In the Vineyard: February 22, 2021

In the Vineyard :: February 22, 2021 :: Volume 21, Issue 4

National News

Resources for Lent

As we begin this Lenten season we have gathered together some resources that you might find useful:

Watch Father James Martin, SJ as he discusses – What is Lent? (watch the video here.)

Loyola Press offers a series of Lenten resources here.

Listen to Father Greg Boyle, SJ, the founder of Homeboy Industries, which employs and trains former gang members and offers free services to facilitate healing, as he discusses how crucial hope is to healing, here.

Pope Francis’s Lenten Message

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem” (Mt 20:18).

Lent: a Time for Renewing Faith, Hope and Love

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Jesus revealed to his disciples the deepest meaning of his mission when he told them of his passion, death and resurrection, in fulfilment of the Father’s will. He then called the disciples to share in this mission for the salvation of the world.

In our Lenten journey towards Easter, let us remember the One who “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). During this season of conversion, let us renew our faith, draw from the “living water” of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ. At the Easter vigil, we will renew our baptismal promises and experience rebirth as new men and women by the working of the Holy Spirit. This Lenten journey, like the entire pilgrimage of the Christian life, is even now illumined by the light of the resurrection, which inspires the thoughts, attitudes and decisions of the followers of Christ.

Fasting, prayer and almsgiving, as preached by Jesus (cf. Mt 6:1-18), enable and express our conversion. The path of poverty and self-denial (fasting), concern and loving care for the poor (almsgiving), and childlike dialogue with the Father (prayer) make it possible for us to live lives of sincere faith, living hope and effective charity.”

He concludes his message by saying:

“Dear brothers and sisters, every moment of our lives is a time for believing, hoping and loving. The call to experience Lent as a journey of conversion, prayer and sharing of our goods, helps us – as communities and as individuals – to revive the faith that comes from the living Christ, the hope inspired by the breath of the Holy Spirit and the love flowing from the merciful heart of the Father.

May Mary, Mother of the Savior, ever faithful at the foot of the cross and in the heart of the Church, sustain us with her loving presence. May the blessing of the risen Lord accompany all of us on our journey towards the light of Easter.”

For the full text of Pope Francis’s Lenten message, please see here.

Abuse Allegations Continue from Coast to Coastand Across the Globe: An Update


In California, hundreds have come forward under a new law extending the statute of limitations to report abuse. Nearly 600 victims made their stories known to attorneys in Northern California and the Bay Area, some abused by priests already known to be pedophiles, but some victims by priests not previously named. These cases are older, brought up now under a law opening a three-year window for lawsuits to be filed.

While many victims are coming forward now, many may never see a chance for justice. Some survivors have passed away, and others will never feel comfortable telling their stories. One woman, who wishes not to be named, has come forward now after her parents’ deaths, because she never wanted to discuss the abuse while they were alive. She was allegedly abused by Stephen Kielse, who is known as the “Pied Piper of the Oakland Diocese,” and has been convicted twice for sexually abusing children. Kielse was known to be an abuser but was allowed to continue working in the church, even after he was arrested and convicted for molestation in 1978. He was not formally defrocked until 1987. In 2004, he pled no contest to molesting a young girl 9 years earlier, and was sentenced to six years in prison. He was also required to register as a sex offender.

Attorneys for the Church say that the law allowing these survivors to come forward now, despite the time that has passed, was to “punish a class of defendants by depriving them of vested rights of immunity” and argues that the law is unconstitutional. The Church also claims this could have a tremendous impact on the finances of Catholic dioceses if victims are successful in court. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests says the law is a model for how secular governments can support and help victims and survivors of abuse.

Survivors discussed their reasons for keeping their abuse a secret over the years, and explained that being able to tell their stories is healing. One such man explains, “It made me realize I’m not the bad guy, that as a child I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m a victim.”


Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, a former altar boy is seeking damages for allegedly suffering due to a church coverup. His accusation against the Diocese of Springfield claims they worked to cover up the abuse by Bishop Christopher Weldon, who served as bishop from 1950 to 1977 and died in 1982. The former altar boy alleges that former Bishop Michell Rozanski engaged in the cover up to protect Bishop Weldon’s reputation. In 2020, other allegations of child sexual abuse against Bishop Weldon were found to be “unequivocally credible.” This particular suit claims that current and former employees of the diocese worked to suppress his reports of abuse dating back to the 1960s when he was 6, and continued until 2019. He is seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages as of this time.

Vatican City

On the other side of the world, Fr. Gabriele Martinelli, on trial for the abuse of a younger student in a seminary at the Vatican while they were both students, is now alleging that the accusations were made out of jealousy. Martinelli, who is now 28, is accused of abusing a student with whom he shared a room from 2007 to 2012. Martinelli took the stand, claiming that there were controls in place and that abuse could not have possibly occurred without anyone else noticing, as the two boys shared a room with a third student. Martinelli was under 18 at the time the alleged abuse began, but it continued after he turned 18, while the younger student was still a minor.

The trial is scheduled to resume later in February, with several witnesses expected to take the stand.

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

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

For survivor support resources, please see here.

Highlighting issues we face working together to Keep the Faith, Change the Church


Pope appoints more women to Vatican posts previously held only by men
“Pope Francis has appointed two women to Vatican posts previously held only by men, in back-to-back moves giving women more empowerment in the male-dominated Holy See. He appointed Nathalie Becquart, a French member of the Xaviere Missionary Sisters, on Saturday (Feb. 6) as co-undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, a department that prepares major meetings of world bishops held every few years on a different topic. The previous day, Francis named Italian magistrate Catia Summaria as the first woman Promoter of Justice in the Vatican’s Court of Appeals.” By Reuters on NBC News

New York’s Catholic church leaders control billions outside the reach of abuse survivors
“The Catholic bishops of New York sold a lucrative insurance business they controlled and stored the proceeds in a foundation they also administer, keeping billions out of the reach of survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The move occurred in 2018, with the church selling its Fidelis Care insurance company and moving $4.3 billion of the proceeds into the new Mother Cabrini Health Foundation. At the same time, the Child Victims Act in New York was gaining momentum in the Legislature, a measure that the church had lobbied against for more than a decade.” By Edward McKinley, Albany Times Union

Pope again updates Vatican legal code amid scrutiny, probes
“Pope Francis has made another set of changes to the Vatican City State’s legal code, which has come under heightened scrutiny and criticism as Vatican prosecutors seek to crack down on financial crimes and mismanagementby Holy See monsignors and money managers. In a new law published Tuesday, Francis made two modifications to criminal trial procedures when defendants don’t show up, one of which allows their lawyers to defend them fully even in absentia.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

St. Louis Archbishop Rozanski accused of covering up clergy sex abuse at previous post
“A civil lawsuit filed in Springfield, Massachusetts, alleges St. Louis Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski was part of ‘abhorrent attempts’ to protect the reputation of a now disgraced Roman Catholic bishop while at his previous post in the northeast. The plaintiff, named John Doe in court records, had already claimed that the late Springfield Bishop Christopher J. Weldon sexually abused him in the 1960s when he was an altar boy. Now he alleges he was also harmed by the alleged cover-up of the abuse decades later when he first started reporting it to the diocese in late 2014.” By Jesse Bogan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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

Pope Francis Begins Lent with Celebration of a Journey, Plans to Travel to Iraq

On Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis celebrated the beginning of the Lenten season with Mass, reflecting on the meaning of Lent, calling it a “journey of return to God and an opportunity to deepen our love of our brothers and sisters.” He blessed the ashes and spoke about how the Lenten season was a chance to evaluate the state of our lives and our direction, explaining that “the journey of Lent is an exodus from slavery to freedom.” Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica rather than the Santa Sabina Basilica, where the Ash Wednesday service is typically held. The event generally draws a large crowd, as Francis processes through the neighborhood with his cardinals, but he has largely remained in the Vatican as an infection control measure.

The Vatican offered new guidance for priests celebrating Ash Wednesday, calling for a masked priest to deliver the prayer a single time and sprinkle ashes on the heads of the faithful rather than smudging a cross on foreheads, to encourage appropriate social distancing during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

Pope Francis’s other plans for the Lenten season include a trip to Iraq to visit the original home of the patriarch Abraham. He has been vaccinated against COVID-19, and plans continue, despite the spread of a more contagious strain of the disease spreading in Italy. Pandemic permitting, he plans to visit places with nearly no Christians, and also intends to visit with Christians displaced by ISIS in the Arab region.

For more information on Pope Francis, please see here, here, and here.


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