In the Vineyard: November 8, 2021


In the Vineyard :: November 8, 2021 :: Volume 21, Issue 21

National News

VOTF National Counference Roundup

Voice of the Faithful hosted its national conference online October 22 and 23, focusing Friday night on synodality and hearing Saturday from keynote speakers Sr. Carol Zinn and Prof. Massimo Fagioli. Also on tap Saturday were the latest reports from VOTF’s Finance Working Group, Protection of Children Working Group, and Women’s Advocacy Network as well as a description of organizing and running lay-led liturgies by guest speakers from the Paulist Center in Boston MA.

Synodality and how we can participate were the key topics during the Friday discussion session. Donna B. Doucette, executive director of VOTF, provided an overview of the history and background for synods and what this particular synod means for the faithful worldwide. Attendees then entered breakout rooms for personal discussions about synodality and its concepts. The evening ended with scribes from each group reporting on ideas that surfaced during the discussion. (Notes from the scribes have been collected into a PDF for your reading.)

On Saturday, after a welcome and overview by Mary Pat Fox, VOTF President, we opened the day with a welcoming prayer and the hymn “Sing a New Church into Being” by Claire Byrne, accompanied on the piano by Manny Lim.

Sr. Carol Zinn, SSJ, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) spoke then on “Gospel Eyes: A Long, Loving Look,” using the Gospel stories of Zebedee and of Bartimeus and the refrain “we long to see your face” from the Psalms as themes. We must “take a long, loving look at the world, our own country, our Church whom we love, our families, our colleagues at work,” she said. Then she invited Voice of the Faithful to consider with Gospel eyes that the call we hear is about embodying a Vision that Offers Transformation for the Future. You can hear Sr. Carol’s full speech and the question-and-answer period that followed on our Vimeo channel. [Note: On some videos, we show ads or notes from those who helped sponsor our conference. They are brief, so please be patient until the video loads.]

Prof. Massimo Fagioli of Villanova University, prolific author and a leading Church ecclesiologist, spoke on “Re-membering the Church and Synodality: The Law and the Gospel in Ecclesial Crisis.” “Remembering” is a difficult but essential process,” he said, referencing the facets of memory itself and the relationships of remembering and regret and how this also can lead to separation, to leaving. From this platform he discussed membership in the Church, inequalities within the membership, and how the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council has re-established the fundamental concept of the dignity of all the faithful and the equality of all the baptized members of the Church. 

Speaking of the synod itself, Prof. Faggioli noted, “It is the first time in history that the Catholic Church has started a process of consultation of all the faithful, globally. This is very very big. … It is a huge event.” You can listen to the full speech on our Vimeo channel, which also carries the question-and-answer period that followed. 

The afternoon’s presentations focused on actions taken by lay people to claim their participation in  the Church. Members of the Paulist Center in Boston spoke about finding ways to connect with others during the pandemic in community liturgies. Sonia described the intentional community from which the “zoom church” organized, and how the group prmoted inclusion, participation of all ages, and other attributes.

Liz described the blending of pre-Covid experiences and liturgy with the new experiences and practices that arose from a physically isolated virtual life, detailing the order of the liturgy they follow in Zoom Church and its interactivity.

Isabel described how, as a teen, she and others felt invited to participate in the liturgies as well as to plan them. “Zoom church has been more engaging to me,” she said, “and with a better tempo and more involvement” of all those in attendance. What stands out most to her, she concluded, is that she has learned to connect with the Gospels and the readings. 

Christine then spoke about the incorporation of elements from “in person” liturgies in the virtual gatherings and how well both music and liturgical dance brought forth more singing and participation than they expected.

To hear their interesting descriptions of “Zoom church” and their thoughts on “what happens next” when the pandemic ends, go to our Vimeo channel–you also can find the Q&A session recording there.

VOTF trustee and Protection of Children Working Group co-chair Patricia Gomez reported on the status of VOTF’s first annual rating of the transparency of diocesan websites on child protection and safe environments. She described the factors within the worksheet used to assess the dioceses and then described a few of the best and worst results seen so far. Publication of the report is slated for April 2022. See our Vimeo channel for the presentation and the Q&A period.

VOTF Vice President Margaret Roylance presented a summary of VOTF’s 2021 report on Financial Transparency and Accountability. She also mentioned the work soon to be under way on a Governance worksheet that examines how well Diocesan Finance Councils adhere to the requirements for DFCs under canon law. See her presentation and the Q&A period on the Vimeo channel, and keep an eye on our FWG program page for publication of the full report.

Svea Fraser, chair of the Women’s Advocacy Network, spoke about VOTF’s work on restoring the ordination of women as deacons, as they were in the early Church. She described the work of Discerning Deacons and VOTF’s support of their work and of our continued efforts to promote women’s roles in the Church. See her presentation and the Q&A session on our Vimeo channel.

Fr. Bill Clark concluded the day with a meditative benediction. 

Public Disagreements over Power in the Catholic Church

Joseph Bernardin, former archbishop of Chicago from 1982 until his death in 1996, announced his Catholic Common Ground Initiative as a call for dialogue in an American Catholic Church that was beginning to show signs of division. Bernardin was concerned that political struggles were beginning to impact the religious lives of American Catholics and his initiative challenged those who disagreed to discuss their views on what are still controversial topics today, including women’s roles in the church, clericalism, and human sexuality. As the anniversary of Cardinal Bernardin’s death approaches, there has been much attention paid to the divided state of the Catholic Church.

The list of topics on which Catholics are divided today has only grown since Bernardin’s initiative was announced 25 years ago. Vaccinations are one such current issue: Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, the prelate overseeing Catholics in the U.S. military stated last month that he supports service members who are refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19 on religious grounds. Both the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and officials from the Vatican have publicly stated that it is morally acceptable for Catholics to receive the vaccines in a pandemic, and Pope Francis has described vaccination against COVID-19 as “an act of love.” The current president of the USCCB has declared he will not issue religious exemptions for Catholics, aligning with a long list of powerful U.S. bishops and archbishops. However, some leaders have chosen to disagree on this, and other topics as well.

Most of the disagreements come when U.S. bishops respond with partisan objections to statements by Pope Francis. One such persistent challenger is the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), a conservative cable channel that has been highly critical of Pope Francis. At a meeting with 63 Jesuits in Slovakia last month, Francis said, “There is, for example, a large Catholic television channel that has no hesitation in continually speaking ill of the Pope. I personally deserve attacks and insults because I am a sinner, but the church does not deserve them. They are the work of the devil. I have also said this to some of them.”

At the heart of all of these divisions, though, is the lack of dialogue. This is the dialogue that Pope Francis seeks to foster through the Synod on Synodality which is scheduled to stretch from 2021 to 2023. Cardinal Bernardin’s hope was for Catholics to engage in conversation, to find common ground, and to work together for the good of the whole church. Pope Francis’s synod hopes to do the same: work to mitigate the influences of clericalism, give voice to the people, and come together. 

While there will always be some individuals who are putting forth “the work of the devil,” the Synod on Synodality is an opportunity for lay Catholics to make their voices heard. Pope Francis’s experiences as a target for EWTN, the conflicts over vaccination and vaccination exemptions, and the public disagreements over who “deserves” communion all speak to a divided church, and Francis’s actions have all been aimed at bringing together Catholics to work for the common good. 

For more information, please see herehere, and here

For more information about the synod, please see here

For VOTF’s position on clericalism, please see here

For VOTF’s Synod resources, please see here.

Revisiting and Renewing Our Grasp of Vatican II

The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests and FutureChurch are collaborating in presenting a series of webinara on Vatican II. The series will run Wednesdays at 1 pm (Eastern time) on November 3, 10, 17, and 24 and December 1 and 8. Five of the six webinars will be presented by Sr. Maureen Sullivan, Dominican Sister of Hope (NY), Ph.D, now Professor Emerita of Theology after 32 years at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire. Sr. Maureen earned her doctorate from Fordham University and served there for four years as Academic Dean for Freshmen and Academic Dean of the College. She has written two books on Vatican II published by Paulist Press: 101 Questions and Answers on Vatican II and The Road to Vatican II: Key Changes in Theology. Sr. Maureen combines the wisdom of a scholar with pastoral outreach and strives to raise peoples’ awareness of the positive impact of Vatican II in the Church today.

You can register for the webinars by clicking HERE.

The title of the six sessions are:

November 3 – Vatican II: Achievements and A Work in Progress – 1962

November 10 – Vatican II’s Contribution to Church and World – 1963

November 17 – The Council’s Contribution to the Role of Lay Persons in the Church – 1964

November 24 – The Church’s Understanding of Itself in Lumen Gentium – 1965

December 1 – Open AUSCP Forum re Vatican II and the 2023 Synod for a Synodal Church.

December 8 – The Women of Vatican II.

Preparatory reading material will be provided for each of the first 4 sessions within the 1 day reminders emailed to you.

258 Sexual Abuse Victims Cannot Seek Prosecution in Nebraska

Earlier this week, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson announced that 258 victims who each made credible accusations of abuse against 57 Catholic church officials cannot seek prosecution because the vast majority of cases have passed the statute of limitations. Many are cases that high-ranking leaders knew about but did not appropriately address, stretching from the 1930s to the 2010s.

State senator Rich Pahls, of Omaha, said, “This has in effect denied these victims justice and I am committed to setting this right.” Although Nebraska has eliminated statutes of limitation for sexual assaults involving children, the legal changes did not apply to cases that expired prior to the legislative changes, and the former law has prevented those victims from seeking justice. He has promised “to address this egregious and unacceptable state of affairs” during next year’s legislative session.

Ninety-seven of the victims were from the Lincoln diocese, alleging abuse by 14 abusers. The investigation was launched in 2018 after several victims came forward with accusations against leaders in the Lincoln diocese, which refused to participate in annual reviews of sexual misconduct, put in place as a response to the clergy abuse scandal in Boston in 2002, for many years. 

Victims say that the current church leaders should be required to step down from their positions because they have not done enough to address the crisis. Stan Schulte, one of the victims, reported that his uncle, Rev. James Benton, molested him during a rectory sleepover in the 1990s when Schulte was a child. Benton is also accused of molesting Jeffrey Hoover, in the 1980s. Schulte explains that if officials had properly handled Hoover’s allegations, he would likely have not been molested. Schulte also said that one credibly accused priest lives at a home for retired priests that is close to two elementary schools, and another lives next to a Boy Scout camp with no monitoring. 

Over 90% of the victims were male, and almost 60% were minors when the abuse occurred. Peterson expressed his frustration at being unable to prosecute the living abusers, and the three Catholic bishops in Nebraska released a statement saying “It is clear that the hurt is still felt, even if the abuse was perpetrated many years ago. We apologize to the victims and their families for the pain, betrayal, and suffering that never should have been experienced in the Church.”

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.

International News

Pope Francis’s Latest Appointee Becomes the Highest Ranking Woman at the Vatican

Pope Francis appointed Sister Raffaella Petrini as the Secretary-General of the office governing Vatican City State. She is now the highest-ranking woman at the Vatican, overseeing a wide variety of departments, including the Vatican museums, police force, and post office. The 52-year-old Italian has a doctorate in social sciences from Rome’s Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, an MS in organizational behavior from the Barney School of Business at the University of Hartford in Connecticut, and she is a member of the U.S.-based Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist. 

She is succeeding Archbishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, and is the woman at the Vatican overseeing the largest number of employees. Pope Francis has named several other women to high-ranking No. 2 positions such as hers, but all of those appointees were either temporary (at least initially) or shared the position with a male colleague.

For more information, please see here.

For VOTF’s position on women’s roles in the Church, please see here.


Rome’s anti-abuse beachhead inaugurates next phase
“On Friday (Oct. 15) the Pontifical Gregorian University’s newly minted Institute of Anthropology, which replaces its famed Center for Child Protection, was formally inaugurated amid praise from abuse survivors and experts alike. Unveiled earlier this year, the institute’s formal name is the Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care. Overseen by German Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, former director of the Centre for Child Protection (CCP) and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM), the institute will take over the CCP’s work in conducting research and formation in the field of child protection, but it will do so with the heft of an entire degree-offering faculty at the Gregorian university, with its own academic staff.” By Elise Ann Allen,

What the report on abuse in the French Catholic Church says to theology
“The CIASE commission’s report on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in France between 1950 and 2020 has been released on October 5, 2021, and will have effects, at the moment difficult to be predicted, on the ecclesial discourse not only in France, but also at a global level … But the CIASE report is also a document that raises serious theological questions for theology: they will have to be addressed by a theology that has among its audiences not only the academy, but also the church and the public sphere. This brief article proposes, without any pretense of being exhaustive or definitive, to begin to make a first list of issues.” By Massimo Faggioli, Catholic Outlook

Francis says sexual abuse produces a ‘culture of death’
“In a letter sent to an Italian safeguarding conference, Pope Francis on Thursday (Nov. 4) referred to sexual abuse as ‘a culture of death’ that can only be eradicated by systemic action by an alliance of parties. No action will ever be too small when it comes to creating a culture capable of preventing abuse, its cover-up and perpetuation, Francis wrote, and the Church today is undergoing a process of conversion that begins ‘from below, as an expression of the active participation of the People of God in the journey of personal and community conversion.’” By Inés San Martin,

What is the synod of bishops? A Catholic theologian explains
“Pope Francis opened a two-year process called ‘a synod on synodality,’ known as ‘Synod 2021-2023: For a Synodal Church,’ on October 10. In brief, the process involves an expansion of an established institution, called the ‘Synod of Bishops.’ This means that bishops around the world will consult with everyone from parishioners to monks, nuns and Catholic universities before coming together for a discussion in 2023 … As a Catholic priest who studies theology, with particular interest in the role of lay persons and of local communities in the worldwide Catholic church, I will be watching this synod carefully. In part, it is designed to make church governance more open and inclusive of all its members.” By William Clark, College of the Holy Cross, The Conversation

Catholic leadership reform critical to combating clergy sexual abuse
“The Roman Catholic Church, as well as society at large, has a responsibility to create networks of support and foster empathy for survivors of clerical sexual abuse, panelists said at an Oct. 25 event. The virtual event, titled ‘Lifting Up the Voices of Female Survivors of Clergy Sexual Abuse,’ invited four survivors of clerical sexual abuse to share their perspectives on preventing future abuse. The event was co-sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought in Public Life, the Office of Mission and Ministry, the Georgetown Law Office of Mission and Ministry, the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University, and Awake Milwaukee.” By Joshua Moschetto, The Hoya

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