In the Vineyard: November 23, 2022


In the Vineyard :: November 23, 2022 :: Volume 22, Issue 22

National News

Happy Thanksgiving!

This Thanksgiving we give thanks for YOU.

Thank you for all of your support over the last 20 years.

Thank you for becoming the Church we all want to be.

Thank you for your prayers, and thank you for your love.

May you have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving holiday!

A Thanksgiving Prayer

O Heavenly Father: We thank You for food and remember the hungry. We thank You for health and remember the sick. We thank You for friends and remember the friendless. We thank You for freedom and remember the enslaved. May these remembrances stir us to service that Your gifts to us may be used for others. Amen. 

The Videos Are Here! VOTF 2022 Conference Revisited

With many thanks to Vincent Rocchio, our wonderful videographer and patient production editor, you can now revisit the presentations and music from our 2022 Commemoration Conference. If you missed the event, then here’s your chance to experience the event almost as if you were there, from the Opening Song to the Closing Mass, from the opening remarks to the keynote to project updates and a special dialogue homily. We can’t feed you or bring you the Commemoration displays and great conversations, but here’s everything else.

Opening Song and Prayer: Claire Byrne and Manny Lim

Welcoming Remarks: Mary Pat Fox, President

Finance Working Group Report: Margaret Roylance, Ph.D., chair of the Working Group, reports on VOTF’s 6th annual diocesan financial transparency report and the first report on Diocesan Finance Councils.

Protection of Children Working Group Report: Patricia T. Gomez, Ph.D., co-chair of the working group, discusses results from the first annual assessment of diocesan child protection safety standards and policies.

Women’s Roles Report: Svea Fraser, M.Div., speaks about Deacon Circles and VOTF’s work to elevating awareness and strengthening the roles of women in the Catholic Church.

Listening to the Faithful: Donna B. Doucette, Executive Director, reports on the current status of the Synod on Synodality, the results of the VOTF sessions in the Diocesan Phase, and what to expect from the Continental Phase “Enlarge the Tent.”

Grace before Meals: Dr. Phyllis Zagano leads the prayer.

Keynote “Putting Jesus at the Heart of the Faith”: Prof. Thomas H. Groome, from Boston College and a world-renowned educator and author, speaks about putting Jesus at the heart of keeping the faith and changing the Church. This is an interactive presentation that includes audience responses.

Closing Mass: Celebrant Rev. William Clark, SJ, S.T.D., author and associate professor of religious studies at College of the Holy Cross, is assisted by acolyte Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D., author, adjunct professor, and senior research associate in residence at Hofstra University. The homily is a a dialogue between Rev. Clark and Prof. Zagano. Music provided by the Paulist Center Community Choir (Boston) conducted by renowned pastoral music composer and musician Normand Gouin.

New USCCB Leadership May Be Out of Step with Most American Catholics

Archbishop Timothy Broglio, the new president-elect of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, held a press conference after his election in which he neatly sidestepped answering nearly all of the questions posed. From whether he still believes that homosexuality in the priesthood was a main driver in the clergy abuse crisis as he argued in 2018, to the meaning of his election in the context of the USCCB’s relationship with Pope Francis, he demonstrated himself to be politically savvy but not direct in his responses. To the question about clergy abuse, he said, “It’s certainly an aspect of the sexual crisis that can’t be denied,” despite more than a decade of academic studies to the contrary. On the question of allegiance of the American bishops to Pope Francis, be said, “I really don’t know the answer to that question.” Yet Pope Francis was elected nine years ago–almost a decade to consider the question.

Seen by many as more of a culture warrior than a leader in the pastoral style, Broglio was elected over other candidates elevated to cardinal by Pope Francis. It does seem clear that his past actions are influencing his public perception, based on the questions he received. He said, “I don’t see my role as primarily political, but if there is any way to insert the Gospel into all aspects of life in our country, I certainly will not miss any occasion to do that.” This response is particularly interesting given his predecessor, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, began a heated discussion as to whether pro-choice politicians, including current President Joe Biden, should be permitted to receive communion. Globally, the USCCB stance on this matter is at odds not only with the Vatican but also with other bishops.

At the fall meeting where Broglio was elected, the USCCB also selected Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley as secretary over Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, who had been named a cardinal by Pope Francis. Coakley, too, applauded the decision to deny House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Communion for her support of abortion rights. Both Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi have received Communion in Rome since 2021. 

Another significant event under discussion at the meeting was what to do next about the ongoing abuse crisis in the Church. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the USCCB’s adoption of policies to prevent sexual abuse and to identify and remove abusers from the priesthood. The policies were first implemented in 2002 when the scale of abuse was unearthed by The Boston Globe. Many survivors’ groups have called for an additional apology, while David Clohessy, a long-standing leader in the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, says, “This may sound dreadfully cynical, but I hope there’s never another bishop who apologizes. I think apologies in this crisis lull Catholics into complacency. Worse, they imply that everything’s fixed.”

While Broglio and Coakley represent a USCCB that is not in line with Pope Francis in terms of leadership style, hopefully they follow his priorities of rooting out sexual abuse and abusers from the Church, which is a priority for many U.S. Catholics. The USCCB has continued to emphasize “culture-war battles” while Francis has focused on mercy and bringing in those at the margins. U.S. Catholics, like the rest of the United States, seem to be deeply divided in their priorities, with some aligned with the USCCB, and others preferring Francis’s priorities. 

For more information, please see herehere, and here

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

For a view from Bishop John Stowe, who sees the USCCB as seriously out of step with Francis, read the America Magazine interview.

Book Review

They Are Out There! (We Just Don’t See Them!)

Rising: Learning from Women’s Leadership in Catholic Ministries by Carolyn Woo, Ph.D. (Orbis Books 2022) Reviewed by Svea Fraser, trustee and Chair of the VOTF Women’s Roles Working Group

They are out there: women in leadership roles in the Catholic Church! Contrary to what many believe, there are increasing numbers of women who have authoritative roles in the Church. But who knows who they are?

Increasingly in the secular and religious press, we read about new roles for women in the Church via papal appointments previously given only to men. We read in the Synod Conrtinental Phase Working Document: “Almost all reports raise the issue of full and equal participation of women: “The growing recognition of the importance of women in the life of the Church opens up possibilities for greater, albeit limited, participation in Church structures and decision-making spheres.” (para 64) 

Yet, except for these occasional–and rare–news flashes, how are Catholics to know about the increasing number of women in ministry who hold leadership roles?  How can we inspire others to follow if these women remain anonymous and seen only in their local environments?

Dr. Carolyn Woo addresses this topic in her book, at an ideal time because now–after 20 centuries–surely is the time to promote this urgent need. This is our moment in history.

In her introduction, Dr. Woo explains that her decision to write was prompted by a question a young high school student asked her at a speaking event: “Do you think women’s leadership in the Church is really possible beyond exceptions, because it seems that women are not welcomed by the Church and there are no doors that we can even knock on?”   

This question gave her pause, and although she was cut off before delivering a response, it led her to ask herself, “What answer do young women and the future of our Church deserve?”

Dr. Woo’s experience as a University Dean and then chief executive officer and president of Catholic Relief Services (the official international humanitarian agency of the US Catholic Church) makes her a credible witness to offer advice. Her personal story as a Chinese immigrant adds an additional layer of example, for overcoming obstacles that would have discouraged many others. She notes that there is broad ignorance among Catholics about the inroads that have been made by women. Her book is an endeavor to correct misconceptions and to raise awareness about opportunities that are increasing.

With clear-eyed honesty, she addresses the first chapters the challenges and barriers deeply entrenched in the institutional Church. Among them are the damage done by clericalism, the lack of fair compensation for women, disregard for women’s input in decision-making, and patriarchal stereotypes about women’s place in society. 

While injustices exist, however, Dr. Woo gives credit to the priests and bishops who do advocate on behalf of women. In the current structure, it is impossible to advance without their support. These supportive clergy are the ones who recognize that by virtue of baptism all lay people have a vocation as prophets, priests, and rulers in our respective roles.

 On April 15, 2015, Pope Francis stated, “It is necessary that women not only be listened to more, but that her voice carry real weight, a recognized authority in society and in the Church.”  Women have the capacity for servant leadership to which all leaders are called.  As Dr. Woo writes, true leadership does not need a formal title but leaders deserve respect, dignity, just wages, and a voice at the table where decisions are made.

Pope Francis has challenged the Church to “enlarge the space of our tent.” For that space to include more women, Dr. Woo has pulled back a tent flap to reveal some of the ones who are creating the space. She invited 16 women to share their reflections on their powerful positions and how they got there. Each of them is a “leader whose gender happens to be female.” Their stories are the highlight of the book. What they share is inspiring and, although few of us could aspire to their heights, they give hope for the future and a vision of what is possible.  

Thirteen of the stories are told by lay women and three by women religious. Each of the women, some of whom are already familiar to us, have achieved the improbable, and they attribute their success to the following reasons:

  • Deep faith and openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit
  • A strong desire to serve the church in a meaningful way
  • Commitment to prayer
  • Attentiveness to respond to what God might be calling them

As one revealed, “Hearing God’s call took me on a path I could never have imagined.”

Another declared, “Never underestimate the power of prayer and the sacraments.”   

Dr. Woo’s book, in answer to the young woman whose question prompted it, demonstrates that the answer requires more women to step up. Yet until women are aware of leadership opportunities, they will not know that they are wanted! Women (and men) deserve to be welcomed and valued for their gifts and callings. Women deserve to know what is necessary and possible. Women deserve to know what opportunities are rising. 

The challenge for us is to share these stories. Share your stories. Share this book!  Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Embrace the synodal process of discernment and miracles will happen. 

As Carolyn Woo concluded, the extension of opportunities for women to serve as leaders is about the very identity of the church itself, as the body of Christ. It is our moment in history, our chance to enlarge the space for every man and woman, lay and ordained, to be welcomed to our rightful place to witness the Good News of the Gospel and to better serve those most in need. 

By welcoming the leadership gifts of women, miracles happen.

International News

One Year After Abuse Report, More Revelations in France

Just over one year after the release of an independent commission report on victims of abuse in the French Catholic church, more sexual abuse cases have come to light, this time involving a former French archbishop and 11 other French clergy members. Former archbishop Jean-Pierre Grallet, age 81, admitted to “inappropriate acts” with a young woman in the 1980s, saying in a statement that he “profoundly regretted” his actions prior to being named archbishop of Strasbourg in 2007. The Strasbourg prosecutor’s office has since confirmed that an investigation has been ongoing since the beginning of the year into possible sex crimes, and Luc Ravel, current archbishop, said he notified prosecutors after learning of the alleged abuse. 

Another case includes Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, retired former bishop of Bordeaux, who has publicly admitted to “reprehensible” acts with a 14-year-old girl, also in the 1980s. He was also previously a head of the French bishops’ conference and retired in 2019 but maintained the title of Cardinal. Earlier this year, he was appointed to temporarily supervise the Foyers de Charité organization, which was undergoing serious changes in light of the sexual abuse scandals it had seen.

When Ricard’s abuses became public knowledge, it also became clear that several leaders knew about the abuse but had taken months to inform both law enforcement and the Vatican of their knowledge. 

Among the cases made public recently was that of Bishop Michel Santier of Créteil, who retired early in 2020, who admitted to abusing two young men during confession. According to a French Catholic magazine that released an article last month, Bishop Santier was disciplined by the Vatican but the actions were not revealed to Catholics in the diocese until two years later. 

Father Yannick Poligné of the Parish of Saint-Louis-Marie in Brocéliande has also been indicted for “aggravated rape of a minor and drug abuse.” This revelation was announced on November 10th, by Archbishop Pierre d’Ornellas of Rennes, who said that he learned of this incident with “sadness and pain.” Poligné was arrested on the night of November 3rd and indicted on November 7th. 

Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, the current president of the bishops’ conference, held a press conference on Monday, explaining that while some of the accused bishops have been or will be investigated by state authorities concurrently with church investigations, the window of prosecution for some of the allegations has closed and internal investigations by the church are the only remaining option. These internal investigations by the church have been criticized for their lack of transparency by victims’ organizations. 

Of the 11 cases discussed in the news conference led by Moulins-Beaufort, three bishops were not named, and Moulins-Beaufort also confused the allegations, mixing up those charged with non-denunciation of an abusive priest with those charged with actually abusing victims, and leading to further distrust of the bishops in France. 

For more information, please see hereherehere, and here

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

For survivor support resources, please see here.


French cardinal says he abused 14-year-old girl 35 years ago
“Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, one of France’s highest-ranking prelates of the Catholic Church, said Monday (Nov. 7) that he had abused a 14-year-old girl 35 years ago and is withdrawing from his religious duties. The move comes after a report issued last year revealed a large number of child sex abuse cases within the French Catholic Church. ‘Thirty-five years ago, when I was a priest, I behaved in a reprehensible way with a young girl aged 14,’ Ricard said in a written statement.” By Associated Press on

The abuse crisis should be the center of the pope’s ongoing synodal process
“As American Jesuit historian Fr. John O’Malley wrote in one of his last articles published in America magazine last February, the history of synodality is older than you think. There are different phases in the history of the synodal institution and way to govern the church: from the very early church to the medieval times to early modern Catholicism. The current phase is part of what Vatican II had in mind for church reform: a mix of aggiornamento (or updating in light of new issues) and of ressourcement (taking a fresh look at the ancient sources of the Christian tradition). At the same time, the current synodal process initiated by Pope Francis’ pontificate cannot be understood outside of the epoch-changing abuse crisis in the Catholic Church …” By Massimo Faggioli and Hans Zollner, S.J., National Catholic Reporter

What the synod heard from Catholics worldwide
“This week on ‘Inside the Vatican,’ producer Ricardo da Silva, S.J., joins host Colleen Dulle and veteran Vatican correspondent Gerard O’Connell for a roundtable discussion on what stood out in the synod document. Ricardo was struck by how the report presented feedback in the respondents’ words, including quotes from more than 70 countries, and how it raised issues that had previously been taboo. Gerry, on the other hand, thinks little was surprising in the report, and emphasizes how the document was to be read ‘with the eyes of the disciple.’ Colleen describes how the report pulled no punches when discussing sexism in the church.” By Colleen Dulle, Inside the Vatican, America: The Jesuit Review

Pope: ‘Every time a woman comes in to do a job in the Vatican, things get better’
“A society that does not give women the same rights and opportunities as men will become impoverished, Pope Francis said at the end of a four-day visit to Bahrain. ‘Women are a gift,’ he said. After God made man, he didn’t create ‘a lapdog for him to play with. No, he created two who are equal, a man and a woman.’ ‘All the rights of women stem from this equality,’ he said, and a society that is not able to make room for women ‘does not move forward.’” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, in America: The Jesuit Review

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