In the Vineyard: February 27, 2015

In the Vineyard :: February 27, 2015 :: Volume 15, Issue 4

News from National

Sign Open Letter to Let Bishops
2015 Synod on the Family Needs Broad Input
VOTF, along with 15 other Catholic organizations, has issued an open letter calling on the world’s bishops to widen the circle of auditors and experts invited to the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family.

In part, the letter says: “We urge the Vatican Synod office to make every effort to include a wide diversity of Catholics, especially those from the constituencies being discussed: divorced and remarried people; cohabitating couples; interfaith families; impoverished families; single parents; families with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender members; same-sex couples; and families torn by the violence of war and abuse.”

Click here to read and sign the letter and offer additional comment. You have until March 3. The letter then will be sent to all English-speaking bishops and Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops. The Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family takes place this October.

COR, to which VOTF belongs, also has put up a website to help facilitate input into the synod — – And click here to download sample letters and resources from fellow COR member FutureChurch. These will help you communicate your views to your bishop.

Click here to review the Lineamenta the Vatican has sent to bishops around the world to outline the parameters of the synod and the process of collecting input.

Healing Circle in northern Virginia
On January 31, 2015, VOTF and its Restorative Justice (RJ) partners held a second Healing Circle in Alexandria VA.

As with the first one that took place in Boston in late 2014, the 9 participants all experienced and continue to suffer harm in some way from the Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal. They included victims/survivors, family members and advocates of victims/survivors, whistle-blower clergy, lay people who left the pews over their harm and those who stayed while attempting to address the harm, including those who worked in Church ministries. They accepted VOTF’s invitation to participate in a Healing Circle that promotes healing not only of individuals but also of the larger Body of Christ.

A Healing Circle is a process of conversation rooted in RJ principles. It invites participants to engage in a conversation of deep speaking and deep listening, in contrast to the customary dialogues in our culture that emphasize cross-talking and questions or responses to what others say, often before they even finish speaking. A trained facilitator poses a serious of questions regarding both harm and healing in a way that enables participants to feel safe and trusting within the vulnerability of their stories.

Each participant expressed a deep sense of connection, validation and mutual support as they shared their stories and their efforts to recover and heal from their wounds. They left the six-hour circle with a renewed sense of hope in their own journeys to find healing. VOTF and its partners left convinced that the Healing Circle model is filling a void that has been largely absent in the life of the people of God since the sexual abuse scandal broke into public consciousness in Boston in 2012.

A third Healing Circle will take place on March 25 in Naples, Florida, and plans are underway for additional ones on 2015. VOTF’s long-term vision is that faith communities will offer Healing Circles to address the continuing harm that their members experience from the sexual abuse scandal.
For more information, contact Jayne O’Donnell or 860-335-4259, or Bill Casey or 703-568-3438.

2015 National Assembly Workshop:
“Degrees of Transparency: The Good, the Bad, and
the Confusing in Diocesan Financial Accountability”
Last year, workshop attendees got a first-hand look at parish financing gone awry, from a case study of financial malfeasance in a Montana parish. This year, we look south, to southwestern Florida, where financial statements are posted online but don’t tell anywhere near “the whole story.”

See how you can use our new web-accessed Diocese Finances database to learn where a diocese stands financially. Compare the reporting and transparency completed by dioceses of similar sizes. Get tips on what to look for in a financial statement. And see how putting it together raises serious questions about real-estate transactions and the use of an “off the books” foundation in the Diocese of Venice, Florida.

It’s your money. Not just because YOU donate it to the Church, but also because you donate expecting the parish and diocese to responsibly administer those funds for charitable purposes.

Join the discussion April 18 in Hartford.

Click here to find out more about the 2015 National Assembly and to register!

U.S. Catholic Priests Seek Expanded Opportunities for Sacramental Confession and Reconciliation
On Ash Wednesday, the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests announced its 1,000-plus members were endorsing a letter to all U.S. bishops requesting full restoration of Vatican II rites for penance.

Specifically, they seek return of Rite 3, “a communal liturgical service and communal absolution.” This will rebuild and encourage a return to the practice of individual confession, they say. Today, 75% of Catholics have abandoned the sacrament, and Rite 3 would “move hearts in the future toward the value of periodic personal confession.”

Click here to read the rest of the announcement and the letter the priests are sending to all U.S. bishops.

And during this first week of Lent, we invite you to pray with the Psalmist:

“Turn away your face from my sins;
blot out all my iniquities.
A clean heart create for me, God;
renew within me a steadfast spirit.
Do not drive me from before your face,
nor take from me your holy spirit.
Restore to me the gladness of your salvation;
uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:11:14)

Programs for Lent

A Jesuit/Ignatian Pilgrimage for Lent
Igniting our Values is an online program of prayers, Scripture and reflection. You can sign up online and receive daily emails with reflections, prayers, music and videos. A recent video was a TedTalk from Buddhist roshi Joan Halifax on the importance of Compassion.

Last year, 20,000 people participated in the Jesuits’ online Lenten program of daily reflections, prayers and readings.
While we journey, we will prayerfully consider the Gospel readings in light of our Ignatian identity. We will explore what it means to be companions of St. Ignatius—whether as Jesuits or Jesuit colleagues, partners in mission, students, alumni, family or friends. What, precisely, are the values and characteristics we think of as being uniquely “Ignatian” or “Jesuit”? How, in our many ministries and vocations, do we express, recognize and support those values?

Ignatian men and women from across the Jesuit spectrum will provide daily reflections (available in Spanish as well as English). Carefully selected music, video, art and poetry will enrich our prayer. Sign up for daily emails or PDFs here(scroll to the bottom of that web page to find the signup form).

FutureChurch Prepares for Easter
FutureChurch has made their updated St. Mary of Magdala package for Easter available on their web site.

Affiliate News

VOTF Weymouth
Weymouth VOTF affiliate will view and discuss two films on clergy abuse produced by BC professor/documentarians, John J. and Susan A. Michalczyk.

On Tuesday, March 10th we will focus on courageous survivors and their stories with “Who Takes Away the Sins: Witnesses to Clergy Abuse”

On Tuesday, April 14th we will focus on the stories of Catholic Whistleblowers who support survivors regardless of the retaliation they experience with “A Matter of Conscience: Confronting Clergy Abuse.

Come and be inspired!
St. Albert’s church hall (downstairs)
1130 Washington St.
Weymouth, MA
7-9 pm
All welcome! Refreshments and plenty of parking.

In case of storms, the film will be rescheduled for the next meeting on the 2nd Tuesday of the month.

VOTF North Shore-Seacoast
Don’t miss this timely lecture by:
Reverend William Clark, S.J.,
Associate Professor of Religious Studies, College of the Holy Cross
Sunday, March 15,2015
7:00 to 9:00 PM
Immaculate Conception Parish, Newburyport
In the Church

Here is Fr. Bill’s description:
Following the earthquake of reorganization in U.S. Catholic parishes over the last 10 years, especially in the Northeast, the Church at the local level finds itself faced with a great many new challenges, with most of the old ones also still in place. We are still faced with questions about the most appropriate style of pastoral leadership (paternal, corporate, collaborative, familial, etc.) for our local communities, and about where we will find the needed leaders.

Between the temptations toward “mega-church” on the one hand and the pretense that old structures can be preserved unchanged on the other hand, Catholic communities remain at a crucial decision-point. The talk will explore the necessity of “intimate community” for Christian faith, the creative impulses that arise in a sense of “ownership” of such communities, and promising experiences of collaborative leadership that can be observed all over the world.

Resources: A list of related readings will be distributed at the talk itself; attendees may wish to browse this small sampling of websites beforehand: the former “Project INSPIRE” in Chicago, the “National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management”, and the Filipino organization “Bukal ng Tipan” which has been giving workshops all over the world.

Directions to Immaculate Conception Parish, 5 Court Street, Newburyport: From North or South: Take Interstate 95 to Exit 57 onto Rte. 113East – Storey Ave. After passing two shopping plazas on the right, bear right as Storey Ave. turns into High Street. Proceed toward downtown Newburyport Court Street is on the left after you pass the Kelley School and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Parking lot is on the right after entering Court Street, and the lecture is in the church not the parish center.


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


O’Malley says cardinals more open to reform
“Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley said on Monday (Feb. 16) that aprior climate of denial among Catholic cardinals on the need for reform with regard to the church’s child sexual abuse scandals has been largely driven underground. O’Malley also said that a lack of accountability for bishops who fail to make ‘zero tolerance’ policies stick has damaged the church’s credibility, and vowed that he will present proposals for new accountability mechanisms to the pope within two months’ time.” By John L. Allen, Jr., The Boston Globe
Cardinal O’Malley: the Catholic sex abuse scandal is far from over, By Phillip Pullella, Reuters, on Religion News Service
Pope’s sex abuse point man urges bishop accountability, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press
Sexual abuse prevention center to move to Rome’s Gregorian University, By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

Pope Francis already has the power and authority necessary to hold bishops and religious major superiors accountable
“Catholic Whistleblowers appreciates the efforts of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to hold accountable those bishops and religious major superiorswho have failed to deal with priests who have sexually abused minors … Yet, we also note that the Commission does not need to reinvent the wheel. The Code of Canon Law already provides the way for Pope Francis to deal with these bishops and religious superiors.” By Catholic Whistleblowers Steering Committee

Survey finds serious flaws in diocesan financial management
“The Catholic priesthood is aging at an alarming rate, and thousands of U.S. diocesan priests are expected to retire within the next few years. With most diocesan priest pension plans significantly underfunded, questions over where the money comes from to support them may point to a major crisis in the making … Another, more hidden crisis lurks in diocesan pension reserves that are underfunded, many of them seriously …The hierarchy must admit that changes are needed in financial management.” By Jack Ruhl, National Catholic Reporter

Archdiocese’s bankruptcy will include search for assets
“The bankruptcy of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis takes another step forward Tuesday (Mar. 3) afternoon with the first meeting of the creditors committee. Citing clergy-abuse lawsuits and the costs of future claims, the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in January. Its Chapter 11 filing requires alleged victims to file claims in federal court as creditors.” By Martin Moylan, Minnesota Public Radio
Twin Cities archdiocese looks at selling key properties, By Jean Hopfensperger, Star Tribune

Catholic Church fought sex abuse victim’s claims to deter others, inquiry finds
“Cardinal George Pell and the Sydney archdiocese fought a legal claim by an abuse victim, John Ellis, to discourage others from attempting the same, the royal commission has found. It also confirmed the Catholic church repeatedly failed in its dealings with victims of child sexual abuse at the hands of clergy.” By Helen Davidson, The Guardian

Key African prelate backs communion for divorced, remarried
“A key African participant in October’s looming Synod of Bishops on the family said Tuesday (Feb. 10) he’s open to allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion, belying impressions of a uniformly hostile African stance toward change on such matters.” By John L. Allen, Jr.,

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


Rescheduled Program at St. Susanna’s in Dedham MA
Professor Mary Joan Leith’s course entitled “Angels – Mesopotamia to Modernity,” will be held Monday March 2, 2015.

As a brief description:
Mary Joan Leith is full of surprises. As an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Stonehill College, Leith says that students often have preconceived notions about what they are going to learn in her classes. She likes to challenge these ideas. “I love surprising my students with crazy stories,” she says. “I like seeing students come into a class and think, for instance, ‘It’s not really something I’m interested in.’ Then I see them get excited. I like turning on the light bulb.” Leith recently showed parts of the British comedy Monty Python’s Life of Brian to illustrate some of the facts about Jesus’ lifetime – and the students loved it. “I like to bring in unusual things, keep them on their toes; give the class the sense that it’s going to be worth it to walk into my classroom every day.”

A frequent and very popular visitor to Saint Susanna Adult Faith Formation, Prof. Leith will lead us through the history of angels over the centuries.

As usual, the session will run from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM, at the Saint Susanna Parish Hall, 262 Needham Street, Dedham. There is no pre-registration requirement, and there is no fee, although free will offerings to support the program will be gratefully accepted. Come and See!

Letter to the Editor

I would just like you to know that my parish, Saint John XXIII Catholic Community in Albuquerque, New Mexico, does celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation in Rite 3 regularly at the beginning of Lent and of Advent. Our church, which seats a thousand, is usually standing-room-only for these celebrations
Dr. James T. Hanlon

Questions, Comments?

Please send them to Siobhan Carroll, Vineyard Editor, Unless otherwise indicated, I will assume comments can be published as Letters to the Editor.