News from National
VOTF Thanks Pontifical Commission
for Prompting New Tribunal
for Holding Bishops Accountable
This week VOTF thanked the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and Cardinal Sean O’Malley for presenting proposals to Pope Francis that have led to the establishment of a new Vatican tribunal for judicial review of allegations against bishops involved in clergy sexual abuse of children.
VOTF also thanked Pope Francis for approving the tribunal and authorizing funding for it.
Time will tell whether these moves actually result in holding bishops accountable for cover-ups of crimes, but these steps are the most promising the Vatican has yet taken.
VOTF is hopeful that the Pope will authorize similar funding for the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Unlike other Vatican committees, the Commission answers directly to the Pope and not to other Curial offices, and funding is essential for the Commission to maintain its independence from the Curia.
Regarding the Pontifical Commission, you may find interesting the following links from Marie Collins’ talk at the VOTF 2015 National Assembly:
Second Healing Circle in Boston
On June 7, 2015, VOTF and the Restorative Justice Committee held its third Healing Circle, the second in Boston, MA. This one took place in a meeting room made available by the Franciscan friars at the St. Anthony Shrine and Ministry Center.
As with the two prior Healing Circles, the 10 participants all experienced and continue to suffer harm in their own unique experiences of the Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal. They included victims/survivors; the parents of and advocates for victims/survivors; lay people that left the pews and others who have stayed in the pews as they struggled to respond to the harm; and church workers who were caught in the middle of the scandal.
The participants engaged in a deep process of speaking, and listening to, the stories each shared, and they drew much welcome support from the commonalities in their own experiences, regarding not only specific instances of abuse, but also hierarchical malfeasance in response to them. They left the 7.5-hour conversation with a strong sense of validation about their stories, a great relief to have found a safe and nurturing space in which to hold the pain from their harm, and a renewed hope in their own journeys towards healing.
VOTF and its partners remain convinced that Healing Circles can fill the 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 2002. Plans are underway to hold another Healing Circle in September in NYC. Discussions are in progress about the feasibility of Healing Circles in Seattle, Toronto, and Ireland.
If you know of individuals or members of faith communities for whom a Healing Circle might be a good fit, ask them to contact Bill Casey (703-568-3438; firstname.lastname@example.org), or Jayne O’Donnell (860-335-4259; email@example.com).
A Prayer for the Synod
Lord God, we seek to follow the example of your Word, your Son, and our Brother, Jesus. We know from Him that your Holy Spirit is with us when we gather together in Your Name.
Therefore, it is important to us that the community gathered in Your Name — Your Church — remains strong.
That it engages with the world, your marvelous creation, and through that engagement, inspires us and our children, grandchildren, and all generations that follow.
We believe that this is only possible for a Church that defines itself by what it stands for, rather than by what it stands against. A Church that measures itself by who it includes, rather than by who it excludes. A Church that shuns actions taken in darkness and exposes all of its actions, even it shortcomings, to the light.
We long for a Church that acknowledges the full value of all its people and bases its judgments on Your Word.
Please help us become that Church. Amen.
By Philip W. Megna,
MA Theology, VOTF Trustee
Highlighting issues we face working together to Keep the Faith, Change the Church
Pope creates abuse tribunal for cases of bishop negligence
“Pope Francis has created a new Vatican tribunal section to hear cases of bishops accused of failing to protect children from sexually abusive priests, the biggest step the Holy See has taken yet to hold bishops accountable. For years, the Vatican has been criticized by victims, advocacy groups and others for having failed to ever punish or forcibly remove a bishop who covered up for clergy who raped or molested children.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press
— Pope creates tribunal for bishop negligence in child sexual abuse cases, By Elisabetta Povoledo and Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times
— Francis approves process of accountability for bishops on sexual abuse, By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter
— No more ‘daddy’s boys,’ By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com
— Pope creates tribunal to hold bishops accountable, By John L. Allen, Jr., and Rosa Nguyen, National Catholic Reporter
— ‘Sea change’ in Catholic sex abuse scandal, By Daniel Burke, CNN
Minnesota archdiocese is charged in abuse scandal
“Prosecutors in Minnesota filed criminal charges Friday (June 5) against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, accusing church leaders of mishandling repeated complaints of sexual misconduct against a priest and failing to follow through on pledges to protect children and root out pedophile clergymen. The charges and accompanying civil petition, announced by the Ramsey County prosecutor, John J. Choi, stem from accusations by three male victims who say that from 2008 to 2010, when they were underage, a local priest, Curtis Wehmeyer, gave them alcohol and drugs before sexually assaulting them.” By Mitch Smith, The New York Times
— Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis charged with ‘failing to protect’ clergy abuse victims, by Jean Hopfensperger, Start Tribune
— Minnesota charges Catholic archdiocese with failure to protect children from abuse, By Reuters in Religion News Service
— Catholic archdiocese in Minnesota charged in priest sex abuse, By Ben Brumfield, CNN
— Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis charged in child sex abuse case, By Tina Susman, Los Angeles Times
— Twin Cities archdiocese charged with child endangerment, By Grant Gallicho, Commonweal
— Whistleblower: ‘It’s pretty much same old, same old’ at the St. Paul archdiocese, by Emily Kaiser, Minnesota Public Radio
Pope Francis swift to accept resignation of the Primate of Belgium
“Pope Francis swiftly accepted the resignation of Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, the Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and Primate of Belgium. As required by canon law, Archbishop Léonard submitted his letter of resignation on May 6 upon reaching the age of 75. The Belgian archdiocese announced on Monday (June 1) that the Pope had accepted it, despite Archbishop Léonard only being in the position since 2010. A Belgian court recently ruled that Archbishop Léonard was guilty of misconduct in failing to take action in a sex abuse case, which dated back to when he was Bishop of Namur, from 1991 to 2010.” By Catholic Herald
Click here to read the rest of this issue of Focus …
Robert Blair Kaiser, before he died, wrote a biography of Fr. Tom Doyle and that book will be published in June. The publisher has provided the following information:
The biography has a dedication by Tom Doyle, an epilogue by Tom Fox, summary data from BishopsAccountability.org, and a reprint of Doyle’s Presentation at SNAP on August 2, 2014. It will be available at Amazon and on Kindle by June 15th, likely for $12.95 and $6.95.
Mandatory Celibacy: Time to Discuss Its Flaws
The following article was written by Edward J. Greenan.
Ed Greenan served Voice of the Faithful as a trustee and as a member of several VOTF committees, including one examining optional celibacy and clericalism. Ed earned his B.A. from the Seminary of the Diocese of Providence, RI; his S.T.B. from Gregorian University in Rome, Italy; an M.A. and Ph.D. in romance languages and literatures from Catholic University of America; a Graduate Certificate in Byzantine Studies at Catholic University of America; and a Certificate in Russian Language Studies from the Defense Language Institute. He is a retired U.S. Navy Captain.
Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church, in particular, are in crisis. For the past 30 years theologians, ecclesiologists, sociologists, and historians have documented this crisis—one with great peril for the established Church but also, as in any crisis, one with potential for decisions and new choices.
I see those opportunities as a challenge for the laity, to address the rifts that divide the People of God from our ordained leadership. More, I see opportunities for lay people to lead in a situation that demands our voices be heard. The time is long past to examine the flaws in our ministerial social fabric. If our ordained hierarchical leadership cannot or will not address the centuries-long rift separating the baptized People of God, then the non-ordained baptized must step forward as Vatican II, inLumen Gentium, challenged us to do.
It is not pleasant to call our leaders to account.
By Father James Martin
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change,
which is pretty much everyone,
since I’m clearly not you, God.
At least not the last time I checked.
And while you’re at it, God,
please give me the courage
to change what I need to change about myself,
which is frankly a lot, since, once again,
I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.
It’s better for me to focus on changing myself
than to worry about changing other people,
who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying,
I can’t change anyway.
Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up
whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter
than everyone else in the room,
that no one knows what they’re talking about except me,
or that I alone have all the answers.
grant me the wisdom
to remember that I’m
Originally printed in The Jesuit Post.
Please send them to Siobhan Carroll, Vineyard Editor, atVineyard@votf.org. Unless otherwise indicated, I will assume comments can be published as Letters to the Editor.