In the Vineyard: May 30, 2022


In the Vineyard :: May 30, 2022 :: Volume 22, Issue 10

National News

USCCB Opens Link for Individual Synod Contributions

In addition to whatever diocesan or other effort you may participate in, note that the USCCB Synod Office has posted a questionnaire where individuals also can submit their thoughts. The form can be filled out anonymously; although they do request that information upfront, it is not required. Use this link to reach the questionnaire:

Synod Sessions Designed for Survivors

Awake Milwaukee is hosting online Synod sessions for those who have experienced sexual abuse by a Catholic leader or who as a Catholic care about the issue of abuse in the Church. You can make your voice heard by participating in an online Synod Session on Thursday, June 9, at 7 pm CDT or Sunday, June 12, at 6 pm CDT. Awake Milwaukee has hosted online sessions and presentations by survivors and are sensitive to their needs.

Feedback from these sessions will be shared with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as the Vatican, to make sure the issue of clergy sex abuse is not overlooked in the global synod process. Information and registration is available at

Where Do We Go from Here? Sexual Abuse
in a Church at a Crossroads

By Michaela Scalia

Sexual abuse investigations, allegations, and trials continue to dominate much of the media coverage of the Catholic Church worldwide. Decades of abuses are being uncovered, both historical and current, while many seem to indicate that nothing has changed and abuses continue to occur.

Ten current and former students and six parents or guardians at Mount St. Mary Catholic High School in Oklahoma City are suing the school, alleging that it fostered a rape culture for more than 10 years. Since 2011, school officials have been aware that female students have been sexual assaulted and raped by students, teachers, and coaches, and done nothing to protect them, the lawsuit says: “MSM fosters a rape culture that values the safety, bodily integrity, education, and future of men and boys, over that of women and girls. MSM did not take reasonable steps to report or stop the rampant rape culture and ongoing sexual abuse … rather MSM shamed women and girls who reported.” The lawsuit also names the school’s board of trustees, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, and Sisters of Mercy of America, cosponsors of the school who bear the responsibility of supervising and enforcing school police. 

The ongoing internal investigation in the Spanish Catholic Church was just recently described as “partial” and “of little use” by the office of Spain’s national prosecutor. The alleged sexual abuses in Spain between 1943 and 2018 total more than 1,200 counts, and followed similar revelations in the United States, Ireland, and France. Private law firm Cremades & Calvo-Sotelo was tasked with overseeing and auditing the Church’s investigations, although victims and advocates believe that because the Church hired the firm, the investigation will be tainted and not impartial. The letter from the prosecutor’s office to the country’s ombudsman, who is also leading an ongoing investigation, adds, “audits or partial investigations entrusted by the Church to private law firms, where victims lack a safe space in which to recount their experiences and are asked to fill in a form that refers to them as ‘affected,’ should be discarded and considered of little use.” A victim’s association called the private investigation a “smokescreen.” 

In Italy, Francesco Zanardi has been documenting sexual abuses of minors by Catholic priests for the past 12 years. He runs Rete l’Abuso, or The Abuse Network, comprising one of the most comprehensive digital archives on clerical sexual abuse in the country. He tracks the locations of suspected abusers, combing through court documents, and verifying tips from victims as he fulfills a need he believes is caused by the Italian church’s refusal to launch any kind of major investigation thus far. Italian bishops are divided over whether an investigation should be internal, making use of existing resources like diocesan anti-abuse committees, or external, involving academics, lawyers, and abuse experts. 

Victims in Italy describe tactics that have been seen in other countries, saying the church dealt with abuse allegations by moving priests around, discrediting victims, and taking advantage of its power to protect abusers and silence victims. 

All three cases illustrate a global Church at crossroads. The ways in which both national churches and individual parishes and schools deal with abuse allegations will contribute to a larger picture of how the Catholic Church will act in the future to protect victims, and how well Pope Francis is able to live up to his promises. He has made strides to change the culture of secrecy and silencing around sexual abuse allegations against clergymen, but many other leaders in the Church have failed to follow. Francis has previously expressed shame at the responses of the worldwide church to sexual abuse cases, saying it is vital for the church to be a “safe home for everyone.” Last month, he called for an annual audit to evaluate child protection measures in national Catholic churches, and in 2019, issued a papal directive requiring every diocese worldwide to establish “public, stable and easily accessible systems for submission” of reports of sexual abuse, but some countries have struggled to meet these requirements. 

For more information, please see herehere, and here

To read more about VOTF’s position on child protection, please see here.

For survivor support resources, please see here.

Pope Francis Changes Leadership Structure Rules
for Consecrated Life

This past week, in a rescript published by the Vatican office, Pope Francis authorized the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated and Societies of Apostolic Life to permit non-clerics to be appointed or elected to the position of Major Superior in specific cases.

The Code of Canon Law (CIC) stipulates that clerical institutions are required to be governed by clerics who are called to “devote themselves diligently to their office and together with the members entrusted to them are to strive to build a community of brothers or sisters in Christ.” Francis’s authorization allows for exceptions in three specific situations. In the first, the supreme moderator of such an institute or society may name a non-cleric to be appointed as a superior in a local community, with the permission of the council. In the second, the supreme moderator, again with the consent of the council, with written permission from the congregation, may appoint a non-cleric as a major superior. Finally, a non-cleric may be elected as supreme moderator or major superior in an election confirmed in writing by the congregation. 

This exception to Canon Law was granted in a rescript, signed by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, congregation prefect, and Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, secretary, on February 11 but published this month.

The change stems from a request in 2017 by the heads of the four men’s branches of the Franciscan family, including the Friars Minor, Capuchins, Conventual Franciscans, and the Third Order Regulars for Pope Francis to allow them to elect brothers to positions of leadership, including positions of authority over ordained priests. Father Michael Perry, minister general of the Friars Minor in 2017, explained that permission to organize their leadership structure in this way would challenge the friars “to ‘minority,’ to not going up, but going down.” Clericalism, he explained, is “a drive upward as if upward mobility offered something, some security and guarantee of fidelity, a way of controlling people so they remain faithful to the truth. Franciscans, we don’t see it this way.”

The history of the Franciscan orders involves a leadership structure that was less clerically organized at its inception. For the first 30 years of its existence, the order allowed friars to elect brothers to leadership roles such as minister general, and they frequently did so. St. Francis of Assisi was also never a priest.

While this rescript does have implications for leadership, authority, and governance in the wider church, it is not permanent permission for the Franciscans to elect a brother as a superior, nor does it mention the order of the Franciscans or any other communities specifically. In order to appoint a brother as local or provincial superior of a religious order, a special license must be granted by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. The Vatican office “reserves the right to evaluate the individual case and the reasons given by the supreme moderator or the general chapter” of the order for choosing a brother in deciding whether to grant such permission. 

Although this is far from unconditional permission to shake up the leadership structure of consecrated life, it is a step away from clericalism and hopefully a sign of more positive changes to come. 

For more information, please see here and here

For VOTF’s position on clericalism, please see here.

Texas Catholics Advocating for Transparency

Texas Catholics Advocating for Transparency, a group out of Texas that is working to call attention to the abuse crisis and urge the Diocese of Dallas to listen, be transparent and change has recently launched a new website, If you are in the Dallas area – check them out!

VOTF Supporters Out with New Books

Long time VOTF supporter, Phyllis Zagano, recently released a new book, Women Religious, Women Deacons: Questions and Answers. The five essays investigating questions relative to women religious becoming ordained deacons first appeared in the “Global Sisters Report.” Each essay presents themes garnered during years of research and consultation with women religious around the world, and addresses questions such as: Why should women religious consider the diaconate? What are the canonical implications of ordination? Would ordination assist the ministry of women?

Dr. Zagano is an internationally acclaimed Catholic scholar and lecturer on contemporary spirituality and women’s issues in the church. Currently a Senior Research Associate-in-Residence and Adjunct Professor of Religion at Hofstra University, she has written numerous books and articles on women in the Church and widely recognized for her publications on women deacons. Phyllis also has received VOTF’s St. Catherine of Siena award.

Another VOTF supporter, Father Richard Lennan, has written Tilling the Church, a theology for the pilgrim church. Father Lennan shows how the ecclesial community looks toward the fullness of God’s reign but lives within the flux of history, the site of its relationship to the trinitarian God. In this way, God’s grace “tills” the church, constantly refreshing the tradition of faith and prompting the discipleship that embodies the gospel. 

Tilling the Church explores the possibilities for a more faithful, just, and creative church, one responsive to the movement of grace. Fruitful engagement with grace requires the church’s conversion, the ongoing formation of a community whose words and actions reflect the hope that grace engenders.

Dr. Lennan is a priest of the diocese of Maitland-Newcastle (Australia) and holds a doctorate from the University of Innsbruck (Austria). He is currently professor of systematic theology in the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College.

Both volumes also are available at If you use the link on VOTF’s Home page, or name VOTF as the designated charity in Amazon’s Smile program, VOTF will receive a portion of the purchase price.


Pope Francis highlights danger of staid liturgies that ‘deny Vatican Council II’
“There is an old saying: ‘During Holy Week, there is nothing more useless than a Jesuit.’ The magnificent liturgies of that holiest of times requires a profound liturgical sense. Members of the Society of Jesus have never been known for their liturgical flair and Pope Francis is no exception. When he presides, it is in a very unembellished, straightforward manner. Consequently, his remarks to the members of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute last weekend (May 7) were a bit surprising. No one should be surprised that a man of such spiritual solidity entertains deep spiritual sentiments about the liturgy, but to hear him share them was a rare insight into what makes the Holy Father tick.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter

Ministry & Governance: What might ‘Praedicate Evangelium’ have started
“There is great rejoicing in heaven today, or at least in that little corner where Yves Congar is still toiling away. No other twentieth-century Catholic theologian was so insistent on the close connection between baptism and mission. Now that Pope Francis has made clear in his motu proprio, Praedicate evangelium, that because “the Pope, bishops and other ordained ministers are not the only evangelizers in the church,” and “any member of the faithful can preside over a dicastery,” Congar’s great work, Lay People in the Church, comes to full fruition.” By Paul Lakeland, Commonweal

New Vatican constitution will create more space at the table
“An interview with scholar Phyllis Zagano on the new constitution and the roles of women in the church – On March 19 Pope Francis issued a new apostolic constitution for the Roman Curia, the offices that help him govern the Catholic Church. Praedicate Evangelium (Preach the Gospel) has been in the works since the beginning of Pope Francis’ pontificate nine years ago … One significant change in the new constitution is that leadership of Vatican offices traditionally run by cardinals is now opened to all baptized laypersons. This includes women. According to internationally acclaimed scholar Phyllis Zagano, this move is less about making changes to women’s roles in ministry than it is about the pope’s determination to involve as many competent people as possible in the management structure of the church.” A U.S. Catholic Interview

Catholic News Service closure opens the door to partisan and ideological church coverage, Catholic journalists warn
“With the decision by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to close the U.S. bureaus of Catholic News Service later this year, editors and other journalists at Catholic newspapers throughout the United States worry that coverage of the church will suffer. ‘We can’t cover national news with a staff of five people,’ Malea Hargett, the editor of Arkansas Catholic, told America. ‘We can’t cover what’s going on at the Supreme Court or what’s going on at the U.S.C.C.B. We just don’t have the staff.’ Ms. Hargett predicted that ‘there’s going to be a big gap in what our parishioners are going to know about what’s going on in the U.S. and throughout North America.’” By Michael J. O’Loughlin, America: The Jesuit Review

Italy’s Catholic Church at crossroads over sexual abuse investigation
“Francesco Zanardi has spent the past 12 years documenting sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests in Italy, filling a vacuum he says is caused by the refusal of the country’s Church thus far to launch a major investigation. When Italian bishops meet next week to elect a new president, Zanardi is hoping to see the start of a long overdue reckoning for the Church, whose leaders will discuss whether to commission an independent investigation of abuse similar to those carried out in France and Germany.” By Angelo Amante and Philip Pullella, Reuters

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


Please send them to Siobhan Carroll, Vineyard Editor, at Unless otherwise indicated, I will assume comments can be published as Letters to the Editor.

Reminder: Please notify if you change your email address