In the Vineyard: September 11, 2023


In the Vineyard :: September 11, 2023 :: Volume 23, Issue 16

National News

Welcome to Leslie Scales, VOTF Executive Director

Last week, Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) officially welcomed Leslie J. Scales as its new executive director. Donna B. Doucette, who had been the executive director since 2007, retired on August 31st.

Scales joins VOTF with 23 years of leadership experience in non-profit environments. A graduate of Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, she previously served as the president of The International Leadership Institute for Women, Inc., located in Leominster, Massachusetts. This institute is a division of the management consulting organization Leadership Dynamics, Inc., where she later assumed the role of director.

She also held the position of Northeast regional director at the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center at Salem State University and, most recently, served as the executive director of the New England Affordable Housing Management Association in Braintree, Massachusetts. This association advocates for affordable housing and provides training and education on legal, legislative, and management-related topics for its members.

She has been a member of the Bertolon School of Business advisory board and the Salem State University Center for Entrepreneurial Activity executive board. In 2015, she co-published “Seven Steps to a Life of Significance.”

Mary Pat Fox, the President of VOTF, expressed her excitement about working with Leslie. She stated, “Leslie joins Voice of the Faithful with enthusiasm for its mission and goals. She is an experienced executive director with broad expertise in leading non-profit organizations.”

Fox also acknowledged Donna Doucette’s significant contributions to the organization over her 16-year tenure, noting that they were “too numerous to list.” Even after her retirement, Doucette will remain active with the organization. She will continue her collaboration with the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests as the only lay person on its board of directors. Additionally, she will stay involved in VOTF’s efforts for the Synod on Synodality, which will culminate in two meetings at the Vatican in Rome, one in October 2023 and another in October 2024.

Top Stories

Pope Francis blasts reactionary American Catholics who oppose church reform
“Pope Francis blasted what he described as groups of ‘very strong, reactionary’ American Catholics, warning against becoming ‘backwardists’ who oppose change in the Catholic Church. ‘The situation in the United States is not easy: There is a very strong, reactionary attitude. It is organized and shapes the way people belong, even emotionally,’ said the Pope. ‘I want to remind these people that backwardism is useless, and it is necessary to understand that there is a correct evolution in the understanding of questions of faith and morals.'” By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter

Judge dismisses criminal abuse charges against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick
“The Massachusetts sex abuse case against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick fell apart on Wednesday (August 30) as all criminal charges were dismissed due to the disgraced former cleric being deemed no longer mentally competent. Dedham District Court Judge Michael Pomarole ruled McCarrick is unable to stand trial after receiving a medical report from prosecutors, which agreed with the earlier defense report that McCarrick, 93, is suffering from dementia.” By Damien Fisher, OASV

Pope Francis tamps down hopes for Synod of Bishops livestream: ‘Not a television program’
“Pope Francis on September 4 said that next month’s hotly anticipated Synod of Bishops will be open to the Holy Spirit — but not so much the press or the public. ‘This is not a television program where we can talk about everything,’ said the Pope. Francis’ remarks came during an inflight press conference back to Rome after a four-day stay in Mongolia, and exactly four weeks before he is set to officially open the high-stakes, monthlong Vatican meeting where a number of controversial issues facing the Catholic Church in the modern world will be discussed by Catholic bishops and lay representatives.” By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter

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

Time to Review Child Protection Guidelines

The Catholic Church in Australia marks Safeguarding Sunday (formerly Child Protection Sunday) on the second Sunday of September, at the conclusion of National Child Protection Week. Safeguarding Sunday seeks to acknowledge the immense damage caused by the sexual abuse of children and adults at risk, including by priests, religious, and lay people within Catholic contexts. It makes a commitment to practices and protocols that create and maintain safe environments for all people. It invites people to pray for those harmed by abuse directly and indirectly.

In the US, April is considered National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and it is an annual observance dedicated to raising awareness and preventing child abuse. But as children head back to school, September is a good time to review child safety and protection guidelines. In part through the efforts of VOTF and others, many Catholic dioceses have published lists of credibly accused priests and posted them on their websites. Doing so has validated many survivors who felt, for the first time in decades, that their stories of abuse have been believed. This also helps to reduce the threats to children by making known those with credible accusations against them.

VOTF has put together a number of resources for parents and caregivers on recognizing signs of abuse as well as what to do if abuse is suspected.

To read VOTF’s resources on child abuse prevention, click here.

To read VOTF’s report on Diocesan Safe Environment Programs, click here.

Book Corner

Looking for something to read? Try “Playing God: American Catholic Bishops and the Far-Right” by Mary Jo McConahay (Melville House, 2023). In a review by Jessica Pegis, in U.S. Catholic, Pegis discusses the book’s examination of how dark money is influencing the Catholic Church. “Some conservative Catholics like to disparage social changes. They say these changes are the work of worldly and sinful forces antithetical to the church’s values… The irony is that elite donors (and the wealth they control) are enabling contemporary conservative causes in the United States. The book examines the growing entanglement of the U.S. Catholic hierarchy with right-wing organizations that seek to weaken or overturn democratic institutions in the name of religious liberty They want to remake the country into a nation of laissez-faire capitalism and conservative cultural ideals.”


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