In the Vineyard: September 26, 2022


In the Vineyard :: September 26, 2022 :: Volume 22, Issue 18

National News

Coming Soon: The Next 20 Years

Commemorating 20 years of Keeping the Faith, Changing the Church and looking forward to the next 20 years focusing on mission, goals, and implementing synodality—don’t miss this opportunity to greet old friends, make new friends, and share stories of your experiences!

We will have the latest VOTF news, an interactive presentation by one of VOTF’s best friends and colleagues, Prof. Thomas H. Groome, Ed.D., from Boston College, at VOTF’s 20th Commemoration celebration, and a special Commemoration display opportunity to note your own remembrances.

We also have special appearances by Dr. Phyllis Zagano, recognized worldwide as the premiere scholar on women deacons, who 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.

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.


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. These reports give the faithful in each parish the information needed to judge–and help improve–diocesan activities within the purview of each report. 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 attraction:

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.

Click here for an agenda and more information.

“Enduring Wounds” and Looking Ahead:
Where We Are in the Synodal Process

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has completed the Diocesan Phase of the Synod on Synodality with the release of the “National Synthesis of the People of God in the United States of America.” The Synod began on the local level with parishes, dioceses, and other Catholic organizations hosting listening sessions guided by the idea of walking and listening together. Each organization diocese and organization then summarized and synthesized the topics that came up during the sessions, and all these reports together were synthesized by the USCCB, with the final national summary being sent to the Vatican at the end of August. (VOTF sent our report directly to the General Secretariat at the Vatican.)

Estimates suggest that 700,000 out of the approximately 66.8 million U.S. Catholics participated in the process, resulting in what Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Chair of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, calls a “significant moment” for the U.S. church, although he cautions that this is only the first step in a longer process. His introductory statement to the 16-page summary document announces that “It is an invitation to listen, to discuss together and to discern together as the church, about how best to understand and act upon those matters that sit deeply in the hearts and minds of the Catholics in the U.S. We have taken the first steps of this path, and we have learned much; we have more to learn and more to do.”

Two of the “enduring wounds” that featured prominently in the synthesis document include the rippling effects of the sexual abuse crisis and the public perception of the lack of unity among the U.S.’s Catholic bishops. The synthesis explains that these enduring wounds have “exposed a deep hunger for healing and the strong desire for communion, community, and a sense of belonging and being united.” The sexual abuse crisis, in particular, is “chief among the enduring wounds” afflicting Catholics in the United States. Per the report, “The sin and the crime of sexual abuse has eroded not only trust in the hierarchy and moral integrity of the church, but also created a culture of fear that keeps people from entering into relationship with one another and thus from experiencing the sense of belonging and connectedness for which they yearn.” The effects of the sexual abuse crises that continue to be uncovered across the United States and in dioceses around the world influence peoples’ connection to their parishes and to their own faith, and the full impact of the sexual abuse crisis in the larger church has yet to be fully understood. 

Regarding the “perceived lack of unity among the bishops in the United States, and even of some individual bishops with the Holy Father,” participants found this “a source of grave scandal” and explained that it seemed to “justify division at the local level” as well. These feelings of division and polarization were reflected in other areas, including the wound of marginalization, particularly among youth who “perceive the Church as hypocritical and failing to act consistently with justice toward these diverse communities.” Included in those groups are women, who said they felt “underappreciated, underpaid, not supported in seeking formation, [working] long hours.” 

Another specific topic that emerged as an enduring theme was “enhancing communion and participation.” This theme was particularly salient around women’s roles in the church, as the document described how “There was a desire for stronger leadership, discernment, and decision-making roles for women– both lay and religious – in their parishes and communities: ‘people mentioned a variety of ways in which women could exercise leadership, including preaching and ordination as a deacon or priest. Ordination for women emerged not primarily as a solution to the problem of the priest shortage, but as a matter of justice.’”

The 16-page document has been sent to the Vatican for the next step in the Synodal process, and it can be found here

 In terms of what is next in the synodal process, Cardinal Mario Grech, general secretary of the Vatican’s synod office, believes that the church will be renewed and changed based on the results that are beginning to emerge. At the ecclesial assembly, a vital part for the continental synodal assembly, “people will be coming from each episcopal conference: laity, clergy, religious, consecrated persons. It’s what we mean when we say people of God,” he said.

Each continental assembly will differ based on their needs: Cardinal Grech indicated that the Latin American bishops’ conference will likely have five regional assemblies and then a general assembly, and Africa will likely have regional assemblies as well.

One of the concerns that some have about the results of the overall synodal process is that groups might push their own agendas. To this, Cardinal Grech said, “I’m not afraid of these pressure groups, no. What I would like and what I pray for is that the Holy Spirit will really hijack this process.” One of these such topics is the issue of viri probati, or the ordination of mature, married men. Cardinal Grech says that when speaking to Pope Francis after the publication of ‘Querida Amazonia’ (which proposed the idea), he told Grech, “‘Do you know why I did not accept that proposition? Because I felt that during the synodal assembly there was not a discernment.’” Grech went on to confirm that the Pope meant that it wasn’t a rejection, but “a question that hasn’t matured yet. We need time!” he said. 

The Synod Media Office continues to end out newsletters with videos, press conference links, and other updates on the Synod process. Here is the latest.

To read more about this topic:

National Synthesis of the People of God in the United States of America for Diocesan Phase of the 2021-2023 SynodBy the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

U.S. synod report finds participants share common hopes and lingering painBy Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service, in America: The Jesuit Review

Synthesis report complete, but bishop finds synodal path is just beginningBy Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service, on

Voice of the Faithful Synod Report includes full text from all the collected scribe reports–Appendix D begins on page 27 of the PDF.

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.

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

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

To learn more about ordaining married men, please see here.


South African Catholics: End clericalism, open ministry to women, be inclusive
“Widen the preaching circle to women and other laypeople, change the leadership style from autocratic and bureaucratic, move away from clericalism, and build more inclusive and welcoming communities, say Southern African Catholics. These were some of the major themes that emerged in the synthesis document for the synod on synodality released by the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference at the end of August. The conference represents the Catholic bishops of South Africa, Botswana and Eswatini. The secretary general of the bishops’ conference, Fr. Hugh O’Connor, said that the synthesis aimed to reflect the wide range of opinions mentioned in the diocesan reports.” By Russell Pollitt, National Catholic Reporter

Bill eliminating statute of limitations for child sex abuse civil suits heads to Biden’s desk
“The House on Tuesday (Sept. 13) passed a bill eliminating the statute of limitations for victims of child sex abuse who seek to file civil claims, sending the measure to President Biden’s desk for final approval. The chamber cleared the bill, titled the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act, by voice vote, a strategy reserved for non-controversial, popular measures … The measure calls for removing the statute of limitations for minors filing civil claims relating to a number of sex abuse crimes, including force labor, sex trafficking, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children.” By Mychael Schnell, KGET-TV News

Finding the bishops we need
“There was considerable excitement in some quarters this summer when Pope Francis appointed three women as members of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops, which makes recommendations to the pope for episcopal appointments in much of Latin-rite Catholicism. Whether this innovation will make any significant difference at the final stage of a long, complex process remains to be seen; given the byzantine ways of the Roman Curia (and its boys club atmosphere and dynamics), I have my doubts. But we shall see. In any event, deep reform in the process of selecting bishops in the Latin-rite Church would begin by bringing women, not to mention laymen, into the process at a much earlier stage.” By George Weigel, The Pilot

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

Pope Francis’ Prayer Intention for September

This month the Pope is focusing on the abolition of the death penalty.
He asks that we pray that the death penalty, which attacks the dignity of the human person, may be legally abolished in every country. According to Francis, there are many reasons to say “NO” to the death penalty. It is not a just punishment, since it “offers no justice to victims, but rather foments revenge… And it prevents any possibility of correcting a possible miscarriage of justice.” It’s morally inadmissible, because “it destroys the most important gift we have received: life.” And, as Francis reminds us, “in the light of the Gospel, the death penalty is unacceptable.” Let us not remain indifferent in the face of laws which, in some parts of the world, still allow the death penalty.

To watch the Pope’s video, click here.


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