In the Vineyard: June 22, 2020

In the Vineyard :: June 22, 2020 :: Volume 20, Issue 12

News from National

Conference Update

Dear Friends,

We value you and appreciate your apprehensions surrounding large gatherings during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Because of conflicting information regarding when large gatherings again will be safe, and from an abundance of caution and concern, we are changing our 2020 Conference: Visions of a Just Church from an in-person gathering to an online Zoom conference.

The online Zoom conference will take place Oct. 3, the same day that we had planned for the in-person conference. Click here for information and to register … The registration fee for the full-day online Zoom conference is just $50. (If you previously registered for VOTF’s 2020 Conference and paid the in-person registration fee, you will receive a refund for the difference in cost.)

Catholic studies scholar and expert on the women’s diaconate Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D., remains our featured speaker, and we are working diligently to ensure that we present the usual mix of interesting and informative speakers, evocative conversation, and VOTF program updates, albeit virtually. Stay tuned for more.

The challenges we face today due to this novel virus are unprecedented in our generation. We cannot adequately express our sympathy for the anguish caused by this disease. As much as we would like to gather in-person, this virtual option seems an extremely small sacrifice by comparison.

We hope and pray that you and your loved ones are healthy and will remain so, and we look forward to being able to “touch” you “virtually” on Oct. 3. For more details about the VOTF online conference, please click here.


Mary Pat Fox, President

VOTF Needs Your Support … Get a FREE Book

As part of our 2020 End-of-Fiscal-Year Appeal, Voice of the Faithful is offering a FREE book. Anyone who donates $100 or more (since May 1) will receive a copy of Women: Icons of Christ by Catholic studies scholar Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D.In

But this FREE book offer lasts only until Friday, Jun. 26, 2020. So, click here NOW to donate online and be sure you get your copy. Or send your donation of $100 or more to VOTF, P.O. Box 423, Newton, MA 02464

P.S. Anyone who has donated $100 or more since May 1, 2020, also receives the free book.

International News

Outlook from Australia

The Light from the Southern Cross. A Report on Catholic Church Governance

A VOTF friend from Melbourne reports that expectations are low for the planned Plenary Council there, despite the promise held out for significant change by the recent Implementation Advisory Group. “I must say that I think a good deal of what’s written is a bit too optimistic. Except for one bishop, (Bishop Long), ambition, incompetence, and inertia are deeply ingrained in our hierarchy. Despite all their words they’re neither interested in, nor equipped to take action towards reform.”

She expects the Plenary Council to be a delaying tactic instead of one that addresses the recommendations of the Royal Commission into clerical sexual abuse. “They have set out on a process that will give them the answers they want – not what we want them to hear!!” She also recommended an essay by Francis Sullivan, which expresses “what many of us, outside of or beyond clerical circles, agree with wholeheartedly.” Below are some notes from that article and a link to the full essay.

The Church culture of the past is still the culture we have today. And that is fundamentally what the Implementation Advisory Group (IAG) had to confront. How to navigate the realpolitik of the Catholic Church. No mean task for a group set up without any institutional clout or effective prominence.

Try writing a report with both hands tied behind your back. That was the task before the Implementation Advisory Group as they set off to deliver a review of the diocesan governance structures called for by the Royal Commission.

Firstly, any review was inevitably going to be hamstrung by the Canon law that prescribes the discerning and determining in the Church procedures and administration.

It also entrenches the hierarchical division between clerics and the rest. Some things are regarded as ‘laity free zones’!

To read more from Francis Sullivan about the situation in Australia, click here.

Also of interest is the statement put out by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference insisting that the released report is only an interim one, that there will be a final one only after all their bishops get to comment on the findings. :

German Bishops Continue Progressive Moves

Bishop Georg Bätzig of Limburg indicated his openness to women’s ordination and married priests during a recent interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica. Appearing to criticize Pope Benedict XVI’s essay on the root causes of clerical sexual abuse, he said it was “a serious mistake” that Benedict did not mention victims in his essay, and that he blamed the moral crisis of 1968 for the sexual abuse. Bätzig went on to say that “there was an alarming level of sexual abuse in the ecclesial context long before the cultural change of 1968.”

Regarding the issue of married priests, he said it was never a question of “abolishing celibacy,” but rather that it would not be bad if there were also married priests in addition. He further explained that it would be up to each individual priest to decide, although it would also be important to understand how this would shape the church.

He discussed women’s ordination as well, saying the previously accepted reasons for refusal are no longer agreed upon by many Catholics. He indicated his willingness to continue discussing women’s ordination, saying it was a question that the Church itself presented. Bätzig explained that the conclusions generated by the two year “synodal path” would be shared with Rome, and that Germany would follow guidance from Rome, not its own journey. The reflections from synod, he hoped, would provide insight on how Germany’s Catholic Church could grow closer to its people and the “service of life.”

Noting that the discussions may be controversial, he also said it was marked by “great esteem,” and that, through collaboration between priests and laypeople, they will be able to work through these issues along the synodal path.

For VOTF’s position on women’s roles in the Church, please see here.

For VOTF’s position on married priests, please see here and here.

A Report from Ireland

By Sean O’Conaill

Statement of the Summer 2020 meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference Currently meeting with their own lay people on their own ‘synodal path,’ Germany’s Catholic bishops will be astonished to learn from the above claim that Ireland’s bishops are way ahead of them when it comes to preparing for a 2022 Vatican synod of bishops on ‘Synodality‘ – roughly to be translated as ‘local collaborative decision-making.’

But so will the Catholic lay people of Ireland – who have never had the privilege of their German counterparts – of being invited into frank and open discussion of the many profound questions arising out of decades of heart-wrenching revelations, not least the questions of restoring broken trust and ensuring the continuity of faith and of Eucharistic celebration

Not even in their darkest year, 2009 – when two state inquiries revealed the appalling sufferings of children at the hands of abusive clerics in Ireland’s major archdiocese and multiple residential institutions for children in other dioceses – did the Irish Conference of Bishops squarely face the most obvious questions of their people – despite being called upon by Pope Benedict XVI to ‘establish the truth of what happened …’

To read the rest of Sean O’Conaill’s report, click here.

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


Four new members named to National Review Board
“The National Review Board, the all-lay group that monitors dioceses’ performance in dealing with sexually abusive clergy and creating a safe environment for children throughout the church, has four new members. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, announced the appointments June 10. The new members are …” By Catholic News Service in National Catholic Reporter

Vatican investigates Polish bishop for abuse cover-up
“The Vatican has given the go-ahead for an investigation into a Polish bishop suspected of covering up sexual abuse of children by clergy — a subject that has long remained taboo in predominantly Catholic Poland. The investigation, which was announced on Tuesday (Jun. 2) by the archdiocese of Poznan, comes just two weeks after the release of a documentary detailing abuse cases that were allegedly covered up by Henryk Janiak, bishop of Kalisz.” By Agence France-Press on

Eyebrows raised as Swiss bishop taps woman for senior job
“A Swiss bishop’s appointment of a lay mother of three to a senior administrative post previously held by a priest has raised eyebrows in conservative Catholic circles, at a time when a strengthened role for women in the church is under debate in other European countries. Marianne Pohl-Henzen will serve as an “episcopal delegate” in the diocese of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg, and will also be joining Bishop Charles Morerod’s episcopal council, the main governance advisory body which is traditionally made up of priests and bishops.” By Nadine Achoui-Lesage and Jamey Keaten, Associated Press, on

Wyoming bishop accused of abuse won’t be charged, prosecutors say
“Following a decision by Wyoming prosecutors not to charge retired Bishop Joseph Hart for sexual abuse against minors, his alleged victims are looking to the Church’s canonical process as a last chance for the 88-year-old prelate to be brought to justice. As first reported by the Kansas City Star on Tuesday (Jun. 8), and confirmed by Crux on Wednesday, a Wyoming witness coordinator informed one of Hart’s accusers that the prosecutor would not advance the case, citing insufficient evidence. This comes nearly two years after the Diocese of Cheyenne deemed the allegations from the same individual to be credible in 2018.” By Christopher White,

Final version of governance report to be published by mid-August
“The final version of a report into diocesan and parish governance will be published after a series of amendments and clarifications have been made, likely by mid-August, according to ACBC Media Blog. Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge on Friday (Jun. 12) announced a timeline for the report’s release after a draft version was leaked to international Catholic media earlier this month. The report, The Light from the Southern Cross: Promoting Co-Responsible Governance in the Catholic Church in Australia, was prepared by the Governance Review Project Team, a group of experts assembled by the Implementation Advisory Group.” By

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

Laudato Si Now Includes ‘Users Guide’ With Concrete Suggestions

Pope Francis’s eco-encyclical in 2015 is now accompanied by concrete actions that can be taken to support environmental justice. With a focus on what can be done at the individual and parish level, the manual contains additional suggestions for political and cultural models to protect human life and the environment over profits. It also emphasizes the value of motherhood, especially in the workplace, and insists that family relationships become and remain the center of economic systems. These definitive actions provide guidance for those seeking to reduce their environmental impact and make a difference in this way through their faith.

Sex Abuse in the French Catholic Church

According to the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE), at least 3,000 children have been abused at the hands of 1,500 clergy and church officials, although the number of victims is estimated to be even higher due to those who have not yet come forward with their stories. More than 5,000 calls have been placed to the hotline, and other cases resulted from other inquiries.

The CIASE was set up last June to examine abuse claims in France dating back to the 1950s. The full report is expected to be released next fall, having been delayed due to the coronavirus. Victims range in age, but 30% are now over 70 years of age and half are between 50 and 70. The hotline will be open to collect testimonies until the end of October, this year. The French Catholic Church also announced that it would pay lump sums to victims from a compensation fund, following similar moves in other European nations.

France extended the statute of limitations on sexual crimes against minors from 20 to 30 years in 2019, and the revelations of abuse in France mirror those in other countries including the United States. Pope Francis’s new requirements to mandate sex abuse reporting went into effect in June last year, and every diocese must now have some mechanism in place for victims to report abuse. Clerics and religious members are now obligated to report abuses as well.

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

For survivor support resources, please see here.


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

Reminder: Please notify if you change your email address.

© Voice of the Faithful 2020. All Rights Reserved.