In the Vineyard: July 13, 2020

In the Vineyard :: July 13, 2020 :: Volume 20, Issue 13

News from National

Richard Lennan Returns as Conference Speaker

VOTF welcomes back Boston College theology professor Richard Lennan
as a speaker to our 2020 Conference: Visions of a Just Church, a virtual Zoom gathering. Fr. Lennan is professor of systematic theology and Professor Ordinarius in the School of Theology and Ministry. He will speak about the new Church governance document prepared for Australia’s bishops to consider this year. Fr. Lennan helped develop the document, which promises to be a guide toward a more lay-participatory Church.

Lennan grew up in Newcastle, Australia, and has been a priest of the diocese of Maitland-Newcastle since 1983. He has taught systematic theology in the Catholic Institute of Sydney and served as president of the Australian Catholic Theological Association. He began teaching at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in 2007 and continued teaching at Boston College after Weston became part of BC. Lennan currently directs STM’s Sacred Theology Licensure program, serves on the editorial board of Theological Studies, and chairs the steering committee of the Karl Rahner Society.

Together with two BC colleagues, Lennan wrote “To Serve the People of God: Renewing the Conversation on Priesthood and Ministry,” about which he spoke at last year’s conference. The proposals call for reexamining the formation process for diocesan priests and eradicating the priesthood’s embedded clerical culture. Lennan also is the author of two books, and he has edited five others.

We will alert you to additional speakers during the summer, and to features that will enhance your experience during a virtual assembly. Also we are re-creating, virtually, one of the features our members most enjoy: the opportunity to meet other attendees and discuss issues affecting the Church today. Those small-group meetings will take place Friday evening, Oct. 2. Look for information on how to participate when you register.

Cost for the virtual 2020 Conference is just $50. We will be offering the same mix of interesting speakers and evocative conversation as always, so stay tuned for more information.

For more information and to register for the online Zoom VOTF 2020 Conference, click here.

If you prefer to mail in your registration, click here and download the form.

Church Receives Between $1.4 and $3.5 Billion Through Paycheck Protection Program

The U.S. Catholic Church received between $1.4 and $3.5 billion through the Paycheck Protection Act, a stimulus package from the government aimed at small businesses. Through an exemption for religious organizations, individual parishes within the same diocese were able to apply for the loans, which are forgivable if they self-certify that the funds went towards certain expenses, including paychecks of employees.

Parishes and affiliates, such as parochial schools, can use the money to pay teachers, janitors, priests, and other employees, as well as utility bills and related overhead, and eventually have the loans forgiven. Loans used to cover non-eligible expenses, however, will be due on a payment plan worked out between the lending institute and the borrower just like a regualr loan. Interest on the portions paid back from the loan will be at a lower rate than most similar loans, however.

An analysis of the Catholic entities receiving PPP funds was conducted by Associated Press reporters Michael Rezendes and Reese Dunklin. National Public Radio interviewed Mr. Rezendes after publication. They identified at least 3,500 such loans were extended to the Catholic Church, making the Church one of the largest awardees of any group through this program.

In their report on the analysis, Dunklin and Rezendes noted that financial stress on some dioceses and parishes came not only from the coronovirus but also from the settlements and legal fees paid to settle child abuse claims in the Church.

Funds are certainly tight in the Church due to Coronavirus. Cancelled masses deprived parishes of the revenue they would have generated through Holy Week and the Easter holidays, and with tuition fees for next year being uncertain, the future is no more comforting for Catholic schools. The added cost of following social distancing and disinfection protocols in church buildings and schools looms ahead. However, an added complication is the payouts to survivors of clergy sexual abuse, especially over the past two years. $282 million dollars were spent in 2019 to cover the costs of settlements and legal fees in allegations and cases of sexual abuse.

Because the fund amounts are not public, especially in the under-$150,000 category, and the loan amounts are ranges, the actual amount received by Catholic parishes is unknown. The lack of transparency by both the government and the Church is troubling. Some argue that taxpayer money should not be funding religious organizations. However, religious groups do provide jobs and support for community members, feeding, clothing, and sheltering others. Other religious organizations were also eligible for loans and received them as well.

For VOTF’s statement on financial accountability, please see here.

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


Annual audit shows more than 4,400 allegations of clergy abuse reported
More than 4,400 allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy were reported during the year ending June 30, 2019, a significant jump from the previous auditing period, according to a report on diocesan and eparchial compliance with the U.S. bishops’ ‘Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.’ Released June 25, the 17th annual report from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection states that 4,220 child sexual abuse survivors filed 4,434 allegations. In the 2017-2018 audit period, 1,381 survivors filed 1,451 allegations.” By Catholic News Service

Pope moves against Polish bishop accused of hiding predators
“Pope Francis has ordered a Polish bishop to leave his central diocese and let someone else run it while he is under investigation for covering up cases of sexual abuse that were featured in a second clergy abuse documentary that has rocked Poland’s Catholic Church. Francis on Thursday (Jun. 25) named the archbishop of Lodz, Grzegorz Rys, to temporarily take over as head of the Kalisz diocese.” By Nicole Winfield and Monika Scislowska, Associated Press

Abuse allegations against former Springfield Bishop Christopher Weldon ‘unequivocally credible,’ investigation finds
“A retired superior court judge’s review of sexual abuse allegations against former Bishop Christopher J. Weldon, who led the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield for more than 25 years, found the accusations to be ‘unequivocally credible. Meanwhile, mandatory reporters in the diocese who first heard the alleged victim’s account failed to report the matter to law enforcement officials, according to the executive summary for a 350-plus page report released Wednesday (Jun. 24) by the diocese. The report is the product of an investigation by retired Superior Court Judge Peter A. Velis, who was hired a year ago to investigate the matter.” By Anne-Gerard Flynn, The Springfield Republican

Money for trauma
“The surreal pink and orange hues of New Norcia shoot up out of the sparse Western Australian landscape, just shy of two hours north of Perth. A self-styled quirky stop-off for tourists, it is home to Australia’s only monastic town. New Norcia is also home to one of Australia’s worst records of alleged historical abuse of any institution in the country.” By Jeremy Story Carter, ABC Australia

Report on sexual abuse allegations against late Springfield Bishop Christopher Weldon could prove pivotal
“A soon-to-be-released report nearly a year in the making could shed light on decades of sexual abuse by clergy in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield and forever change how one of its most influential bishops is viewed. Last July, retired Superior Court Judge Peter A. Velis was asked by Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct made against the late Bishop Christopher J. Weldon dating back to the early 1960s. The report is expected to be released before Rozanski is installed as Archbishop of St. Louis on Aug. 25.” By Anne-Gerard Flynn, Springfield Republican on

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

Abuse Allegations in Philippines Test Pope Francis’s Promises on Accountability

An abuse allegation in the Philippines is testing the strength of Pope Francis’s promise to confront such allegations in an “all-out battle” across the globe. A four-year-old girl has identified Reverend Aron Buenacosa as her abuser, in Asia’s largest Catholic-majority country, where 8 in 10 people identify as Catholic. Religion is deeply intertwined with politics, and the court system leans overwhelmingly in favor of priests. Not a single priest has been convicted of child abuse or sexual misconduct, and few cases have even come to court trials.

What sets this case apart is that President Rodrigo Duterte has announced that the Justice Department will oversee the prosecution rather than the local prosecutors, as is the norm. The abuse allegation, reported last year in February 2019, was supported by the parish secretary and cook, who reported seeing other troubling behavior from Father Aron.

The priest has since been relieved of his duties, although the trial has been delayed due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Father Aron’s supporters have been out in full force, offering affidavits in his defense while treating the child and her parents like pariahs.

Bishop Alminaza has been providing updates to the Vatican on the ongoing investigation and trial, as well as setting up an office through which parishioners can report suspected cases of abuse, in line with the Pope’s directive for worldwide reporting processes.

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

For advocacy and support resources, please see here.

Pope Francis Urges Catholics to Seek God’s Face in Migrants

As Pope Francis celebrated the 7th anniversary of his visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa, he urged listeners to seek the face of God in those of migrants, calling for an inclusive Church that gathers all together. Seven years ago, he threw a wreath into the sea, symbolically remembering migrants who died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. This week, he spoke of migrants being held in detention camps.

“It is He who knocks on our door, hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned, seeking an encounter with us and requesting our assistance,” the Pope said. He also called for special thought and prayer for those who were forced to flee their homelands due to injustice.

Podcast: Will the new commission on women deacons turn out any differently from the last one?

This week on “Inside the Vatican,” Colleen Dulle speaks with Phyllis Zagano about the church’s history not only of ordaining women deacons, but also the conversation around ordaining them again.

Listen here.


Phyllis Zagano & Women Deacons, a Zoom event

Phyllis Zagano, PhD., the internationally recognized Catholic scholar, is hosting a Zoom meeting about women deacons, which will be moderated by Sister Colleen Gibson, SSJ, and you are invited.

The Zoom meeting takes place on Jul. 21, 2020, at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time (U.S. & Canada). Register in advance by clicking here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Please let others know about this worthwhile meeting.


Women Erased: In Search of the Majority

FutureChurch’s Women Erased Series continues on July 14th at 8pm Eastern: Throughout the early (2nd-6th) Christian centuries, the lives of most women were lived in silence, while the few elite ascetic women got at least some attention. What about the rest?

Dr. Carolyn Osiek, RSCJ, Catholic Professor of New Testament emerita at Brite Divinity School and past president of the Catholic Biblical Association, will explore the lives of these early Christian women, paying attention to how prevailing cultural norms and philosophies – not the gospel of Jesus – silenced them. For more information and to sign up, click here.


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