In the Vineyard: September 14, 2022


In the Vineyard :: September 14, 2022 :: Volume 22, Issue 17

National News

We Can’t Wait to See You!

Don’t miss this opportunity to greet old friends, make new friends, share stories of your experiences over the past two decades, listen to the latest VOTF news, and hear one of VOTF’s best friends and colleagues, Prof. Thomas H. Groome, Ed.D., from Boston College, at VOTF’s 20th Commemoration celebration.

When? Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where? The Boston Marriott Hotel Newton MA

We’ll also have good food, comfortably spaced meeting accommodations, and a generous room discount. ALERT: The hotel room discount ends Sept. 19, so make sure you register before that date!!

Click here to register for the conference.
Click here to reserve hotel rooms.

Thomas H. Groome, Ed.D., Professor of Theology & Religious Education, Boston CollegeClick here to see an excerpt from Dr. Groome’s address at VOTF’s 10th year Conference.

Prof. Thomas H. Groome, Ed.D., from Boston College will present an interactive keynote address called Putting Jesus at the Heart of Keeping the Faith and Changing Church. “I would like to spark people’s own thoughts about why Catholics often think of Church or Pope or Sacraments as the ‘heart’ of their faith and seldom Jesus,” Tom says. Dr. Groome’s work What Makes Education Catholic: Spiritual Foundations recently won the top award in the Religious Education category at the 2022 Catholic Media Association conference. In 2020, Tom received top place from the Catholic Press Association for his book Faith for the Heart: A Catholic Spirituality.

We will have our Synod update and report for you plus updates on the three major studies VOTF conducts: diocesan financial transparency and accountability, governance via Diocesan Finance Councils, and the first national analysis of all 177 dioceses and their child protection and Safe Environment practices–with plenty of time for questions and answers about what we have learned. You also don’t want to miss a report on women’s roles and our collaborative work for greater input from the centuries-neglected half (and more) of the Church.

Added attractions:

Special appearances by Dr. Phyllis Zagano, recognized worldwide as the premiere scholar on women deacons, will lead us in Grace before the luncheon and serve as acolyte for the closing Mass with Fr. Bill Clark, who led the benediction during our virtual conferences, and the Paulist Center Community Choir with Normand Gouin, renowned pastoral musician and composer.

20th Year Commemoration Wall: The Commemoration Wall will be your opportunity to memorialize your recollections of the past two decades as you worked to keep the faith, change the Church. We will provide paper, pen, and pin to jot down and fasten to the Wall a brief comment, remembrance, blessing, hope, or suggestion, acknowledging how the Spirit has changed VOTF members and supporters and the Church over the past 20 years. Selected participants will bring attendees’ commemorations to the altar during the Offertory of the closing Mass, giving VOTF’s work its “authentic meaning, since through the celebration of the Eucharist, it is united to the redemptive sacrifice of Christ.” (Robert B. Williams, “Offertory Catechesis).

Opening Song & Prayer by Claire Byrne and Manny Lim, who opened last year’s virtual conference.

Event: Voice of the Faithful 20th Year Commemoration
Date: Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022
Time: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (Lunch included) P.S. It’s a delicious buffet.
Place: Boston Marriott Hotel Newton, 2345 Commonwealth Ave., Newton MA
A venue familiar to us for its good food, comfortable meeting
space and accommodations, and a generous room discount.

Click here for an agenda and more information.

REMEMBER: If you are staying overnight, reserve your room by Sept. 19 to get the discount!

The Year of St. Phoebe and Women Deacons

Lisa Amman’s 6-year-old daughter turned to her in the middle of a Sunday Mass three years ago and asked, “Why are we here?” Amman replied, “We’re here to learn about Jesus and pray to God.” Evelyn said, “No, why are we here? This is for boys.”

Earlier this fall, Amman, along with 55 other pilgrims from four countries, celebrated St. Phoebe’s feast day in Mexico City at the Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe. St. Phoebe is a little-known saint who makes a single appearance in the New Testament’s Letter to the Romans. She was an associate of St. Paul and a female deacon in the early Church, and Amman, now the deputy director of engagement of Discerning Deacons, plans to pray for Phoebe’s intercession to restore Catholic women to the diaconate.

Deacons in the Church today are ordained clergy who can preach and minister in the community but not celebrate Mass. Like priests and bishops, they are all men, but they were not always men. Amman says, “Phoebe represents hope and evidence that women have been in service to the Church since the beginning. This isn’t new. It makes me feel that it can happen in the future.”

Until the 1st century, women could be ordained as deacons. In Paul’s Letter to the Romans, he introduced Phoebe as a “deacon of the church” and trusts her to deliver his letter to the Romans: “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me,” he writes in Romans, chapter 16. Phoebe is the only woman in the New Testament with the title of deacon. 

Although the Catholic Church has not ordained women in 800 years, exceptions have been made where male priests are scarce. In northwestern Brazil, in the Amazon region, women are doing social outreach and working with indigenous peoples, fighting against deforestation and destructive mining practices that threaten the Amazon rainforest. Amman says, “To me, women are already doing the work of deacons. Can the church recognize the work they are already doing?”

She is not the only one who feels this way: Pan-Amazonian bishops asked the Vatican for a permanent diaconate for women in 2019. Discerning Deacons issued a 38-page report in June as part of the Synod on Synodality, reflecting the desire for a female diaconate to work with people on the margins. Anne Attea, a pastoral associate at the Church of the Ascension in North Minneapolis who joined the pilgrimage this month said, “I see elements of myself in her. I see her in some of my colleagues. I see her in every mother and grandmother who has helped to pass on the faith.” 

In an interview last month, on the topic of women in the church, Pope Francis said that his attention to women’s roles was not part of a “feminist trend,” but was “an act of justice that was culturally neglected.” Hopefully, this trend continues, and women will be recognized for the ministering and other important work they are already doing. 

For more information, please see here and here

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

McCarrick Trial Continues, Pope Francis Calls Sexual Abuse “A Monstrosity”

The assault and battery trial of ex-cardinal and ex-priest Theodore McCarrick, criminally charged in July 2021, continues with no end in sight. He was charged in Dedham (MA) District Court with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14 after allegedly sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy in 1974 during a wedding reception at Wellesley College. The victim’s identity is not public, and his attorney, Mitchell Garabedian, is a well-known lawyer with experience representing those who have made abuse allegations against Catholic priests. The state was able to charge him with the assault due to a quirk of the law: In cases for crimes occurring in Massachusetts, the statute of limitations will “toll,” or pause, when the offender is out of the state. Because McCarrick has never lived in Massachusetts, the statute of limitations in this case has never expired even though the alleged assault occurred almost 50 years ago. 

McCarrick is 92 years old and appeared in person for his arraignment last year on September 3rd. He has not been required to attend the subsequent pretrial hearings provided he continues to meet four conditions: paying $5,000 in cash bail, avoiding contact with anyone under the age of 18, surrendering his passport, and not leaving the country. The case’s status was updated September 8th with no progress and will continue on November 1st. 

In an interview recorded last month, Pope Francis discussed sexual abuse in the church and called it “diabolical” and “a monstrosity,” saying that he has “zero tolerance” for perpetrators of sexual abuse. He told CNN Portugal, “One key thing is zero tolerance. Zero. A priest cannot continue being a priest if he is an abuser. He cannot act [as a priest] because he is sick or a criminal. If he is a priest, he is there to lead people to God and not to destroy people in the name of God. Zero tolerance and we must not stop at that.” He continued on to say, “Abuse by men and women of the church – abuse of authority, abuse of power and sexual abuse – is a monstrosity because the man or woman of the church, whether priest, religious or layperson, was called to serve and create unity, to foster growth, and abuse always destroys.” While these remarks were not directed specifically at McCarrick, his removal from the priesthood underscores Pope Francis’s sentiment.

McCarrick is the only former or current U.S. cardinal charged with sexual abuse and has remained out of the public eye other than for his trial appearances.

For more information, please see here and here

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

For survivor support resources, please see here.

International News

Francis’s Reforms Continue to Break Tradition

Pope Francis’s Synod on Synodality is among his biggest breaks from tradition, aligning with his true steps towards reform. These reforms have the potential to either bring the Catholic Church into the present and future, or alienate large swathes of the Catholic population. 

Francis’s reforms have focused on clericalism, women in the Church, and transparency in dealing with sexual abuse allegations, but the Synod on Synodality has the potential to incorporate all of the above and more into changes in the life of the church. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI also conducted synods, but they were carefully orchestrated events, with tight agendas and lists of the permitted and prohibited talking points. Far from opportunities to discuss real events and concerns, they were occasions at which bishops could demonstrate their allegiance and dedication to the pope and his teachings. In 2014, in the Synod on the family, Pope Francis broke the mold by encouraging participants to “speak boldly” and focus on what they had to say rather than how others would react. For the first time, bishops debated with each other and with Pope Francis’s policies. 

While this was exciting for progressive Catholics, conservative bishops and Catholics felt the sting of being in disagreement with the papacy. Progressives initially welcomed these chances to push for greater inclusion and less clericalism, but while Francis has been relatively receptive to these ideas, he has not clearly advocated for the more progressive of them, including married priests and women priests and has not made changes to the church’s teachings on sexuality or contraception.

The synod on synodality may show more of the same: progressives advocating for a more modern church, while conservative factions push for a hierarchical power structure that maintains the status quo and prioritizes tradition over progress. Alternatively, if Francis’s ideals are embraced, the very process, with its centering of discernment and prayer, could bring the two sides closer to what might constitute a compromise, and potentially make some changes to the structure of Catholic life along the way. 

For more information, please see here.  

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


Pope creates 20 new cardinals, including San Diego bishop
“In a ceremony to create 20 new cardinals, Pope Francis encouraged the College of Cardinals to have the same spiritual zeal for all people, whether they are in positions of power or ordinary Christians. ‘A cardinal loves the church, always with that same spiritual fire, whether dealing with great questions or handling everyday problems, with the powerful of this world or those ordinary people who are great in God’s eyes,’ the pope said Aug. 20 during the consistory, a prayer service during which he personally welcomed 20 churchmen into the College of Cardinals. Those who have this apostolic zeal are compelled ‘by the fire of the Spirit to be concerned, courageously, with things great and small,’ he said.” By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service

Pope Francis exhorts San Diego’s McElroy, new cardinals to practice ‘unassuming power’
“Pope Francis on Aug. 27 elevated 20 Catholic prelates from around the world — including San Diego’s Bishop Robert McElroy — to the rank of cardinal, exhorting that those who are often referred to as princes of the church must instead exercise an ‘unassuming power’ and preach the Gospel with an openness to all people ‘without exception.’ ‘The Lord wants to bestow on us his own apostolic courage, his zeal for the salvation of every human being, without exception,’ Francis said. ‘He wants to share with us his magnanimity, his boundless and unconditional love, for his heart is afire with the mercy of the Father.’” By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter

Cardinal McElroy’s elevation has ‘enormous significance’ for U.S. church
“As you can imagine, I am not often speechless. But when I finally reached the end of the receiving line at the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See’s residence to greet Cardinal Robert McElroy on Aug. 26, I couldn’t find the words … Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, knew what to say. ‘Ecstatic’ was how he described what so many Catholics were feeling at this moment. Wester spoke at a dinner for McElroy’s family and friends after the Mass of thanksgiving on Aug. 28. In discussions with pilgrims from San Diego, friends of McElroy’s from San Francisco or from college and seminary, and his brother bishops, ‘ecstatic’ was the exact word.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter

Poland’s Catholics complain of deep divide between clergy, laity
“A new report by the Polish bishops, summarizing the results of consultations with both the leadership and the rank and file of the Polish church, points to a deep division between clergy and laity and an urgent need to rebuild he relationship between the two groups. ‘It not a report about the state of the church,’ Archbishop Adrian Galbas, coordinator of the synodal process in Poland, told Crux, referring to a synthesis of the results of widespread consultations published Thursday (Aug. 25). ‘It’s a very personal document, giving an image of the church,’ Galbas said – and the image is fairly harsh.” By Paulina Guzik,

Click here to read the rest of this issue of Focus …
P.S. Click that link above! The rest of Focus has lots of news on Synod reports and women deacons!


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