In the Vineyard :: October 18, 2021 :: Volume 21, Issue 20
It’s Here! (Almost) The VOTF 2021 Conference: 7 p.m. Friday night, Oct. 22, and 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 23
Join us for an online Zoom conference Oct. 22-23, 2021. On Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. (EDT) conference registrants can gather for free listening sessions that focus on the splendid opportunity we have as laity to participate in the Synod on Synodality–even if your bishop is not responding.
Then join us Saturday, Oct. 23, to hear our great set of speakers beginning at 8:30 a.m. Check out our Conference web page for all the information you will need: agenda, speaker bios, worksheets to use when we cover our ratings analysis on diocesan finances, governance, and child protection, and much more.
Overall, the conference will look closely at the body of the Church to see how structure, power, participation, and accountability can be brought together within the Church to fulfill its mission of bringing Christ to the world. See you there!
The Synod on Synodality
Last weekend, Pope Francis opened the Synodal Path, also known as the Synod on Synodality, with some remarks on Saturday and a homily at St Peter’s Basilica on Sunday. He explained, “The Synod has three key words: communion, participation, and mission. Communion and mission are theological terms describing the mystery of the church, which we do well to keep in mind. The Second Vatican Council clearly taught that communion expresses the very nature of the Church, while pointing out that the Church has received ‘the mission of proclaiming and establishing among all peoples the kingdom of Christ and of God, and is, on earth, the seed and beginning of that kingdom.’”
His message is clear: The goal of this synod is to listen, discern, and come together for a better Church. Francis says, “Let us ask: In the church, are we good at listening? How good is the hearing of our heart? Do we allow people to express themselves, to walk in faith even though they have had difficulties in life, and to be part of the life of the community without being hindered, rejected, or judged? Let us not soundproof our hearts.”
Although divisions in the church are widespread and cracks feel like they are growing, he hopes that the synod will encourage lay Catholics and leaders to come together, cast aside their differences, and listen to one another — not just to hear, but to listen.
As one journalist described, “We need to figure out how to come at such issues from a 45-degree angle, in a way that allows people to start moving forward together before they realize that they are hearing what the other person has been trying to say and they have no need to get defensive.” While politics continue to infiltrate the church, as has been in the news of late in the United States with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ political statements, EWTN’s criticism of Pope Francis, and other partisan divides, Francis urges Catholics “to listen to our brothers and sisters speak of their hopes and of the crises of faith present in different parts of the world, of the need for a renewed pastoral life.”
In his homily, he described the story of Jesus on his journey when he encounters a rich man. “First, he encounters the rich man on the road; he then listens to his questions, and finally he helps him discern what he must do to inherit eternal life,” he explains. This set of actions — to encounter, to listen, and to discern — are vital to the synodal path and the future of the Church. Without listening to one another, the Church will be unable to come to resolutions of the way forward on the issues of today, from child sexual abuse to women’s roles in the priesthood. Everyday Catholics have many thoughts about these issues. This is our chance to make our voices heard as the future is shaped.
For resources from VOTF on the Synod, please see here.
For VOTF’s statement on women’s roles, please see here.
For VOTF’s position on clericalism, please see here.
We Need YOUR Voice!
Our VOTF Board is seeking additional Trustees for appointment.
During this serious and difficult time, not only in our Church but also in our country, we are seeking diverse candidates who will further the Mission of VOTF and be dedicated to the advancement of the Catholic laity.
Our Board seeks candidates from diverse geographical areas and dioceses, ages, interests, ethnicity, experiences, and present or former occupations.
Board meetings are held both virtually and in person, about 10 annually, an hour to 90 minutes in length. Time zones with be taken into serious consideration when scheduling.
To begin this process of participating as an integral part of our VOTF organization, please provide a resume and brief position statement to email@example.com.
Board responsibilities and VOTF By-Laws are available on our website.
We welcome your application!
Revelations from French Abuse Report
A report issued last week in France describes an estimated 330,000 children as victims of sex abuse in the French Catholic Church. The 2,500-page document covers abuses committed by approximately 3,000 priests and other individuals involved in the church, including other prelates and staff. The latest in a long line of abuse reports to be released as the Catholic church faces the present and historical sexual abuse crisis, it alleges that Catholic authorities spent decades concealing and covering up the abuse in a “systemic manner,” according to Jean-Marc Sauvé, the president of the independent commission that released the report.
The commission urged the Church to take action and cease protecting abusers in silence, as well as to compensate victims particularly in cases too old to seek compensation through court processes. Around 80% of the victims were boys, and, Sauvé says, “About 60% of men and women who were sexually abused encounter major problems in their emotional or sexual life.” The report estimates that two-thirds of the abusers were priests over the 70 years its investigation covered, and priests and other clerics collectively abused an estimated 216,000 individuals.
Victims and survivors lauded the report as “long overdue” but very welcome. The head of victims’ association Parler et Revivre (Speak Out and Live Again), Olivier Savignac, worked on the investigation and told the Associated Press that the staggeringly high number of victims per abuser was “terrifying for French society, for the Catholic Church.” His abuser was eventually convicted of child sexual abuse and sentenced to two years in prison.
The crimes that are eligible for investigation in the court system have been sent to prosecutors, and cases that are too old to be prosecuted but involve alleged abusers who are still alive were brought to the attention of church officials. The chairman of the Bishops’ Conference in France, Reims Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, expressed shame and indignation upon hearing the results of the report. He agreed that the bishops’ conference should have taken action prior to this commission but disagreed with one of the conclusions of the report, that priests who learn of abuse through confession should be required to report the abuse to police. The French bishops’ conference is scheduled to meet in November to discuss a response to the report, and French Catholics await this response eagerly.
Another recommendation of the commission was to involve lay people more comprehensively in church governance. Sauvé claims that the power given to male priests by the “identification of a priest to Christ” is part of the structure that allowed abuse to go on for so long at such a high volume, and that a healthy church might give more power and influence to women if reforms to decrease abuse took place.
To read more about VOTF’s position on child protection, please see here.
For survivor support resources, please see here.
Probe: Catholic Church in France had 3,000 child abusers
“An independent commission examining sex abuse within the Roman Catholic Church in France believes 3,000 child abusers — two-thirds of them priests — have worked in the church over the past 70 years. The estimate was given by the commission president, Jean-Marc Sauvé, in an interview published Sunday (Oct. 3) in the newspaper Journal du Dimanche. The commission has been investigating for 2 1/2 years. Its full findings are scheduled to be released on Tuesday. In the interview, Sauvé did not give a figure on the number of sex abuse victims but said the report does include a new estimate.” By Associated Press in The Boston Globe
- Church fumbles response to sexual abuse report, By Tom Heneghan, The Tablet
- Church sex abuse: Thousands of pedophiles in French Church, inquiry says, By BBC News
- Thousands of paedophiles active in French Catholic Church since 1950, commission finds, By Agence France-Presse
- More Than 200,000 Minors Abused by Clergy in France Since 1950, Report Estimates, By Aurelien Breeden, The New York Times
- French report: 330,000 children victims of church sex abuse, By Sylvie Corbet, Associated Press
- Sexual Abuse Revelations Accelerate Sense of a French Church in Retreat, By Norimitsu Onishi and Aurelien Breeden
The Catholic Church’s prayers for victims of sexual abuse are beginning to ring hollow.
“Early Tuesday (Oct. 5) morning, I opened my laptop to work. But first, I meandered over to Twitter, expecting to read a few comments on Krysten Sinema before diving into my Persian presentation. Instead, I started crying. I don’t cry easily. And these were not tears borne of sadness but of frustration. On Tuesday morning, an independent commission reported that priests and church workers in France have abused over 330,000 children over the past seven decades. As usual, the church too often turned a blind eye to the molestation.” By Valerie Pavilonis, America: The Jesuit Review
Australia’s grand experiment in synodality opens amid hopes, challenges
“Long before ‘synodality’ became the buzzword of this pontificate, and long before a world-wide summit on the topic was called for by Pope Francis that’s being described as his legacy, the Catholic Church in Australia was getting ready to launch its own major synodal moment. Called a ‘Plenary Council,’ it’s the first such gathering in Australia since 1937, and it will be celebrated across nine months, bookended by assemblies from October 3-10 and in July 2022.” By Inés San Martín, Cruxnow.com
- Australian dioceses prepare for synod launch, By CathNews.com
The Guardian view on sexual abuse and the Catholic church: contrition is not enough
“An investigation into pedophile priests in France reveals an institution in desperate need of reform – The findings of an inquiry into sexual abuse and pedophilia in the French Catholic church, published last week, are difficult to read and painful to contemplate. Over the past 70 years, the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church found that at least 216,000 children were subjected to abuse at the hands of Catholic priests and members of religious orders. Sexual exploitation within the church and associated institutions, the commission stated, had been a ‘massive phenomenon.’ Beyond immediate family and friends, the prevalence of sexual violence in the church outstripped that in any other social environment(link is external).” By The Guardian Editorial Board
Catholic priests in France ‘must report abuse allegations heard in confession
“Catholic priests must report all child sexual abuse allegations to police, including if they hear about it in the secrecy of the confession box, the French interior minister has said after reprimanding France’s top bishop for claiming that the secrecy of the Catholic confessional was ‘above the laws of the Republic.’ France is reeling from the publication last week of a devastating independent report which found that at least 330,000 children were victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy and lay members of church institutions over the past 70 years, and that the crimes were covered up in a ‘systemic way’ by the church.” By Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian