In the Vineyard: February 28, 2019

In the Vineyard :: February 28, 2019 :: Volume 19, Issue 4

News from National

Save the Date …

The Voice of the Faithful Annual Meeting is scheduled for October 19, 2019, at the Boston Marriott Newton. You get a special deal if you register early: $125 for TWO tickets.

Click here to register — Two-for-one offer is good through March 22 …

Our special return guest speaker will be the Honorable Anne M. Burke, Illinois Supreme Court Justice, who last spoke to us during our 10th Anniversary Conference in 2012. She served as only the second chair of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ National Review Board, charged with auditing dioceses’ adherence to child protection guidelines set down in the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Much has happened since then, and we look forward to hearing whether she sees much progress–especially after the February synod.

Vatican Should Sanction Cardinal Pell Immediately

Cardinal George Pell has become the highest-ranking Catholic Church official known to be convicted of child sexual abuse. Pope Francis has prohibited him from publicly exercising his priestly ministry. VOTF suggests Pope Francis immediately remove Pell as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy and his cardinal’s red hat.

Pell, on leave from his role as Vatican treasurer in order to face charges in Australia, actually was convicted in December 2018, but a judicial gag order prevented reporting on the trial and conviction because Pell was awaiting a second trial, which now will not take place. He faces sentencing this week for five charges related to sexual abuse of two boys in 1996. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years, so Pell potentially could face a 50-year sentence.

The Vatican, according to a spokesman, will wait for Pell’s appeal before taking further action. In the prevailing atmosphere of zero tolerance, VOTF expects more, especially after the recently concluded Vatican summit where bishops talked about “transparency, responsibility and accountability” and the Pope called for an “all-out battle against the abuse of minors.”

The Vatican Conference on Sex Abuse

The Vatican Conference on Sex Abuse concluded to mixed reviews. Activists were disappointed by the lack of concrete steps but there were some positives, said Anne Barrett Doyle of The National Catholic Reporter said that she “regretted the failure of the meeting to come up with concrete internal reforms. ‘But in a larger sense, it achieved a great deal,’ she said. It became a place where connections occurred ‘between journalists and survivors from many countries. This was public education on a massive scale,’” The complete NCR article can be found here:

During the Vatican Conference, Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, made a proposal for increased bishop accountability, according to a New York Times article. According to the Times, Cardinal Cupich acknowledged to his colleagues at the Conference “that the faithful had a right to doubt the church when abuse was “covered up” to protect the abuser or the institution.” The proposal would allow top clerics to investigate Bishops, a power which is not permitted under current Canon Law. The complete article can be found here:

Financial Transparency in the Catholic Church

VOTF has long advocated for financial transparency within the Church. Without transparency, congregations are often left wondering where their money is being used and why their churches are being shut down. VOTF’s Financial Accountability Group has information about all U.S. dioceses as well as resources to help you understand your diocese’s and parish’s level of accountability. Lack of transparency on financial matters has signficant consequences. Here are two snapshots on how archdioceses have handled recent land sales. One has an extremely low score on the Diocesan Transparency scale and the other a score near the top.

Mobile: Recently, a VOTF member alerted us to the sale of St Joseph’s Church in Mobile, Alabama, a diocese that scored 10 on our Diocesan Transparency report in 2017 and raised its score to a still low 22 (ion a scale of 60) in 2018.

Mobile Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi apparently closed the historic church without a written decree and merely had the sale announced “from the pulpit.” As a result, the parishioners, who awaited the formal decree, did not have proper notice for filing an appeal. The property apparently was sold to a parishioner at a neighboring parish, for a sum millions of dollars less than adjacent properties. The bishop also reportedly said that he had “no plans” to close the church until that neighboring parish requested the closure and asked him to send the relics and stained glass windows and other objects to them.

St, Joseph parishioners are trying to appeal the decision, on the basis that they were denied proper notification, but dismantling of the historic structure appears to have already started. You can track the details on the Facebook page the Friends of St. Joseph launched. You can read more about St. Joseph’s in this local publication as well.

Chicago: The Chicago archdiocese scored 50 on our scale in 2017 and improved to 55 last year. As a result, their transactions are more transparent to the faithful. Recently the diocese sold a parking lot for $100 million to cover debts owed survivors of clergy sex abuse, according to a story in the Chicago Sun Times. Church officials there have long said that money collected from the faithful in the pews would not be used pay for sex abuse costs, but by land sales and short-term borrowing. Cardinal Blase J. Cupich has continued the practice. “We use the proceeds from asset sales and borrowings to pay abuse claims,” Cupich spokeswoman Paula Waters says. “We use interim borrowings to meet obligations in advance of receiving sale proceeds.”

However, as the report noted, all of a parish’s and a diocese’s assets ultimately trace back to donations–even those said to come from insurance. Numerous dioceses are, in fact, self-insured. Premium payments and self-insurance costs therefore trace back to donations by the faithful.


Pope defrocks Theodore McCarrick, ex-cardinal accused of sexual abuse
Pope Francis has expelled Theodore E. McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop of Washington, from the priesthood, after the church found him guilty of sexually abusing minors and adult seminarians over decades, the Vatican said on Saturday (Feb. 16). The move appears to be the first time any cardinal has been defrocked for sexual abuse — marking a critical moment in the Vatican’s handling of a scandal that has gripped the church for nearly two decades. It is also the first time an American cardinal has been removed from the priesthood.”By Elizabeth Dias and Jason Horowitz, The New York Times

Australian Cardinal George Pell convicted of child sex abuse
A high-ranking Catholic official has been convicted of child sex abuseand is due to be sentenced Wednesday (Feb. 27). Australian Cardinal George Pell, a top adviser to Pope Francis who was in charge of Vatican finances until he was accused, was found guilty of five charges of ‘historical child sexual offenses’ that go back decades. A jury in the County Court of Victoria in Melbourne where Pell, 77, was once archbishop, found the cardinal guilty after two days of deliberation in December.” By Richard Gonzales, National Public Radio

After abuse crisis, Holy Spirit planning new ‘season’ for the church
“The laity may be angry over the most recent revelations of the Catholic Church’s sex abuse crisis, but bishops, particularly younger ones, share in that anger and ‘want to move with real force’ toward solutions and it could yield a new season for the church, said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Feb. 6.” By Rhina Guidos, Catholic News Service, on

Why does the Catholic Church keep failing on sexual abuse, By Emma Green
“A few years after Seán O’Malley took over the Archdiocese of Boston in 2003, at the peak of the clergy sexual-abuse crisis in America, he led novenas of penance at nine of the city’s most affected parishes. At each church he visited, he lay facedown on the floor before the altar, begging for forgiveness. This is how O’Malley has spent his life in ministry: cleaning up after pedophile priests and their apologists, and serving as the Catholic Church’s public face of repentance and reform.” By Emma Green, The Atlantic

How Long, O Lord, Must We Wait
“How long O Lord? How long must we wait for both clergy and laity to recognize that incremental change will not work? We need wide-ranging structural reform. We need checks and balances rather than the feudal governance we have now in which each bishop is the undisputed master of his diocesan fief. Catholic patience is (finally) running out. And many Catholics are working to find solutions rather than enable the present moribund clerical system.” By Christine Schenk, National Catholic Reporter

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


Two Events at Boston College

Boston College’s Margaret Eletta Guider, O.S.F., STM Professor of Missiology, and Chair of the Ecclesiastical Faculty, will present a lecture entitled “Confronting the Soul-Devouring Dragon: Sexual Abuse and the Mystery of Evil” on Thursday, March 21, 5:30-7:00 p.m., in the Corcoran Commons, Heights Room, Chestnut Hill Campus. Admission is free. Register here!

Revitalizing Our Church: Ideas from the Catholic Press: Boston College’s C21 Easter Series presents “Revitalizing Our Church: Ideas from the Catholic Press,” on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, 7:00 P.M., Devlin Hall, Room 110. The event features John Allen Vatican Analyst and Editor,Crux and Matt Malone S.J., President and Editor in Chief, America Media. Register here:

Pope’s March Prayer Intention

Pope’s prayer intention for March: ‘For formation in spiritual discernment’

In his March prayer intention, “formation in spiritual discernment,” Pope Francis discusses how the times in which we live demand that we develop a profound capacity of discernment … To discern, from among all the voices we hear, which is the Lord’s voice, which is the voice of Him who guides us to the Resurrection, to Life, and the voice that frees us from falling into the “culture of death”. Every Christian ought to grow in the ability to “read within” his or her life, and to understand where and to what he or she is being called by the Lord, in order to carry on his mission.


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