, actually) San Diego for their 12th annual meeting. Voice of the Faithful, as in previous meetings, attended and participated as both exhibitor and contributor. This year President Mary Pat Fox and Executive Director Donna B. Doucette attended the gathering at the University of San Diego and presented a colloquium on Synod participation. Donna also introduced keynote speaker Prof. Massimo Faggioli.

The Assembly was preceded by a retreat, as is customary, this one led by Sr. Nancy Sylvester, IHM, past president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), former national coordinator for NETWORK, and currently founder and president of the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue. She led exercises in “responding from a contemplative heart,” the process that would be followed in the table discussions during the Assembly.

©2023 Donna B. Doucette

The official opening of the Assembly began with a welcome from Native American peoples who belonged to the land on which USD now stands and a short history of the tribes, plus a traditional blessing with sage.

©2023 Donna B. Doucette

Cardinal Robert McElroy, in his welcoming remarks during Vespers, then spoke about synodality as a key to the pastoral ministry of the Church, a key that must become a centerpiece: “Doctrine is in service to the pastoral service of the Church,” he said. “It cannot be erected in opposition to it or without reference to it … The mission of the church is to preach the Gospel, to inspire people to aspire to the values of the Gospel, and to understand the hearts and souls of those who suffer.” Cardinal McElroy also included a prayer in the litany for increased recognition of women in the Church.

©2023 pder

Keynote speaker Prof. Massimo Faggioli of Villanova (left in picture at left), renowned for his work on Vatican II and Church ecclesiology, spoke about the Synods in Australia and Germany, their comfort with synodality and openness to lay input. He contrasted the welcome from hierarchs there with the less-than-helpful reception in the U.S.: no consultation with theologians, no national committee of lay people, and limits to any discussion. Nevertheless, Dr. Faggioli saw hope from the “geography” of synodality.

Dr. Brian Flanagan from Marymount University in Arlington VA also saw hope in synodality, as he spoke about Synods as Liturgy: Presiding in a Synodal Church. “It’s a very hard way of doing church,” he noted. “It’s a very challenging way, but it also might be the way we can actually make space for the Holy Spirit.”

Dr. Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu spoke on “Bridge People or Neglected and Peripheral? Latina/Latino Catholics in the U.S.” As part of this presentation, 40 women serving in ministries and leaders in parishes and the Diocese of San Diego chancery were invited to sit at tables among the priests and tell their stories during the table discussion following her talk. For many, this was a highlight of the Assembly. Another highlight was a taped interview with Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle, who had planned to speak at the Assembly but was unexpectedly rerouted to a conference in the Congo by the Pope.

Ellie Hildago, Co-Director of Discerning Deacons addresses 2023 AUSCP Assembly (©2023 Donna B. Doucette)

AUSCP also presented its Pope St. John XXIII Award during the Assembly: one to their own Founding Fathers for their vision and commitment in organizing the Association; one to Fr. Emmett Farrell who directs the Creation Care Ministry for the Diocese of San Diego, which educates the community on Catholic social teaching about caring for the poor and protecting the environment; and one to Ellie Hidalgo and Casey Stanton as recipients for Discerning Deacons, who are working to restore the gift of ordaining women deacons to the Church.

You can find a thorough description of the week’s events in a report filed by Dennis Sadowski for the National Catholic Reporter. It’s a good read. An even better read is the following firsthand report from Mary Pat Fox on the Assembly.

The AUSCP Assembly from a First-Timer

By Mary Pat Fox, President Voice of the Faithful

This past week I attended my first Association of United States Catholic Priests (AUSCP) Assembly in San Diego, along with our Executive Director Donna Doucette, who started as an exhibitor nine years ago and now is the only lay person and only woman on the AUSCP Leadership Team. Our second goal, Supporting Priests of Integrity, is at the root of our connection but the connection goes much further, as we have participated in several collaborative projects over this past decade. Our relationship exemplifies the type of synodal communications essential as we move forward in renewing the Church.

AUSCP supports nine working group initiatives, with three regarded as priorities in a three-year plan: Vatican II, Gospel Non-Violence, and Anti-Racism. All three presented updates on the first year of their programs and what they plan for year 2. The other working groups focus on women in the Church, mutual support for priests, the climate crisis, immigration, Church and labor, and ending the death penalty.

There were about 170 in attendance during the week, and I received a very warm welcome. Many priests intently expressed their admiration for the work VOTF is doing. It also was nice to spend time with those who represented Discerning Deacons, whose co-leader Ellie Hildago received their prestigious Pope Saint John XXIII Award for Discerning Deacons’ work in advancing the role of women in the Church.

The first speaker I heard, delivering a welcome to the attendees during Vespers, was Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego. He was truly engaging, plus I was fortunate enough to have dinner with him in the university cafeteria. It was a happy accident! I sat down at a long table with a single dish on it. The next three people to arrive at the table included Cardinal McElroy. We spoke mostly of the Synod and our experience with it as well as his exprience. He was engaging, realistic, and hopeful all at once. He really hears Pope Francis and understands what he is trying to accomplish, but he isn’t blind to the bishops that oppose the Synod and Pope Francis. He reaffirmed for me that VOTF is on the right path with the Synod. We need to keep doing what we are doing and send our input directly to Rome, as we have now done both with the initial submission and our response to the Continental Document Stage.

I enjoyed all the speakers but was especially impressed by a story Dr. Cecilia Gonzalez-Andrieu told of her son and his first visit home from college. The cleaning woman in his dorm reminded him of his mother, a middle-aged Latina. No one noticed she was even there, he said; the students made a mess and left it there for her to clean up. She was invisible to them; it broke his heart.

I also took home with me an unforgettable experience of seeing Christian love in action at the border. As an additional opportunity for those attending the assembly, some AUSCP members arranged a trip to the Mexico/U.S. border after the conference. We did NOT go to detention centers. We went to migration centers for people seeking asylum or refugee status. These people are coming into the United States legally. We visited one center in the U.S. and one in Mexico. It was a unforgettable; there are so many good people doing great work out there.

We started off at the Catholic Charities Center in San Diego. They have moved several times as the numbers of immigrants (clients) has increased. They are currently at an old Holiday Inn Crown Plaza that has been turned over to the State of California and where they can house 400 people. We saw a busload of people brought in by ICE, mostly men and one woman. These people have applied for asylum or refugee status, have a court date and a sponsor. The court date is set for approximately six months from their crossing and in the location of the sponsor.

The immigrants stay at this facility for 48 hours, and the staff house and feed them, give them a medical checkup, a clean set of clothes, diapers etc., and help contact their sponsor and arrange transportation to the sponsor. If, during the intake process, they are found to be sick with COVID or another communicable disease they are quarantined for the appropriate length of time and kept separate from the others.

Their process was impressive, efficient, and caring. Three hot meals are delivered to their rooms during the day and snacks are available all the time. Though most people stay in their rooms during their stay, there is a playroom and play area outside for the children. The sponsor or the immigrant pays for the travel to the new location. Catholic Charities provides regular transportation to the airport, bus station and train station.  The staff also help them with any paperwork needed if their sponsor changes their mind and they have to go to a different location.

Catholic Charities has three locations in the San Diego area and works with another NGO to provide immigrants a smooth transition. 

At the locations we visited in San Diego and Tijuana, staff people and volunteers talked about a new software application, CBP1 (Custom and Border Patrol 1), that allows immigrants to apply on their phones for asylum or refugee status and obtain a court date. Although there have been some issues initially with hackers and malfunctions, the workers are very optimistic about the new app and say the wait time for a court date is much better with this system, usually within six months.

After visiting Catholic Charities, we took two vans to a tram station and the tram to the border. Once there we walked across. We had to show our passports, but it was very easy and straightforward going from the U.S. to Mexico. Once in Mexico we boarded taxis that we had arranged to take us to The Casa, a center for immigrants waiting to go across the border.

The Casa was founded by the Scalabrini order of priests approximately 35 years ago and houses 140 people. Father Pat has been the leader for the past 11 years, along with a small staff and volunteers. The people who stay here are either in the process of getting their court dates from U.S. immigration or need help in that regard.

Here we found another clean, smoothly run, peaceful place filled with the laughter of children. They shared dinner with us in a small dining hall, though I think we got there a little late and many had already eaten. Dinner was a meal of rice, beans, and ground beef with zucchini in it accompanied by mango juice to drink. Though we were all to clean our dishes, two little girls grabbed mine and would not let me clean it; they did it for me. I was so touched by their kindness and generosity.

We then began our trip home. The organizers had arranged transportation with a bus company that reviewed our passports on the Mexican side so that, after we boarded, the bus could take us to the front of the line and across to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol entrance. There we showed our passports and were photographed, then we walked to the tram station to head back to the University of San Diego. If we had not used this special bus, we would have had to wait in line for approximately two hours to walk or drive across. The bus ride was about 5 minutes and the entire process about 30 minutes.

The trip was enormously rewarding, to see the love these workers had for the immigrants and how caring everyone was to each other. There was real love at the border. 

Pope Francis Discusses Clericalism

Pope Francis recently addressed the bishops and diocesan representatives of the synodal path in Italy at the Italian Bishops’ Conference 77th General Assembly focused on the synodal process; it is part of the lead up to the Synod on Synodality now in its third year.

Francis offered four recommendations responding to some regarding the pastoral priorities for the Italian Church, how to overcome objections and concerns, and the participation of clergy and lay people.  

Keep walking guided by the Holy Spirit

The Pope told attendees to “keep walking guided by the Holy Spirit,” always serving the Gospel and cultivating “the freedom and creativity” of those who bear witness to the good news of God’s love by “staying grounded in what is essential.”

“A Church weighed down by structures, bureaucracy, formalism,” said the Pope, “will struggle to walk through history, in step with the Spirit, meeting the men and women of our time.”

Ecclesial co-responsibility

The Pope also recommended making Church together, that is enhancing “ecclesial co-responsibility” by involving all the baptized  in the life and mission of the Church, as called for by the Second Vatican Council.

“We need Christian communities in which space expands, where everyone can feel at home, where the structures and pastoral means favor not the creation of small groups, but the joy of being and feeling co-responsible.”

Church ministry – the Pope stressed – can never be exercised without others. This applies to bishops, whose ministry cannot do without that of priests and deacons, and to priests and deacons themselves, as well as to the entire community of the baptized, “in which each one walks with other brothers and sisters at the school of the one Gospel and in the light of the Spirit.”

An open Church

The third point highlighted by Pope Francis was to be a Church open to everyone, able to listen to the voices of young people, women, the poor, those who are disillusioned, those who have been hurt in their lives, as opposed to what is still perceived as “self-referential” and clerical Church.

“Clericalism is a perversion and a clerical bishop or priest is perverse, but a clericalist layman or laywoman are even worse.”

“The Synod”, the Pope insisted, “calls us to become a Church that walks joyfully, humbly and creatively in our time, aware that we are all vulnerable and need one another.”

A “restless” Church

Finally, the last instruction Pope Francis gave was to be a “restless” Church “that welcomes the challenges of our time, that knows how to go out to everyone to proclaim the joy of the Gospel,” without prejudices.

“We are called to collect the anxieties of history and to allow ourselves to be questioned, to bring them before God, to immerse them in Christ’s Passover.”

The Holy Spirit is the protagonist of the synodal process

Bringing his address to a close, Pope Francis again encouraged the Italian Church to continue this journey together, trusting in the Holy Spirit, “the protagonist of the synodal process. … It  is He who opens individuals and communities to listening; it is he who makes dialogue authentic and fruitful; it is he who enlightens discernment; it is he who directs choices and decisions. It is he above all the One who creates harmony and  communion in the Church,” Pope Francis concluded.

“Let’s entrust ourselves the Holy Spirit. He is harmony. He causes all this disorder, but He is capable of creating harmony which is something totally different from the order that we could create by ourselves.”

Read more here – and here.

Top Stories

Abuse survivors, their advocates cast doubt on leadership of Vatican commission
“Leading Catholic sexual abuse experts, survivors and survivor advocates are questioning the suitability of the priest who leads the Vatican’s clergy abuse commission, following an investigation that has raised significant questions about his record of financial transparency and accountability. Oblate Fr. Andrew Small ‘should be gone — voluntarily or forcefully,’ David Clohessy, longtime executive director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said in reaction to a May 31 Associated Press report.” By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter

Pope Francis’ vision for the Church: Seeking a Church in service to the world
“On the evening of October 11, 1962, the night preceding the opening of the Second Vatican Council, a crowd of mostly young people gathered in Saint Peter’s Square, filled with energy, enthusiasm, and expectation for what was about to unfold. John XXIII came to the window from which popes customarily address the crowds at the Sunday Angelus and gave an impromptu fervorino, referred to simply as the ‘moonlight speech’ … John XXIII called for aggiornamento so that the worldwide Church could be refreshed and renewed for its mission in the world.” By Bishop John Stowe, OFM, Conv., Commonweal

Spanish Catholic bishops find evidence of 728 sexual abusers, 927 victims since 1945
“Spain’s Catholic bishops’ conference says it has found evidence of 728 sexual abusers within the church since 1945, through the testimony of 927 victims, in its first public report on the issue. The church said 83% of the victims and 99% of the abusers were male and that more than 60% of the offenders were dead. In a report presented Thursday (Jun. 1), more than 50% of offenders were said to be priests. The rest were other church officials. The church said that most cases occurred in the last century, 75% of them before 1990.” By Ciarán Giles, Associated Press

What the latest investigations into Catholic Church sex abuse mean
“In the years since the Pennsylvania report was published (2018), it has inspired some 20 other investigations into the Catholic Church by state attorneys general. Now the results of those investigations are rolling out, refocusing attention on the sprawling abuse scandal, and in some cases providing fresh details. The attorney general of Illinois, Kwame Raoul, released a report in May that found more than 450 credibly accused child sex abusers in the Catholic Church in Illinois since 1950. Almost 2,000 children under 18 were victims.” By Ruth Graham, The New York Times

We can have both: due process for accused priests and justice for sex abuse survivors
“The firestorm of accusations against priests of the sexual abuse of minors has created the suspicion, often fueled by the media, that any priest against whom allegations are made is guilty. The tremendous damage that has been perpetrated against the many victims in the sexual abuse crisis cannot be underestimated, nor can we underestimate what the church needs to do to make whole those who have been so horrendously hurt by members of the clergy. But it is important that safeguards for due process for those accused of abuse be honored, even as we work toward guaranteeing the safety of all members of the church.” By Kevin E. McKenna, America: The Jesuit Review

‘Significant increase’ in Catholic Church abuse allegations
“There was a ‘significant increase’ in the number of notifications of allegations of abuse reported to the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI) in the past 12 months. In its latest annual report, the NBSCCCI said it is clear from the source of the allegations that many of these relate to alleged abuse in boarding schools run and managed by male and female religious orders. It is believed that the RTÉ documentary Blackrock Boys, which has resulted in a preliminary inquiry by the Government into the issue of sexual abuse in schools run by religious orders, has contributed to the rise in allegations.” By Ailbhe Conneely, RTE News

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

World Day of the Poor 

This week, Pope Francis released his message for this year’s World Day of the Poor, which will be celebrated on November 19.

In his message, Pope Francis talks about  “a great river of poverty is traversing our cities and swelling to the point of overflowing; it seems to overwhelm us, so great are the needs of our brothers and sisters who plead for our help, support and solidarity.”

“We are living,” he continues, “in times that are not particularly sensitive to the needs of the poor.  The pressure to adopt an affluent lifestyle increases, while the voices of those dwelling in poverty tend to go unheard.”

In particular, he stresses “new forms of poverty,” such as “peoples caught up in situations of war,” the “inhumane treatment” of many workers, and “speculation in various sectors,” which he said had led to “dramatic price increases that further impoverish many families.”

Do Not Turn Your Face Away

Faced with problems of this magnitude, Pope Francis writes, our responsibility is clear. We must heed Tobit’s words to Tobias: “Do not turn your face away from anyone who is poor.”

“In a word,” he continues, “whenever we encounter a poor person, we cannot look away, for that would prevent us from encountering the face of the Lord Jesus.”

Thus, “the parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10:25-37) is not simply a story from the past; it continues to challenge each of us in the here and now of our daily lives. It is easy to delegate charity to others, yet the calling of every Christian is to become personally involved.”

What We Can Do

There is, on the one hand, “a need to urge and even pressure public institutions to perform their duties properly,” but, on the other, “it is of no use to wait passively to receive everything ‘from on high.'” 

Those living in poverty, Pope Francis stressed, ought also to be included in this search for “change and responsibility.”

Read the Pope’s message, here.

Letter to the Editor


Many years ago, before the formal birth of VOTF, I joined a group of Catholics at the PAULIST CENTER who were working on a way to help people deal with the sexual abuse they experienced. The group also worked on ways to hold the clergy responsible for their actions.

Over the years I’ve been able to participate in VOTF conferences and other activities. These events have been very encouraging.

I was never harmed by any clergy, but I am aware of how this has happened to both men and women.

I am sure VOTF will keep making progress in these efforts and I will continue to support them with a yearly donation.

Susan W.


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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