In the Vineyard: March 21, 2023


In the Vineyard :: March 21, 2023 :: Volume 23, Issue 6

National News

More Lenten Resources

To give up something or add something for Lent – that is the age old question in many families when Lent rolls around. One of my family’s favorite Lenten traditions comes from Father James Martin: Don’t be a jerk, honor the absent, and always give people the benefit of the doubt. Lessons for life? Absolutely. But something we strive to remind ourselves of as well, particularly during Lent. To watch his video, click here.

Another Jesuit, Jacob Braithwhite, suggests doing nothing this Lent. “In the Book of Kings,1 Elijah expects to hear the voice of God in the wind, in an earthquake, in a fire, but instead hears God in a small voice. So, too, with you. God is calling to you in a small voice. You need to turn down the rest of the noise in your life in order to hear. This Lent, turn it down by doing nothing, and listen.” Read his reflection, here.

And finally, Pope Francis encourages us to listen to Jesus this Lent. In one of his sermons at the beginning of Lent, the pope recalled “the command that God the Father addresses to the disciples on Mount Tabor as they contemplate Jesus transfigured. The voice from the cloud says: ‘Listen to him.’”

“The first proposal, then, is very clear: We need to listen to Jesus,” he said. “Lent is a time of grace to the extent that we listen to him as he speaks to us.”

Francis’ second suggestion for Lent was to confront the difficulties of ordinary life remembering that Lent is a period that leads to Easter.

“Do not take refuge in a religiosity made up of extraordinary events and dramatic experiences out of fear of facing reality and its daily struggles, its hardships and contradictions,” the pope said.

Pope Francis compared the journey of Lent and the Church’s ongoing Synod on Synodality to a “strenuous mountain trek.”

“So too, the synodal process may often seem arduous,” he said, “and at times we may become discouraged. Yet what awaits us at the end is undoubtedly something wondrous and amazing, which will help us to understand better God’s will and our mission in the service of his kingdom.”

What’s Happening with the Synod?

The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops continues to report on the synodal journey worldwide and facilitate the exchange of experiences, resources and information among those who have begun the synodal process. Currently, the initiative has expanded to include the current Continental Stage reports of the synodal process around the world. If you are interested in understanding what other countries are doing for the Synod, take a look at the  Continental Assemblies page, and you can learn about what is happening in Bangkok, Bogota and Addis Ababa (among others!) and how others are support the Synod. (Tip: You also can get to the entire set of Synod information by going to

Also be on the lookout soon for VOTF’s next set of listening sessions on the Synod, starting with a “where are we now?” topic.

International Women’s Day

The pope has said he intends to appoint the first female prefect now that it is possible for laypeople, and, therefore, women, to lead dicasteries, according to Praedicate Evangelium, the pope’s constitution reforming the Curia. A “constitution,” in the Roman Catholic Church, is the most solemn formal papal document there is, and it is published as a universal or a particular law of the Church.

Pope Francis has also, for the first time, appointed women as full members of Vatican dicasteries, when previously that role was reserved to cardinals and some bishops. Members play a key role and vote along with prefects and secretaries at plenary assemblies.

Survey Says

The Synod on synodality has inspired some groups to create surveys specifically for women and compile the findings to send to the synod. The synodal process is meant to be an ongoing exercise for the entire church to learn to come together, to listen more intently and discern what the Holy Spirit is saying.

Researchers from Australia’s University of Newcastle produced the International Survey of Catholic Women for the Catholic Women Speak network as a way to contribute their voices to the synod. It received more than 17,000 responses from 104 countries and those findings with recommendations were sent to the synod in September. The complete report was presented at the Vatican March 8 by Tracy McEwan, a theologian and sociologist of religion affiliated with the University of Newcastle and a member of the research team.

The presentation, sponsored by Chiara Porro, Australia’s ambassador to the Holy See, also included María Lía Zervino, a sociologist and president of WUCWO, who gave the preliminary findings of their survey of more than 400 women who played a leadership role during the synodal process.

Zervino said 26% of respondents said they experienced no obstacles during the synodal process, while 43% of respondents said their “main obstacle” was an ordained minister and 18% said other members of the community were obstacles. Smaller percentages felt a lack of experience or difficulty speaking before a formal audience of church hierarchy was their main obstacle.

Some 69% of respondents felt “effectively involved in decision making” during the synodal process while 20% said they did not. Asked if their opinion had been listened to: 21% said “always,” 41% said “usually yes,” 12% said “several times,” while 23% responded “rarely” or “no.”

The women they surveyed were “deeply concerned” about transparency and accountability in church leadership and governance, McEwan said, and concerned about abuse, racism and sexism in church environments.

McEwan said she handed Pope Francis their report at the end of his general audience, where he met them as well as some of the 29 resident women ambassadors to the Holy See.

Zervino, who is also one of the three women members the pope appointed to the Dicastery for Bishops, said she hopes all the “words” contained in these findings have an impact.

The pope has said that “the church cannot and should not remain just with words,” she said, adding that she believed the time for concrete action has come.

“I am convinced this synodal process will have many concrete results that will change a bit the way things work in the church, perhaps in the structure, perhaps in daily life,” in reaching out to others and other faiths — all areas where women are, in fact, already active, she said.

The pope has opened a “fantastic” new road, she said, so “let’s go” and forge ahead because “we can do concrete things because we women are concrete.”

To learn more about VOTF’s  work on women in the church, click here.

To read more about Pope Francis’ remarks on International Women’s Day, click here.

Top Stories

A look back at Pope Francis’ legacy as he marks 10 years of papacy
Pope Francis marks 10 years of his papacy on March 13. The 86-year-old pontiff has pushed the Catholic Church to the left, cheering many Catholics but also angering traditionalists. Tomorrow, Pope Francis will mark 10 years as leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics. NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli reports on the papacy that, over the last decade, has steered the church leftward after more than three decades of conservative leadership.” By Sylvia Poggioli, National Public Radio

Does the Catholic Church really believe women are people?
“It can seem simplistic to say that the life and dignity of people within the Church begins with baptism and must be respected. But when the Church makes statements that imply or directly state that women cannot image Christ, the Risen Lord, there is much to be criticized. While it may seem incomprehensible in current times to say that women cannot—do not—image Christ, this is the bedrock of the argument that women cannot receive sacramental ordination. The implications of this statement or belief are enormous. Its errors are equally enormous.” By Phyllis Zagano, U.S. Catholic

Illinois bishop’s provocative essay suggests Cardinal McElroy is a heretic
“In a provocative essay published Feb. 28 at First Things magazine, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, appears to accuse San Diego Cardinal Robert McElroy of heresy, citing the cardinal’s views on how the Catholic Church should minister to LGBTQ people and Catholics who have been divorced and remarried. Paprocki, a hardline conservative prelate and canon lawyer, does not mention McElroy by name in the essay, but quotes directly from a Jan. 24 article the cardinal wrote at America magazine. Repeating a phrase in an October document from the Synod of Bishops, McElroy had called for a church that favors ‘radical inclusion’ of everyone, including those whose personal situations may not strictly conform with church doctrine.” By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Reporter

Future Pope John Paul covered up child sex abuse while cardinal: report
“The late Polish pope John Paul II knew about child abuse in Poland’s Catholic church years before becoming pontiff and helped cover it up, private broadcaster TVN reported Sunday (Mar. 5). Michal Gutowski, the investigator behind the broadcast, said that Karol Wojtyla, as he then was, knew of cases of pedophile priests within the church while still a cardinal in Krakow. He transferred the priests to other dioceses — one as far away as Austria — to ensure no scandal ensued, he said.” By Agence France Press in Barron’s

Papal advisor says ‘Vos estis,’ Francis’ key clergy abuse reform, ‘not working’
“One of Pope Francis’ key advisors on clergy sexual abuse admitted that the pontiff’s signature effort to confront abuse and cover-up is ‘very often’ not working, as part of a virtual conversation with Catholic abuse survivors on March 2. Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner spoke about Vos estis lux mundi, a sweeping set of laws issued by Francis in 2019, as part of a question-and-answer session with survivors of clergy sexual abuse sponsored by Awake Milwaukee, a Catholic group focused on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.” By Aleja Hertzler-McCain, National Catholic Reporter

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

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