News from National
Child Protection Working Group Update
In anticipation of April 2016, National Child Protection month, we will provide reminders about the ongoing need to be proactive in the protection of our children and will call attention to resources on the creation and maintenance of safe parish environments.
During the early months of every year the Catholic Church draws our attention to human dignity, an important teaching from the Catechism: The “human body shares in the ‘dignity of the image of God’ ” (CCC 364). Dignity understood as a God-given gift fosters the belief and awareness that every person deserves love and respect. This teaching requires us to protect the dignity of all humans, including children and the elderly. We are called to protect these most vulnerable members of our society from abuse because harm of any kind ignores and disrespects our God-given human dignity.
Churches, schools, and youth organizations must ensure that children and youth who worship, study, or participate in activities sponsored by a parish can do so in the safest and most secure setting possible. VOTF encourages all the faithful to be proactive in our own parishes to ensure the safety of children. Here’s one thing you can check right from your home computer!
How can you look for information on your parish?
Every diocese and parish should have an abuse prevention coordinator, also known as the victims’ assistance coordinator. This person can inform you about child protection measures in your parish or diocese. Check out your own parish website or look for the name and contact information of the coordinator in your diocese on the US Catholic Conference of Bishops’ website.
Watch the new movie “Spotlight” and Support VOTF at the Same Time!
“Spotlight” is not only raising awareness of the mechanics of the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church but has been nominated for six Oscars. If you haven’t seen it yet – it is available for preorder on DVD and you can reserve a copy and support VOTF at the same time.
The New Yorker Magazine also had an interesting article this month – What Pope Benedict knew about abuse in the Catholic Church (Jan. 14, 2016) “The election of Pope Francis, in 2013, had the effect, among other things, of displacing the painful story of priestly sexual abuse that had dominated public awareness of the Church during much of the eight-year papacy of his predecessor. The sense that the Church, both during the last years of Benedict and under Francis, had begun to deal more forcefully with the issue created a desire in many, inside and outside the Church, to move on. But recent events suggest that we take another careful look at this chapter of Church history before turning the page.” By Alexander Stille, The New Yorker https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/what-pope-benedict-knew-about-abuse-in-the-catholic-church
A space for different voices to speak on topics of importance in church reform—beginning with assessments of Adaptive Change
Adaptive Change: Keep the Faith, Change the Church
By Priscilla Deck
Old style change is characterized by the replacement of the old by a new idea, organization, and/or concept. It is concerned with survival. Adaptive change, however, seeks to retain the values and rituals that give the organization meaning while reforming those characteristics that now prevent the organization from thriving. Survival alone is not enough; the institution and those it touches must thrive.
In the Catholic Church, adaptive change will be characterized both by loss—privilege, secrecy, access—and by conservation—faith, tradition, spiritual values, ritual.
Each issue we face in VOTF has a technical aspect and an adaptive one. Technical solutions address symptoms—legal action on behalf of abuse survivors, for example, or security measures put in place to ensure the integrity of the collection plate.
These technical solutions are necessary and difficult enough. But they aren’t sufficient unless they are accompanied by adaptive changes in behaviors, attitudes, and values within the Church. These are the human aspects of adaptive change and inevitably involve some pain and loss along the way.
Voice of the Faithful embodies the spirit of adaptive change in its motto, “Keep the Faith, Change the Church.” Easy to say, but challenging to do. So the question, “What must we relinquish in order for the faith community to thrive?” is balanced by the question, “What is essential to our identity as Catholics that must be preserved in order for the faith community to have meaning?”
Why is this so difficult? As change guru Ron Heifetz puts it, “That is hard work … because it challenges individuals’ and organizations’ investments in relationships, competence and identity. It requires a modification of the stories they have been telling themselves and the rest of the world about what they believe in, stand for, and represent.” (Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, Marty Linsky, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing your Organization and the World(Harvard Business Press, Boston, MA, 2009, p. 23).)
You can really change the world if you care enough. –Marian Wright Edelman
Next column: Is the system broken?
Our new poll has two questions, one for women and one for married men.
Each question explores a potential change that bishops could initiate simply by requesting the appropriate approval from Rome and returning to previous well-documented practices in the Church—without any need to engage in theological gender wars.
Let us know if, were it possible, you would seek to be ordained as a deacon (women) or a priest (married men).
(Just to emphasize: We are looking at these options because both could be available today, without any further action except a request from a bishop and an OK from Rome.)
Phyllis Zagano of Hofstra University and a leading authority on women deacons in the Catholic Church recently published a note on the issue in the Harvard Divinity Bulletin(link is external). Dr. Zagano summarizes the back-and-forth that has ensued since Vatican II among those theologians and scholars who acknowledge the evidence for women deacons and those who say that any ordination of a female, even as a deacon, cannot be allowed. Her primary message: If Pope Francis wants to address the Church’s lack of equality for women, a great place to start would be restoring the female diaconate.
She repeats her call to ordain women as deacons, a step that would at least go partway to achieving Pope Francis’s statements that he wants the Church to become more inclusive towards women.
Also of interest: Dr. Zagano’s latest book, a collection of essays on being Catholic and female. In the Image of Christ: Essays on Being Catholic and Female is available in both Kindle and paperback format. If you purchase either version via Amazon, please use the Amazon link in the right-hand sidebar of this page so that VOTF will receive a portion of your purchase price as a donation.
Highlighting issues we face working together to Keep the Faith, Change the Church
What Pope Benedict knew about abuse in the Catholic Church
“The election of Pope Francis, in 2013, had the effect, among other things, of displacing the painful story of priestly sexual abuse that had dominated public awareness of the Church during much of the eight-year papacy of his predecessor. The sense that the Church, both during the last years of Benedict and under Francis, had begun to deal more forcefully with the issue created a desire in many, inside and outside the Church, to move on. But recent events suggest that we take another careful look at this chapter of Church history before turning the page.” By Alexander Stille, The New Yorker
Abuse survivor (Marie Collins) hopes 2016 sees results from Vatican safeguarding body
“Irish clerical abuse survivor Marie Collins has said she hopes 2016 will see results from the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, despite the ‘frustratingly slow’ pace of the reforms being developed by it. Speaking to NCR in a personal capacity, Collins, a member of the commission, admitted that she has found Vatican bureaucracy ‘very difficult.’ The safeguarding body, which is starting its third year of work, is headed up by Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley and holds its next plenary meeting at the beginning of February.” By Sarah Mac Donald, National Catholic Reporter
Lawyer alleges 231 children abused at German Catholic choir
“More than 200 children may have been abused, some of them sexually, by adults working with a Catholic children’s choir in southern Germany, a lawyer tasked with investigating the allegations said Friday (Jan. 8). Ulrich Weber said the 231 alleged victims included 50 who made ‘plausible’ claims of sexual abuse at the Regensburger Domspatzen boys’ choir and two associated boarding schools between 1953 and 1992.” By Associated Press on ABCNews.go.com
— Over 200 members of German choir were abused, investigator says, By Alison Smale, The New York Times
— Pope Benedict’s brother says he was unaware of abuse, By Melissa Eddy, The New York Times
— More victims counted in mass abuse of Catholic choir boys in Germany, By Amy Nordrum, International Business Times
Archbishop Nienstedt, Bishop Robert Finn have new homes outside former dioceses
[Late-breaking info: Bishop Nienstedt left the Michigan parish as a result of the controversy.]
“Two U.S. bishops who prematurely resigned their posts amid clergy sexual abuse scandals each have found new landing spots outside their previous dioceses. A southern Michigan parish announced over the weekend that Archbishop John Nienstedt, formerly head of the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese, will help out temporarily in the coming months, while Bishop Robert Finn, former head of the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo. diocese, began last month as chaplain for a Nebraska community of women religious.” By Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter
— Archbishop John Nienstedt, former head of Twin Cities Catholics, goes to Michigan parish, By Jean Hopfensperger, Star Tribune
— Catholics, community react to priest’s arrival amid sex abuse backdrop, By Rosemary Parker, Kalamazoo Gazette on MLive.com
— Embattled K.C. bishop starts anew in Lincoln convent, By Erin Andersen, Lincoln Journal Star
Click here to read the rest of this issue of Focus …
News from Pope Francis
This week Pope Francis officially changed the rite of the liturgy for Holy Thursday, allowing the washing of feet of women. According to the Vatican Information Service, Archdioceses, dioceses and parishes that have excluded women from this important rite, which reenacts Jesus’s washing of the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper, will now include them. This is a significant change in the rules governing this rite. While many parishes already included women, many others (including some in the US) have excluded them, even after Pope Francis himself washed the feet of women.
The Decree (in Latin and Italian):
And (in English) the text of the announcement from Vatican Information Service: https://www.news.va/en/news/the-pope-decrees-that-not-only-men-may-be-chosen-f
Join Saint Susanna’s as they discuss Jesus’s life and times on Monday, January 11th. This session does stand on its own, for those who missed Part 1, but this week Professor DesRosiers will insert Jesus as referenced in the Sacred Scriptures into the historical structure he laid out in Part 1. This is proving to be an outstanding presentation.
Dr. Nathaniel DesRosiers, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Stonehill College, Visiting Associate Professor of New Testament, Brown University
How did Jesus’ contemporaries understand him? What made the Jesus movement and early Christianity so appealing in a world filled with savior figures, heroes, and divine emperors?
What made Christianity succeed when so many other new religions in the period failed?
This session is part of a two-week program that will illuminate the rich social, historical, and religious contexts of the first-century Roman Empire, in order to show how Christianity developed and thrived in its early Mediterranean environment.
In exploring this subject we will examine what was life really like in the first century and why the Gospel message resonated with this audience. This discussion will help us to better understand what our Gospels tell us about Jesus’ teachings and their setting in the land of ancient Israel.
In addition we will discuss how issues such as wealth and poverty, gender, and the role of family profoundly influenced both the development of Christian texts and rituals and the early communities that produced them.
If you were not able to attend the first session on January 4, please join us on January 11 anyway. There is plenty more to learn!
Professor DesRosiers is a favorite at Saint Susanna, with his vast knowledge of the subject matter, excellent presentation skills, and delightful sense of humor.
Sessions will be held, as usual, in the parish hall at 262 Needham Street, Dedham, running each week from 7:00 to 9:00 PM. There is no pre-registration required, and there is no fee. Free refreshments will be served. Free Will Offerings will be gratefully received to cover our costs.
Please send them to Siobhan Carroll, Vineyard Editor, at Vineyard@votf.org. Unless otherwise indicated, I will assume comments can be published as Letters to the Editor.