In the Vineyard :: November 20, 2023 :: Volume 23, Issue 20
It is “not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our Thanksgiving.”
– W. T. Purkiser
This Thanksgiving, we at VOTF are grateful for all of you! Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your lives. We wish all of you a blessed and peaceful Thanksgiving.
The Role of Women and the Role of Clericalism in the Church
“Clericalism is a whip, it is a scourge, it is a form of worldliness that defiles and damages the face of the Lord’s bride,” the church, the pope said. “It enslaves God’s holy and faithful people.” Pope Francis brought the idea of clericalism front and center once again as he addressed Bishops at the end of the Synod last month. Admonishing against the “scourge of clericalism,” the Pope said, “the people of God, the holy faithful people of God, go forward with patience and humility enduring the scorn, mistreatment and marginalization on the part of institutionalized clericalism.
Although many women were ultimately disappointed by the lack of concrete movement on the role of women in the church, Pope Francis reminded synod members of a speech at the assembly by Sister Liliana Franco Echeverri, a member of the Company of Mary and president of the Confederation of Latin American and Caribbean Religious, who spoke about the ongoing service, commitment and fidelity of Catholic women despite often facing exclusion, rejection and mistreatment. He reminded attendees that faith had most likely been transmitted to the Bishops – usually from their mothers and grandmothers.
“And here I would like to emphasize that, among God’s holy and faithful people, faith is transmitted in dialect, and generally in a feminine dialect,” he said.
To learn more about VOTF’s work on clericalism, click here.
To learn more about VOTF’s work on women in the Church, click here.
Lessons from the Synod
On Saturday, October 28 the Synod voted on a Summary Report of issues arising from the first phase of the Synod on Synodality. Among the topics addressed in the report were clerical sexual abuse and women’s roles in the church,
The 41-page synthesis report, voted on paragraph-by-paragraph described its purpose as presenting “convergences, matters for consideration and proposals that emerged from the dialogue” on issues discussed under the headings of synodality, communion, mission and participation.
Every item in the report was approved by at least two-thirds of the members present and voting, synod officials said. They published the results of each vote.
Within the synod topics, members looked at the role of women in the church, including in decision making, and at the possibility of ordaining women deacons. The report asked for more “theological and pastoral research on the access of women to the diaconate,” including a review of the conclusions of commissions Pope Francis set up in 2016 and 2020.
Among members of the assembly, the report said, some thought the idea of women deacons would be a break with tradition, while others insisted it would “restore the practice of the Early Church,” including at the time of the New Testament, which mentions women deacons.
“Others still, discern it as an appropriate and necessary response to the signs of the times, faithful to the Tradition, and one that would find an echo in the hearts of many who seek new energy and vitality in the Church,” it said. But, the report added, some members thought that would “marry the Church to the spirit of the age.”
Clerical Sexual Abuse
In several places throughout the report, assembly members insisted that greater efforts must be made to listen to the survivors of clerical sexual abuse and those who have endured spiritual or psychological abuse.
“Openness to listening and accompanying all, including those who have suffered abuse and hurt in the Church, has made visible many who have long felt invisible,” it said. “The long journey toward reconciliation and justice, including addressing the structural conditions that abetted such abuse, remains before us, and requires concrete gestures of penitence.”
Members of the assembly said the process helped them experience the church as “God’s home and family, a Church that is closer to the lives of her people, less bureaucratic and more relational.”
Throughout the synod process, the report said, “many women expressed deep gratitude for the work of priests and bishops. They also spoke of a Church that wounds. Clericalism, a chauvinist mentality and inappropriate expressions of authority continue to scar the face of the Church and damage its communion.”
“A profound spiritual conversion is needed as the foundation for any effective structural change,” it said. “Sexual abuse and the abuse of power and authority continue to cry out for justice, healing and reconciliation.”
To read more about the synthesis report and the results of the Synod:
- Pope’s major Vatican summit ends without action on women deacons, mention of LGBTQ Catholics, By Christopher White and Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter
- For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission Final Document, On USCCB.org
- Synod Report: A Church that involves everyone and is close to world’s wounds, By Vatican News
- Striving for consensus, Synod ends by soft-pedaling contested issues, By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com
- Synod synthesis shows agreement, divergences, including on ‘synodality,’ By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, in The Pilot
- Synod publishes final report and votes: calls for more discussion on synodality, women deacons and more, By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, in America: The Jesuit Review
- Exclusive: Cardinals Cupich, McElroy say ‘impossible to go back’ to synods without lay votes, By Joshua J. McElwee and Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter
- Synod is a milestone in the reception of Vatican II, By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter
- Pope Francis closes synod with ‘dream’ of a church with open doors, By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter
- Vatican deems bigger church role for women ‘urgent,’ but postpones major issues, By Jason Horowitz and Elisabetta Povoledo, The New York Times
Polarization in the Catholic Church and How You Can Help
People say our society is getting increasingly polarized, but is it true? We have heard the rhetoric and the vitriol, but is this just what improves ratings? If it bleeds, it leads? Is this so-called “culture war” really just fought among leaders and the media, or is polarization a fact that touches the rest of us? Further, is this polarization also happening among American Catholics? If so, how can we heal?
Maureen K. Day, an associate professor at the Franciscan School of Theology, suggests six guidelines to grow in charity rather than polarization: focus on building relationships, be willing to be uncomfortable, start with what we have in common, learn to recognize how shared purposes can have different applications, and engage in dialogue instead of debate.
Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup
Texas bishop loudly critical of the pope is removed
“Pope Francis fired on Saturday (Nov.11) a bishop in Texas who was one of his loudest American critics within the Catholic Church, a highly rare dismissal that appeared to reflect the growing rift between the Vatican and a more conservative wing of the church. The Vatican did not cite a reason for the dismissal of the bishop, Joseph Strickland, saying in a statement only that the pope ‘relieved’ Bishop Strickland from the governance of his diocese in Tyler, Texas.” By Ruth Graham and Jason Horowitz, The New York Times
- Pope Francis axes firebrand Texas Bishop Strickland, darling of right-wing Twitter, By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Reporter
- Bishop Strickland removed from diocese after accusing pope of backing ‘attack on the sacred,’ By OSV News
- Vatican removes Texas bishop critical of Pope Francis’ reforms, By Jason DeRose, National Public Radio
- Strickland’s removal hangs over the U.S. bishops’ fall meeting, as it should, By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter
Religious superiors from around the world meeting in Rome to prevent abuse
“The Unions of Superiors and Superiors General (UISG-USG) have organized an in-person workshop taking place in Rome from Nov. 6–10 with the aim of ‘creating a culture of protection within religious congregations.’ A total of 132 representatives of the 90 male and female religious congregations are participating in the event and are members of the Union of Superiors General and the International Union of Superiors General.” By Andrés Henriquez, Catholic News Agency
A good start for the Synod … but still too much of the ‘rabbi, father, teacher’
“In this past Sunday’s (Nov. 5) Gospel, Jesus addresses the people and his disciples: ‘You must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi…. You must call no one on earth your father … Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers…’ Do not be guided by those like the scribes and Pharisees: ‘All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels … As scripture scholar Brendan Byrne writes in his book Lifting the Burden: ‘Scarcely any injunction of the Lord has been so ignored as this ruling out of titles and, by extension, accoutrements of dress and ceremonial.’” By Frank Brennan, Commonweal
- Archbishop Broglio and Cardinal Pierre offer competing visions of synodality at bishops’ meeting, By Michael J. O’Loughlin, America: The Jesuit Review
- Vatican ambassador urges U.S. bishops to embrace synod on synodality, By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Reporter
The biased spotlight on sex abuse in Catholic Church
“In the realm of sexual crimes, a stark contrast exists in the level of media attention and public awareness when the perpetrators wear different hats, specifically, the robes of the Catholic Church versus the more secular attire of public school teachers or individuals from diverse spiritual beliefs. When allegations of sexual misconduct arise within the Catholic Church, the media responds with a resounding uproar that reverberates globally. Cases involving Catholic priests make headlines, sparking international outrage, and prompting discussions about accountability and reform.” By UCANews.com
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