In the Vineyard :: February 13, 2022 :: Volume 22, Issue 3
We need YOU, and your voice!
Our VOTF Board is seeking additional Trustees for appointment. During this serious and difficult time, not only in our Church but also in our country, we are seeking a diverse number of candidates who will further the Mission of VOTF and be dedicated to the advancement of the Catholic laity.
Our Board seeks candidates to be diverse in geographical areas and dioceses, ages, interests, ethnicity, experiences and present or former occupations.
Board meetings are held both virtually and in person, about 10 annually, an hour to 90 minutes in length. Time zones with be taken into serious consideration.
To begin this process of participating as an integral part of our VOTF organization, please provide a resume and brief position statement to email@example.com(link sends e-mail).
Board responsibilities and VOTF By-Laws are available on our website.
We welcome your application!
Leading the Way: Fordham Appoints FirstLay Person and First Woman as President
Tania Tetlow, a lawyer and former federal prosecutor, has been appointed as the next president of New York’s Fordham University. Her tenure will mark the first time in the 181 years of Fordham’s history that the president is not also a priest.
Tetlow is no stranger to making history: in 2018, she became the first woman and layperson to serve as president for Loyola University New Orleans. The Harvard-trained lawyer will succeed Father Joseph M. McShane, S.J., who has led Fordham for almost 20 years. He said in a press release, “Tania Tetlow has in abundance the qualities of leadership one needs to run a major university, among them discernment, patience, decisiveness, self-awareness, and magnanimity. Her commitment to Jesuit pedagogy and to Fordham’s Jesuit, Catholic mission is both deep and well-informed. I shall rest easy with her in the office I have occupied for almost two decades.”
This decision marks the 21st Jesuit college or university to have a layperson as president, and the 6th led by a woman. Tetlow has had a lifelong connection to the Jesuit order: her father was a Jesuit for 17 years before leaving the order to become a parent. Her parents met at Fordham as graduate students as well, and her uncle is a well-known Jesuit writer, Rev. Joseph Tetlow. He is also the former head of the Secretariat for Ignatian Spirituality in Rome as well as the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, which is now part of Santa Clara University.
The increase in lay leaders at Jesuit colleges and universities is a demographically pragmatic move, as the pool of priests who are qualified to lead a nonprofit entity of that size dwindles. The move has overall been a positive one for Catholic institutions, with women stepping into leadership roles previously only occupied by priests. Under Tetlow’s leadership Loyola’s enrollment grew by 11% and the institution welcomed it’s largest and most diverse first year class in school history. Perhaps this trend will spread to other areas of the Church, making them more welcoming to women and laypeople in general, and effect change throughout the Church.
For VOTF’s position on women’s roles, please see here
For VOTF’s position on clericalism, please see here.
VOTF Will Post Dates for Second Round of Synod Sessions
Voice of the Faithful has committed to hosting Synod sessions for all our members and all others who wish to participate. The dates for our next round of sessions, in February and March, will be posted by Wednesday on our Synod web page. Check there Wednesday for the dates and registration links.
Retired Pope Benedict XVI Asks for ForgivenessWithout Admitting Guilt
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, asked for forgiveness for any “grievous faults” that may have occurred in his handling of clergy sexual abuse cases while continuing to deny that he had done anything wrong.
In January, German law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl found an estimated 497 victims of abuse between 1945 and 2019, and at least 235 alleged abusers. Their report found that Benedict mishandled four cases while he was archbishop, making accusations of misconduct in the way he dealt with priests even after criminal conviction. He failed to restrict their ministry when he should have done so, and his predecessors and successors were also at fault, as described by the report.
Benedict released a letter last week, along with a technical response from his lawyers, responding to these allegations. His lawyers concluded that “As an archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger was not involved in any cover-up of acts of abuse.” Their response went on to assert that Benedict was unaware of the criminal history of the four priests whose ministry he failed to restrict. Benedict’s letter asked for forgiveness, although he did not admit to any wrongdoing. He said, “I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic Church. All the greater is my pain for the abuses and the errors that occurred in those different places during the time of my mandate.”
He continued and explained, “I have seen firsthand the effects of a most grievous fault … And I have come to understand that we ourselves are drawn into this grievous fault whenever we neglect it or fail to confront it with the necessary decisiveness and responsibility, as too often happened and continues to happen. As in those meetings, once again I can only express to all the victims of sexual abuse my profound shame, my deep sorrow, and my heartfelt request for foregiveness.”
Eckiger Tisch, a group that represents German survivors of clergy sexual abuse, was quick to critcize his response. They said his response aligned with the church’s “mistakes were made” brand of apologies, where no one person is at fault and no one is responsible for the culture that permitted the abuse to happen and to continue. The group was disappointed that Benedict couldn’t “bring himself simply to state that he is sorry not to have done more to protect the children entrusted to his church.”
Two of the cases in which Benedict was accused of misconduct through failing to act appropriately against abusers involved priests who were convicted and punished by the German legal system. They were not removed from pastoral work, nor were any limits put on their ministry as a result of their actions. Another case involved an individual who was accused and convicted in a court outside of Germany, but who was then assigned to work in Germany. The fourth and final case that Benedict failed to appropriately manage involved a priest who was a convicted pedophile. He transferred to Munich in 1980 and was put into ministry, and then 6 years later was given a suspended sentence for molesting a child.
According to Benedict’s secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Pope Francis wrote “a beautiful letter” to and in support of Benedict. Gänswein said that Francis’s letter “speaks as a shepherd, as a brother,” and “expressed once again his complete trust, his full support, and also his prayers.” Speaking for Benedict, Archbishop Gänswein said that “whoever reads the letter in a sincere way, the way in which the letter was written, cannot agree with these criticisms or these accusations. He asks all victims of abuse for forgiveness.”
Many victims and survivors of abuse in Germany and internationally are disappointed in this response. Mike McDonnell, the communications manager of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said, “He is repeating words of apology that have fallen on deaf ears for decades. True apologies are followed by true amends, and that is a concept that the church doesn’t seem to be able to grasp.”
To read more about VOTF’s position on child protection, please see here.
For survivor support resources, please see here.
Spain’s government vows to investigate Catholic Church abuse
“Spain’s ruling coalition wants historic clerical sexual abuses to be investigated in the country, and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has said he will first meet with abuse victims. ‘We’re going to talk and build,”’ said the head of the coalition government that rules Spain. ‘The human dimension of this problem is important.’ Three left-wing parties – Unidas Podemos, ERC and EH Bildu – presented a petition for the creation of a commission in Spain’s Congress to launch an investigation into the sexual abuses of minors committed within the Catholic Church.” By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com
- Spain’s legislature to launch clerical abuse investigation, By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com
Germany’s Cardinal Marx calls findings of abuse report a ‘disaster’ for church
“The archbishop of Munich said Thursday (Jan. 27) that the Catholic church needs deep reform to overcome the ‘disaster’ of sexual abuse and made clear that he intends to stay in his job, after a report faulted him and predecessors including retired Pope Benedict XVI for their handling of abuse allegations and cases in Germany. Cardinal Reinhard Marx last year offered to resign over the church’s abuse scandal, an extraordinary gesture at the time which was rejected swiftly by Pope Francis. Marx, a prominent reformist ally of the pontiff, was faulted over his handling of two cases in the report commissioned by his archdiocese from a Munich law firm.” By Geir Moulson, Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter
- Benedict’s ‘heartfelt request for forgiveness,’ By CathNews.com
New Zealand bishops publish report on abuse cases: nearly 1,700 abuse cases involving Catholic clergy, religious and lay people
“A report released by the New Zealand bishops’ conference found allegations of abuse were made against 14 percent of diocesan clergy who have ministered in the country since 1950. The report, published Feb. 1, said that ‘a total of 1,680 reports of abuse were made by 1,122 individuals against Catholic clergy, brothers, nuns, sisters and laypeople from 1950 to the present, with 592 alleged abusers named.’ “Almost half the reported abuse involved sexual harm,” the report said … In a statement published after the release of the report, Cardinal John Dew, president of the New Zealand bishops’ conference, said the investigation’s findings were ‘horrifying and something we are deeply ashamed of.’” By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service, on Cruxnow.com
- New Zealand inquiry finds hundreds of reports of abuse by priests, By Isabella Kwai, The New York Times
Father Hans Zollner on the German sex abuse report, Pope Benedict and the future of the church
“In a wide-ranging interview with America, Father Hans Zollner, the German Jesuit and one of the church’s top experts in the field of the safeguarding and protection of minors and vulnerable people from abuse, discussed the much-publicized report on how abuse cases were handled in the archdiocese of Munich and Freising, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s response to that report, the situation of the Catholic Church in Germany today, and what more Rome could do to help eliminate this plague from the church.” By Gerard O’Connell, America: The Jesuit Review
Catholic group calls on Pope Francis to set up independent abuse inquiry for Vatican files
“The Catholic We Are Church International network of groups has called on Pope Francis to establish an independent legal investigation of the files at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) ‘to determine the global extent of the cover-ups of clerical sex abuse cases.’ In a statement, it noted how ‘a decade ago in Ireland State judges investigating clerical abuse cases sought relevant files from the office of the Vatican’s CDF. The CDF refused to supply any files.’ The group referred to the recent ‘detailed Munich independent legal investigation’ which ‘accused . . . [Emeritus] Pope Benedict XVl with failing to report four cases of clerical abuse [by priests] while he was archbishop of Munich.’” By Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times
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