In the Vineyard: April 11, 2022


In the Vineyard :: April 11, 2022 :: Volume 22, Issue 7

National News

Don’t Miss VOTF’s Webinar “Conversations on Synodality with Vatican Commission Experts”

As part of Voice of the Faithful’s 20-year anniversary events, we are hosting “Conversations on Synodality with Vatican Commission Experts,” April 20, 6 pm (Eastern). Synod theological commission members Rafael Luciani and Kristin Colberg will be our guests. The theological commission comprises 25 experts in theology, philosophy, and canon law from around the world.

Prof. Rafael Luciani is a Venezuelan theologian and associate professor of theology/professor extraordinarius in the ecclesiastical faculty of the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College. He also serves as theological advisor to the Latin American Bishops Council and is a member of the Theological Advisory Team of the presidency of the Latin American Confederation of Religious men and women. Among his articles and books is Pope Francis and the Theology of the People.

Prof. Kristin Colberg is associate professor of theology at Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary, covering theology, ecclesiology, and theological anthropology. She also has worked with the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, striving for Christian unity. Her theological work is rooted in her desire to show the church can speak meaningfully in the modern context. Among her publications is her book Vatican I and Vatican II: Councils in the Living Tradition.

Don’t miss this great opportunity to hear from two people closely involved in making the Synod work. Click here to register(link is external) for “Conversations on Synodality with Vatican Commission Experts.”

The Synod on Synodality, titled “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” is the most significant opportunity since the beginning of the Church for lay people to influence the future of the Church. The Synod is designed to give all people of God a chance to express how they see the Church becoming the synodal, pastoral, evangelical Church it should be.

VOTF is part of that effort to be heard. If you have not yet signed up for our VOTF synod sessions, be sure to do so. You will find the details on our Synod resources page.

Above It All: Clericalism, Rejection of Vatican II, and the Synod on Synodality

Two major Catholic universities in the United States hosted conferences at the end of March on the ongoing historical and theological research on clergy sexual abuse. The University of Notre Dame hosted “Gender, Sex, and Power: Towards a History of Clergy Sex Abuse in the U. S. Catholic Church.” Gonzaga University hosted the conference “‘Our transgressions before you are many, and our sins testify against us’ (Is 59:12a): Re-Imagining Church in Light of Colonization and Catholic Sexual Abuse.” Notably absent from both conferences were significant numbers of clergy members.

This is not a new trend: clerical defensiveness, hostility, and claiming the status of victimhood in investigations of abuse and its cover up are common in recent history. Some diocesean priests and members of religious communities believe that they, their communities, or their Church are “really” under attack. They believe that investigations and inquiries into past abuse cases are “unfair” or “negative.” For these, the refusal to admit complicity or collective responsibility for the actions of other ordained members and the structures of the Church may reflect pride or an unwillingness to admit that clerics make mistakes too. Such “clerical fragility,” as described by Fr. Daniel P. Horan, holds the Church back from moving forward — through and past the mistakes of history.

From Fr. Horan’s notes in the National Catholic Reporter and other news stories:

Another conflict said to be rooted in pride is the rejection of the Second Vatican Council, whether explicit or implicit, and its accompanying rejection of Pope Francis. While Vatican II fundamentally called for unity through reconciliation, those who disagree with the teachings and reject the unity to which we are called also staunchly oppose Pope Francis.

Francis’ emphasis on synodality and collegiality directly oppose those who would reject Vatican II as “too modern.” The Synod on Synodality got off to a slow start in many places in the U.S., for example, due to clerics who exhibited little-to-no interest in listening to what parishioners and lay people had to say. In the modern church, such actions have left a history of silence, fear, and hierarchical suppression of lay voices. The Synod on Synodality aims to hear and encounter lay voices, but if the entrenched clericalism continues to dominate the conversation and not allow for the possibility of discussion, “supporting openness in sharing as well as hearing” in the “listening process” is more aspiration than reality.

Despite the prideful culture underpinning much of this conflict, there is hope. The Holy Spirit, as described by Yves Congar’s journal from Vatican II, “makes use of people.” This journey has the potential to bring forth values and experiences from those who, for so long, have been left out of conversations by those who wield their power and positions as superior. The Synod on Synodality has the potential to effect a truly positive change for the Church. All that is necessary is for clergy members to lay down their pride, open their ears and their minds, engage with their parishioners, and “journey together and reflect together.”

For more information, please see here, here, and here.

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

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

For survivor support resources, please see here.

For information about the Synod, please see here and here.

International News

Pope Briefed on Independent Abuse Commission in Spain

Cardinal Juan José Omella of Barcelona, the president of the Spanish bishops’ conference, met with Pope Francis earlier this month to brief him on the independent commission investigating clerical sexual abuse in Spain. Cardinal Omella said to journalists outside of the Vatican press office that Francis “encouraged us to walk along that path of accompanying victims because they are at the center of everything, to collaborate in everything and, above all, to prevent these things from happening again.”

This commission represents a change from the previous strategy of instructing abuse victims to report to their local leaders. As described in February, the bishops’ conference announced it had hired the law firm of Cremades-Calvo Sotelo, led by Javier Cremades, to investigate how cases both in the past and present day are handled. This was a response to public calls for more action and growing support for the investigation. On March 10th, the Spanish parliament approved a proposal for the government to establish a commission of its own to investigate abuses in the Catholic Church. It will be led by Spain’s ombudsman, Ángel Gabilondo. Javier Cremades has been in contact with Gabilondo and intends to carry out his investigation similarly to those previously completed in Germany and France.

Discussing the investigation, Cardinal Omella explained, “We want someone to evaluate what we are doing, because maybe we think we are doing very well and it turns out that we are not. That is why we have asked for an external audit, led by the Cremades-Calvo Sotelo law firm. They estimated that it would take them a year to evaluate what we have done so that we can rectify what we are doing wrong.”

Omella says that this is an opportunity for humility. He explains that while it is important to recognize the past wrongdoings of the church–“I do not mind asking for forgiveness on behalf of the Spanish church to the victims and their families who have suffered a lot. I ask for forgiveness, I wish it had not happened”–it is vital to look ahead, “to work so that it does not happen again.”

During Francis’ meeting with Omella, Omella described the Pope as welcoming, friendly, and encouraging. Omella briefed Pope Francis on the concerns and priorities of the bishops’ conference, including evangelization, the family, youth, the transmission of the faith, social ministries including immigration, and protection of minors.

Pope Francis reportedly approved of their goals and was supportive of their plans to learn from the missteps that were made in previous investigations of clergy sex abuse in Germany and France.

Omella also explained what is currently being done for survivors of clerical sexual abuse. He had met with survivors a few days prior to his briefing with Francis, and says, “One is shocked to hear the pain of people, especially when it was caused by people so close to us, priests or religious, people consecrated to God who should work for the moral, spiritual, and general good of the person. It hurts. I remained in that attitude of listening and praying, praying for them and also for the abusers, so that it does not happen again.”

He described the offices created in Spain in 2018 for listening to and receiving complaints in each diocese, as well as a tribunal to assess the complaints. He also explained that the bishops’ conference assisted and evaluated the process and offices in each diocese, but that it was important to have an external audit at this point, which was why they enlisted the services of Cremades-Calvo Sotelo.

This external audit has the potential to rectify the problems in the process of reporting, documenting, and acting on reports of clerical sexual abuse. If successful, it will be a significant step forward in protecting survivors and all members of the Church from future abuses.

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.


In shockingly frank deposition, former bishop admits moving alleged abusers from treatment to ministry
“In testimony conducted over four days in April 2021, Bishop Howard Hubbard, the former leader of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y., described in unusually frank terms how he moved diocesan priests who had been accused of molesting children in and out of treatment centers and back into ministry. He admitted that the transfers were consistently made without informing local police, families of abuse victims or Catholics in Albany’s parishes, where the men were reassigned. Bishop Hubbard testified that parishioners were told that their pastors had been removed for ‘treatment’ with no further explanation.” By Kevin Clarke, America: The Jesuit Review

Swiss Catholic Church to open historic abuse study
“The Swiss Catholic Church said Monday (Apr. 4) it had commissioned an independent study to shed light on sexual abuse in the Church since the mid-20th century and ‘learn lessons’ from the past. At a press conference Monday, the Conference of Swiss Bishops, the Central Roman Catholic Conference of Switzerland and the Conference of Unions of Orders and Other Communities of Consecrated Life in Switzerland said they mandated the University of Zurich the mandate to study past attacks … The conclusions are expected in the autumn of 2023.” By Agence France-Press on

Pope Francis makes historic apology to Indigenous of Canada for church abuses
“Pope Francis on Friday (Apr. 1) made a historic apology to Indigenous Peoples for the ‘deplorable’ abuses they suffered in Canada’s Catholic-run residential schools and said he hoped to visit Canada in late July to deliver the apology in person to survivors of the church’s misguided missionary zeal. Francis begged forgiveness during an audience with dozens of members of the Metis, Inuit and First Nations communities who came to Rome seeking a papal apology and a commitment for the Catholic Church to repair the damage.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, in America: The Jesuit Review

Ex-Albany bishop acknowledges covering up abuse allegations
“The former bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany has acknowledged covering up allegations of sexual abuse against children by priests in part to avoid scandal and protect the reputation of the diocese. Howard J. Hubbard made the admission during a deposition taken last year as part of a response to dozens of claims filed under New York’s Child Victims Act. A judge ordered the deposition released on Friday. Hundreds of people have sued the Albany diocese over sexual abuse they say they endured as children, sometimes decades ago.” By Associated Press

The time is ripe for a clergy abuse inquiry in Latin America
“Over the past few years, several countries in Europe have launched new inquiries into the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests … While this current wave of inquiries in Europe follows in the footsteps of those previously held in countries like Canada, Ireland, Belgium and Australia, there are regions in the world where the political will to expose the truth and deliver justice to survivors remains largely stagnant or non-existent. This is particularly the case in Latin America, home to the world’s largest Catholic population, where no government has yet announced a national inquiry into the issue.” By Adalberto Méndes López,

Cardinal: Synod aims to end Church’s culture of silence
“The cardinal overseeing the worldwide Synod says the process is an attempt to end the Church’s ‘culture of silence’ about its problems, including sexual abuse and the ‘deep divisions’ that exist between Catholics. Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops office in Rome, says the Synod is an opportunity to have a ‘frank and open’ discussion on the fundamental questions about the future of Catholicism. ‘There are problems, issues, within the Church about which we choose to remain silent rather than speaking,’ he said during a Mass to open a three-day meeting of Church leaders, ‘The Road to a Synodal Church,’ at the Catholic Chaplaincy of the University of Oxford, England, on March 24.” By

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