In the Vineyard: October 24, 2022


In the Vineyard :: October 24, 2022 :: Volume 22, Issue 20

National News

Celebrate 20 Years!

Join us next weekend as we celebrate VOTF’s 20th Anniversary. We have a full agenda of thought-provoking presentations and conversations planned and we would love to add your voice to the conversation.

We have diligently worked throughout these two decades to promote change in Catholic Church culture and structures that lend themselves to scandal. Committed to raising Spirit-led voices in the governance and guidance of the Church, VOTF has always operated under the Vatican II premise that the people of God have rights and responsibilities accorded to them by their baptism, and that being lay is as much a vocation as being ordained.

To learn more about the conference and find out how you can participate, please click here.

Synod Expanded to Increase Participation & Encourage Collaboration

On October 16th, Pope Francis announced that he is significantly expanding the timeline for the Synod on Synodality. Rather than holding a single Vatican meeting of the Synod of Bishops next year, they will now meet in two sessions, one scheduled for October 2023 and the other in October 2024.

The theme of the synod is “For a synodal church: Communion, participation, and mission.” It was announced in March 2020, then expanded in May 2021 when the Vatican announced that the process would involve a phased two-year listening segment, including consultations at diocesan and continental levels that would culminate in an assembly of bishops in Rome. Now there will be a second bishops meeting with additional consultations between the meetings.

Pope Francis said that the synodality of the process (synodality literally means “walking together”) aims to support the Catholic Church in a way reflective of the “style of God, who travels the paths of history and shares in the life of humanity,” and that he believes such a process will take time to “master the art of encounter.” Extending this particular phase to two sessions aligns with the idea that “the fruits of the synodal process that has gone ahead are many, but in order for them to bear much fruit, we can’t hurry.” He said that he hopes that the extension will make synodality part of the “constitutive nature of the Church.”

The working document for the continental phase of the synodal process is expected to be released later this month, and participants have said that key themes from the diocesan stages include a desire for greater attention to social and environmental justice, care for the suffering and the poor, women’s roles in the Church, and a call for greater concern for the Church in conflict areas. 

There has been substantial participation thus far, with 112 of the 114 episcopal conferences around the world participating in the first diocesan phase, according to Francis’s October 16th statement. The statement went on to say that the addition of a second Vatican meeting for bishops in 2024 will be “‘a journey within the journey’ to foster more mature reflection for the greater good of the Church.” The synod secretariat indicated that Pope Francis’ decision to extend the synod “stems from the desire that the theme of a ‘synodal church,’ because of its breadth and importance, might be the subject of prolonged discernment not only by the members of the synodal assembly, but by the whole church.” 

Pope Francis announced this decision during the Sunday Angelus prayer. 

For more information, please see here and here. The statement can be found here

To read more about the Synod, please see here and here

Deacons and the Contribution of Women

Today’s American Catholic recently posted a conversation with with Ellie Hidalgo, co-director of Discerning Deacons, about the role of deacons within parish communities; how women could uniquely contribute to the pastoral, practical, and spiritual aspects of diaconal ministry; and the ways in which Discerning Deacons is advancing the work of synodality. Ellie also shared details of her recent pilgrimage to the Amazon, where she accompanied Catholic religious and lay women who are ministering to their small faith communities. A link to the recording can be found here.


Pope Francis marks 60th anniversary of Vatican II opening by pleading for the church to overcome polarization
“Pope Francis on Oct. 11 marked the opening of the 60th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council — a three-year period that launched landmark reforms in the Catholic Church’s relationship to the world around it and the church’s own liturgy and practices — by pleading for the church to ‘overcome all polarization and preserve our communion.’ In a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, which served as the council’s chambers during the 1962-1965 meetings, Francis said the council, which was inaugurated by Pope St. John XXIII, was ‘one great response’ to the question ‘Do you love me?’ posed by Christ to his disciples.” By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter

Pope Francis extends Synod of Bishops a year, two meetings now planned
“Pope Francis announced on Oct. 16 that he is significantly expanding the timeframe for his ongoing consultation process for the world’s Catholics. The Vatican meeting of the Synod of Bishops, originally planned for next year, will now be held across two sessions: one in October 2023, and another in October 2024. The synod process, which has been underway for more than a year, has involved discussions with Catholics across the world on a range of sensitive topics. The Oct. 16 announcement indicates Francis wants the process, and the discussions, to continue on much longer than formerly planned.” By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter

Who knew? The sexual-abuse crisis and ‘epistemic injustice’
“What have we learned from the Catholic Church’s sexual-abuse scandal? What didn’t we know before that we know now? One way to answer these questions is to catalogue the revelations of the past few decades. To begin with, we now know, better than we did before, the extent of the abuse … The injustice of sexual violence is often compounded by what philosophers call ‘epistemic injustices’: wrongs done to people as knowers. One common kind of epistemic injustice is testimonial injustice, when a person’s credibility as someone with knowledge to convey is discounted because of prejudice on the hearer’s part.” By Bernard G. Prusak, Commonweal

Vatican’s mishandling of high-profile abuse cases extends its foremost crisis
“Three years ago, Pope Francis said the Catholic Church was committed to eradicating the ‘evil’ of abuse. The pope and other church leaders drew up new guidelines to handle accusations. They pledged transparency. They said victims’ needs would come first. ‘A change of mentality,’ Francis called it. But two recent major cases suggest that the church, for all its vows to improve, is still falling into familiar traps and extending its foremost crisis.” By Chico Harlan and Amada Coletta, The Washington Post

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

United Kingdom Releases Final Report on Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry

After seven years of investigations into child sexual abuse, the Panel of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) released its final report this month. The report estimates that 1 in 6 girls and 1 in 20 boys has experienced sexual abuse before the age of 16, calling this a national epidemic. It also goes on to say that institutions and politicians have prioritized their reputations over the welfare of victims, hiding these experiences and reports for years under inadequate protections.

“Even when they tried to investigate thoroughly, they were often told by their superiors to back off,” says Alexis Jay, the chair of the inquiry and a social care expert. Beginning in 2014, the inquiry came on the heels of several abuse scandals, some dating back years. The most public of these involved the late BBC television star Jimmy Savile, who, after his death in 2011, was revealed to be one of the most prolific sex offenders in Britain.

The Catholic Council issued a statement welcoming the IICSA Final report and vowing to study the contents and recommendations of the report. It said, “In the work of safeguarding all who are members of, or come into contact with, the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, at no point will the Church stop on its journey of dedicated effort in making the life and work of the Church safe for all.”

Prior to the release of this report, the Church commissioned an independent review into the Church’s safeguarding work; that report was released in 2020. The Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (CSSA) began in April 2021 and works to uphold these safeguards in England and Wales. The Church in the United Kingdom saw 3,000 complaints and 133 convictions between 1970 and 2015, with millions paid to victims in compensation. 

The IICSA inquiry included testimony from 725 witnesses over the course of 325 hearings beginning in February, 2017, and spanning nearly 2.5 million pages of evidence. One of the victims, who was abused by a priest when he was 11, has called for admissions of abuse delivered in confessionals to be reported. He said he had kept quiet about his abuse for 50 years, “which was horrible,” and resulted in an attempt to take his own life at age 16. He says, “anybody who’s inside the Catholic church, whether they’re congregation or on the altar, or priests -whoever- if they’re suspicious about anything they should be able to feel they can report this without any problem whatsoever. Even any suspicion in the confessional as well should be reported so it protects children going forward so they’re not abused the way I was. The church has got to change its ways going forward. This can’t happen again.” The archdiocese in which the abuse occurred was apparently aware of the abuse by Father John Tolkein but did not take action or report it until decades after the abuse occurred. 

The recommendation by the abuse victim is echoed by the report, saying a person should be required to report “when they either receive a disclosure of child sexual abuse from a child or perpetrator, or witness a child being sexually abused,” and that a “failure to report in those circumstances should be a criminal offence.”

It continues, saying “Some core participants and witnesses argued that a mandatory reporting law ought to provide exemptions for some faith-based settings or personnel and, in particular, in the context of sacramental confession. As the Inquiry has already noted, the respect of a range of religions or beliefs is recognized as a hallmark of a liberal democracy. Nonetheless, neither the freedom of religion or belief nor the rights of parents with regard to the education of their children can ever justify the ill-treatment of children or prevent governmental authorities from taking measures necessary to protect children from harm. The Inquiry therefore considers that mandatory reporting as set out in this report should be an absolute obligation; it should not be subject to exceptions based on relationships of confidentiality, religious or otherwise.”

The Vatican has responded to similar recommendations in the past, saying, “It should be recalled also that the confessional provides an opportunity – perhaps the only one – for those who have committed sexual abuse to admit to the fact. In that moment the possibility is created for the confessor to counsel and indeed to admonish the penitent, urging him to contrition, amendment of life and the restoration of justice. Were it to become the practice, however, for confessors to denounce those who confessed to child sexual abuse, no such penitent would ever approach the sacrament and a precious opportunity for repentance and reform would be lost.” It has not yet addressed the recommendation in the IICSA report. 

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.


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