In the Vineyard: August 17, 2019

In the Vineyard :: August 17, 2019 :: Volume 19, Issue 15

News from National

Clergy and Laypeople Collaborate to Confront Clericalism

VOTF and AUSCP developed the following joint press statement and released it late last week to Catholic and general media.

Pope Francis condemns clericalism, repeatedly. Catholic commentators decry it. Theologians and church historians examine its roots. Now, in a significant collaboration, the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests and Voice of the Faithful have examined the ways clericalism emerges from the clerical culture, generating complex problems facing the Roman Catholic Church today, and suggest ways to combat it.

Their document, “Confronting the Systemic Dysfunction of Clericalism,” was approved at the AUSCP June 2019 Assembly, where guest speaker Dr. Richard Gaillardetz called it “very informative, even visionary.” Keynote speaker Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, noting the real-life examples reported, said it was “nothing less than a catalogue of horrors chronicling imperial pronouncements, put-downs, claims of privileges, entitlements and exemptions from accountability, but also a culture so pervasive that, sadly, many of the laity have come to accept it as normal and yes, even have cooperated in maintaining it.”

Real-life examples are central to the report and a significant contribution to the study of clericalism today. As the writers note, “We typically encounter clericalism as an experience. Using only scholarly definitions and explanations when discussing clericalism cannot communicate this lived experience of clericalism in the Church. To fully understand clericalism, we also must hear the voices of those who experience abuse of power.”

One experience describes a confrontation between a laywoman and a visiting priest in Boston during a 2003 meeting. “We must fix this [sex abuse] because we are the Church,” the laywoman said. The visiting priest replied, “YOU are not the Church,” and pointing to his Roman collar, declared, “WE are the Church.”

In another example, a new pastor announced that he would personally choose pastoral council members and no one would be allowed to disagree with him. In yet another, a seminarian criticized the pastor for his monthly blessing service because it differed from what the seminary practiced.

If these examples seem to focus blame on the clergy or an insulated hierarchy or any group or faction within the universal church, the document will not allow such a conclusion. Clericalism is not simply a problem of clerics, and the authors cite experiences where lay people enable such behavior. Continue reading …

What Can I Do? Suggestions for Confronting Clericalism

Small steps. Clericalism did not arise in a month or even a year, so expecting massive change in a year or two is foolhardy. But change already is under way–not just in naming and identifying the harm from clericalism but also in the steps many priests and laypeople have undertaken to confront it.

Last week an AUSCP member asked others for ideas on conquering the mountain. Here are just a few of the many ideas they had:

  • Have the presider sit with the congregation through the Liturgy of the Word, except for the Gospel and Homily.
  • Ask lay members to lead prayer at start and end of meetings, not Father or Sister.
  • Study or go to a Leadership program on how to run a collaborative meeting. We [priests] were never trained for this yet it’s a big part of our lives. The cleric should step back and have a chairperson run the meeting. Talk about handing over “power.” Do this as part of all meetings as you listen and then give comments after.
  • I seldom wear a collar; most people appreciate this practice. About the only time I wear a collar is to the funeral home and when I “have to” go to the Pastoral Center (Diocesan Office) for a meeting. If I don’t wear a collar there, a bishop’s representative will call me within hours questioning why I didn’t.
  • Smile at everyone. Look like you want to be there. Practice smiling on your way. It’s a muscular exercise.

What are some of your ideas? Tell us and let us spread the word–send your notes to or to (We won’t use your name without permission.)

Better yet, mention those ideas during a BridgeDialogues session when you consider ways to take action on bringing down the barriers between clerics and lay people.

Pope Francis institutes New Statutes for the Vatican Bank

Advocates for increased financial transparency in the Catholic Church should be heartened by the new statutes issued by the Vatican on last week, which alter the administration of Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), also known as the Vatican Bank. These statutes, while effecting mostly minor changes, speak to Pope Francis’ continued commitment to financial reform at the highest levels of the Vatican. They do not complete the reforms needed, but offer a start.

The most substantial of these reforms replaces an independent college of auditors with an external auditor. While external audits have been carried out for the past several years, the new statutes mandate regular audits. Other changes include the addition of two new members to the lay body which oversees the bank’s operations.

The IOR for decades epitomized the Vatican’s lack of transparency in financial matters. The bank was plagued by a series of scandals, ranging from gross financial mismanagement to money laundering and mafia-affiliation. The former president of the IOR from 1989 to 2006, Angelo Caloia, is currently on trial in the Vatican for suspicious real estate transactions, and two other former top officials were convicted by Italian courts in 2018 for financial crimes committed in the early 2000’s.

It does appear that the reforms are having some impact. The IOR appears to have returned to the good graces of the global financial regulatory community: in 2017, for example, it was whitelisted by the Italian government and received a positive evaluation by Moneyeval, the regulatory wing of the Council of Europe. The expanded lay oversight and continuation of external auditing mandated by Saturday’s new statutes seem poised to continue this trend.

Dioceses and parishes across the U.S. would do well to emulate this example, as the recent scandals in West Virginia and California illustrate. Financial transparency and external oversight are sorely needed at all levels of the Church. The perennial problems of bureaucracy and clericalism contribute to an environment that is ripe for abuse.

For more information:

Married Priests in the Amazon?

A Vatican meeting, scheduled for October, will be focused on the church in the Amazon. Although the meeting has many broad aims — helping the environment, aiding indigenous communities — one paragraph in the event’s working document mentions the possibility of ordaining older men “even if they have an existing and stable family” as a way to make up for the Amazon’s severe priest shortage. The text affirms the standard church teaching that celibacy is a “gift for the Church” and says the proposed exception is a “way to sustain the Christian life.” Conservative groups have already begun protests.

Read more here.

Practice Collaboration: Try the BridgeDialogues

If you are looking for ways to engage your community in discussions about bridging the gap between clergy and lay people, the BridgeDialogues offer an excellent resource.

Developed by the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP), FutureChurch, and Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), the initial package from the project focuses on clericalism. It helps Catholics learn what they can do to recognize and prevent this perversion, which blocks the laity from achieving their full potential in the Church.

The BridgeDialogues offer:

  • prompts for opening up discussions addressing clericalism, including topics such as the subtle ways that language and pastoral relationships can feed clericalism;
  • examples of how you experience clericalism barriers and what you can do about them;
  • tips for how you can guard against clericalism in your own behaviors, while removing the barriers others may use to hold you on “your side” of the lay/clergy divide.

The BridgeDialogues’ many resources are available online at

For more information or assistance, you may contact Donna B. Doucette at VOTF, Deb Rose Milavec at FutureChurch, or

Voice of the Faithful 2019 Conference
Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Boston Marriott Newton, Newton, Massachusetts

2-for-$200 Spring/Summer Registration Special (includes lunch)
(Full price will be $125 / person)

Click here to register …

Click here to see an agenda …


Flurry of suits emerge as New York opens door to old abuse claims
“It was the early 1950s and Peter Vajda was a little boy attending a Catholic boarding school in the Bronx when he says a religious brother molested him. The brother is likely long dead, but the church survives. Just after midnight Wednesday (Aug. 14) morning, Vajda, now 75, filed a civil lawsuit naming the Archdiocese of New York as a defendant. Justice, he says, may have been delayed but he won’t let it be denied. ‘Now it’s their turn. Now it’s their time,’ he told The Associated Press Monday (Aug. 12). ‘And I want them to get everything they deserve in the way of punishment.’” By David Klepper, Associated Press

Unmarked buildings, quiet help for accused priests
“Stripped of their collars and cassocks, they went unnoticed in this tiny Midwestern town as they were escorted into a dingy warehouse across from an elementary school playground. Neighbors had no idea some of the dressed-down clergymen dining at local restaurants might have been accused sexual predators. They had been brought to town by a small, nonprofit group called Opus Bono Sacerdotii. For nearly two decades, the group has operated out of a series of unmarked buildings in rural Michigan, providing money, shelter, transport, legal help and other support to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse across the country.”By Martha Mendoza, Juliet Linderman and Garance Burke, Associated Press

Clergy abused an entire generation in this village. With new traumas, justice remains elusive.
“The two brothers sat a few houses apart, each tending to his own anger. Justice is slow in Alaska villages, they have learned. Sometimes it never arrives. Chuck Lockwood, 69, grew up in this Yup’ik Eskimo village of 400 along the Norton Sound coast but left as a child for boarding school. His rage is fresh … He was among an entire generation of children, now mostly in their 50s and 60s, who survived years of sexual abuse by Jesuit priestsand Catholic church personnel shipped to the village of St. Michael. His wife was abused too.” By Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News

Catholic charities tested by abuse scandal, border crisis
“For U.S. charities affiliated with the Catholic Church, the past year has tested the resilience of their fundraisers and the loyalty of their donors in unprecedented fashion. Even as many donors reacted in dismay to the Church’s extensive sex-abuse scandals, the charities faced new challenges trying to address the immigration crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. For the agencies with the most donors, Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services, it’s too early to gauge the overall financial impact of sex-abuse developments last year.” By David Crary, Associated Press, on

Chicago Tribune investigation reveals financial burdens of Chicago Catholic churches
“Dozens of Catholic churches and schools in Chicago have closed. NPR’s Noel King talks to David Heinzmann of the Chicago Tribune about his story examining the archdiocese’s accounting practices.” By Morning Edition on National Public Radio

Guam’s Catholics reckon with decades of ‘horrific’ abuse
“For decades, (Archbishop Anthony) Apuron oversaw a culture of impunity where abusers went unpunished. Long after it erupted into scandal on the mainland, clergy sexual abuse remained a secret on Guam. On this island where four out of five people are Catholic, the abusers held the power. Now, thousands of pages of court documents reviewed by The Associated Press, along with extensive interviews, tell a story of systemic abuse dating from the 1950s to as recently as 2013. They show a pattern of repeated collusion by predator priests, with abuse that spanned generations and reached all the way to the very top of the church hierarchy.” By Michael Biesecker, Associated Press, on

How D.C. Catholics are leading the response to the clergy sexual abuse scandal
“This week marks one year since the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, which detailed the alleged crimes of hundreds of priests over seven decades and brought the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church back into the national spotlight … In the wake of last summer’s news, my parish, Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., embarked on a ‘Season of Discernment.’ We asked: How could a local parish help heal serious wounds—especially wounds of trust born of the scandal—for survivors and their families as well as the broader community of lay faithful? How might we avoid getting stuck in the status quo and move forward to enact meaningful change?” By Kathleen Coogan, Pastoral Council, Holy Trinity Parish, Washington, D.C. She will be part of a panel discussion local responses to clergy abuse during Voice of the Faithful’s 2019 Conference in Boston Oct. 10. Click here for information and registration.

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


The Tipping Point Tour: Marie Collins

Southeastern Pennsylvania Women’s Ordination Conference is one of the hosts for the Tipping Point tour featuring Marie Collins. One of her visits will be held in Philadelphia at Chestnut Hill College’s Sugarloaf Campus, 6:30 pm September 12, Thursday. Address is 9220 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19118

Pope Francis’ Prayer Intention for August

What kind of world do we want to leave for the future?
Let us leave a world with families.
Let us care for our families, because they are true schools for the future, spaces of freedom, and centers of humanity.
And let us reserve a special place in our families for individual and communal prayer.
Let us pray that families, through their life of prayer and love, become ever more clearly “schools of true human development”.

Watch the video here.


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