In the Vineyard: June 28, 2019

In the Vineyard :: June 28, 2019 :: Volume 19, Issue 12

News from National

Clericalism a Major Focus in Priest Assembly

This year’s gathering of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests and Friends included a conscious effort to indicate solidarity with all the baptized. Its title was “God’s Priestly People: The Baptized and the Ordained.” However, as Kevin Clinton, chair of the AUSCP Leadership Team, noted, “Oops! We should have said ‘the baptized and the ordained, who also are the baptized’!”

This type of self-reflection and a willingness to see as clearly as possible the needs and the imperfections of today’s current ecclesial structures characterized the meeting.

Part fraternal support, part conscious effort to re-energize the spirit of Vatican II, part humble striving to reclaim a moral voice so lacking in today’s hierarchical Church, this conference—like previous AUSCP meetings—provides some of the fresh air and rejuvenation sorely needed today.

It also gives lay people an opportunity to join our voices with those of clergy in a combined effort to address problems in today’s Church. Voice of the Faithful supported this opportunity again this year, with our presence at the Assembly; our joint preparation with AUSCP of a key white paper for the Assembly on clericalism; our participation with both AUSCP and FutureChurch on a key document regarding women’s status in the Church; and with the BridgeDialogues project developed with both AUSCP and FutureChurch. The latter was announced on Pentecost and modeled at one of the Assembly colloquia.

Keynote speakers for this year’s Assembly in St. Louis were Dr. Richard Gaillardetz from Boston College, Sr. Norma Pimentel of the Missionaries of Jesus from McAllen TX, and Cardinal Blase Cupich from the archdiocese of Chicago. Their presentations will be available soon on the AUSCP web site, but for now here are a few highlights.

Prof. Gaillardetz spoke from a standpoint reflecting his work as co-chair of a two-year seminar sponsored by Boston College’s Theology dept and its School of Theology and Ministry. The project explored “the theology of the diocesan ministerial priesthood, which ultimately yielded a document titled ‘To Serve the People of God,'” he told attendees. [CONTINUE READING]

Why I Am Catholic

Many of us face questions about why we stay in the Church, or why we leave–and also wonder what leads others to stay or go. Here is one essay considering those questions.

“…I believe that every Mass is the re-enactment of history’s central event: God becomes man, suffers for me and offers his substance for my salvation. I believe that I have inherited this story, this ritual, and this opportunity for salvation from human hands and mouths that have passed it, one to the next for 2,000 years, in an unbroken line culminating in Jesus himself.

I believe that without this human family, I would be lost. I believe that my presence in church supports other mortals just like me…”

Read Danusha Goska’s essay WHY I AM STILL CATHOLIC: It offers me what I need.

Mandatory Civil Reporting and Lay Involvementin Bishop Accountability – If Not Now – When?

BOSTON, Mass., June 18, 2019 – The 2019 U.S. Bishops’ spring assembly left VOTF and concerned Catholics across America with a nagging sense of déjà vu. Once again, the plan for resolving the Church’s lengthy, widespread child abuse and cover-up scandal is for bishops to hold their fellow bishops accountable. This is the best they could do nearly 35 years after Jason Berry’s reporting on horrendous abuse in Louisiana and Fr. Tom Doyle’s comprehensive report on the extent and potential repercussions of Catholic clergy abuse?

Over the past three and a half decades, time and again, when clerical transgressions were brought to light by others, bishops apologized and promised reform. The reform attempted at this latest bishops’ meeting has left bishops monitoring other bishops, controlling reports to lay boards and establishing themselves as final arbiters when abuse is reported. It has left us still waiting for substantive actions that could signal real reform. Here are two:

  • mandatory reporting of abuse allegations to civil authorities, even where state law does not require it, as Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski emphasized during the bishops’ meeting; and
  • mandatory lay involvement in bishop accountability, without which, as the bishops’ National Review Board Chairman Francesco Cesareo has said, a culture of self-preservation would continue that suggests complicity.

For arguably good reasons, Pope Francis in his recent Vos estis lux mundi did not require either of these actions, only suggested them, while requiring that bishops’ transgressions be reported within the Church and investigated by other bishops. This is a variation of the medieval court system where only clerics were allowed to judge other clerics and not a step forward.

At their meeting, U.S. bishops adopted the metropolitan model suggested by Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich wherein a metropolitan archbishop, a largely ceremonial role, would be in charge of investigating bishops within his province. But without mandatory reporting to police and mandatory lay involvement, the faithful can only hope that the bishop involved will investigate properly—investigative work that is not covered in any catechism or theology course.

VOTF agrees with canon lawyer and former National Review Board chairman Nicholas Cafardi, who has been quoted, “The system really perpetuates clericalism, which is something Pope Francis has criticized in other situations—the idea that priests exist on a different level than lay people and bishops exist on a different level than priests, and that’s by divine origin and you can’t even talk about changing it.”

Although several bishops during their spring meeting spoke in favor of mandatory reporting and mandatory lay involvement, they did not carry the day. This underscores the necessity for Lay Catholics to continue the drumbeat for reform and repeatedly ask their bishops to lobby their brothers and the Pope for whatever is needed for real reform, whether papal edicts or changes in canon law.

Don’t Forget the Conference!

Register now for the Spring/Summer Special Registration of 2-for-$200

Click here for information and to register …

Click here to download a printable 2019 Conference mail-in registration form …

Click here to reserve your discounted hotel room …

Speakers: Our special return guest speaker will be the Honorable Anne M. Burke, Illinois Supreme Court Justice, who spoke to us at our 10th Anniversary Conference in 2012. For more than two years, Justice Burke served as the interim chair of the USCCB’s National Review Board, directing its efforts to investigate the causes and effects of the clerical sexual abuse scandal and helping to establish guidelines and policies for effectively responding to the scandal. Much has happened in the clergy abuse scandal since then, and she is now involved with a group advocating accountability for bishops who have covered up abuse.

A second featured speaker will be Fr. Richard Lennan, professor of systematic theology at Boston College. He presently directs Boston College’s sacred theology licenture program. Together with Boston College theology professors Thomas Groome and Richard Gaillardetz, Prof. Lennan wrote “To Serve the People of God: Renewing the Conversation on Priesthood and Ministry,” which calls for reexamining the formation process for diocesan priests and eradicating the priesthood’s embedded clerical culture. The paper resulted from a seminar begun in 2016 and composed of lay and ordained women and men and theologians and ministers working in pastoral and academic settings. (Click here to read a statement from Boston College with links to additional information).

We’re also featuring a panel discussion during which parishioners from the Cincinnati, Ohio, Washington, D.C., and Buffalo, New York, areas will discuss actions they are taking at the grassroots level to help create a just Church. The panel presentations and Q&A will segue into our lunch period when attendees can continue the panel members’ discussion.


Catholic bishops adopt long-promised abuse plan – for bishops to police bishops
“Under intense public pressure, the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops approved new steps this week to deal more strongly with the clergy sex-abuse crisis. But activists and others say the moves leave the bishops in charge of policing themselves and potentially keep law enforcement at arm’s length. As their national meeting in Baltimore concluded Thursday (Jun. 13), leaders of the US bishops conference stopped short of mandating that lay experts such as lawyers and criminal justice professionals take part in investigating clergy accused of child molestation or other misconduct. They also did not specify a procedure for informing police of abuse allegations that come in over a newly proposed hotline.” By David Crary, Associated Press, in The Boston Globe

Catholic bishops’ conference (in Poland) to set up system for reporting sexual abuse
“The Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference (MKPK) on Thursday (Jun. 6) saidit is setting up a system for reporting sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. MKPK secretary TamásTóth said the system will be implemented in the autumn.He noted that under new rules issued recently by Pope Francis, dioceses have a year to devise systems for reporting abuse. Though the Hungarian system will be designed to function at a national level, it will assign significant responsibility to the various dioceses and diocesan bishops, Tóth said, noting that the ‘Motu Proprio’ issued by the pope clearly stipulates who must be in charge of investigating reports of sexual abuse.” By Hungary Today

Vatican opens door to limited ordination of married men as priests
“In a potentially groundbreaking move, the Roman Catholic Church on Monday (Jun. 17) cracked open the door to ordaining married, elderly men to the priesthood to meet the pastoral needs of Catholics in remote areas of the Amazon. The proposal would respond to the dearth of priests in the region by ordaining “viri probati,” or men of proven character, as they are known in Latin. It is the kind of exception to the celibacy requirement that church experts say — and church traditionalists worry — could be a step toward the ordination of married men in other areas of the world.” By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times

Archbishop Lori issues letter on Bishop Bransfield investigation
“Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore released additional details June 5 about the investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct and financial improprieties against Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, former bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia. In a letter to the faithful, Archbishop Lori, who was appointed apostolic administrator of the diocese last September, said that he wanted to more fully share information about the investigation the Vatican asked him to conduct into Bishop Bransfield’s activities, the report of which was sent to the Holy See in March.” By Catholic News Service in America: The Jesuit Review

Top cardinal accused of mishandling aide’s sex abuse case
“When Cardinal Daniel DiNardo first met Laura Pontikes in his wood-paneled conference room in December 2016, the leader of the U.S. Catholic Church’s response to its sex abuse scandal said all the right things. He praised her for coming forward to report that his deputy in the Galveston-Houston archdiocese had manipulated her into a sexual relationship and declared her a ‘victim’ of the priest, Pontikes said. Emails and other documents obtained by The Associated Press show that the relationship had gone on for years — even as the priest heard her confessions, counseled her husband on their marriage and pressed the couple for hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

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

The Purgatory of the Sex Abuse Crisisby Eugene Cullen Kennedy

Before he died in 2015, Eugene Cullen Kennedy was in the midst of a writing a manuscript on the clergy culture and the sex abuse crisis. National Catholic Reporter has printed two pieces from that manuscript.

“As the Mississippi is the father of all waters, the sex abuse crisis is the mother of all church scandals. Much like flood managers, who allow the river to have its own way, church officials initially stayed clear of the crisis, letting it pretty much have its own way as it cut now this way and tomorrow that on through the Catholic community. The raging waters have ravaged the Church, leaving many of its people, especially victims, feeling spiritually dispossessed.” Read the rest of his article here.

Letters to the Editor

In a story that received national coverage, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School defied the Indianapolis Archbishop, Charles C. Thompson, who had forbidden the school from renewing the contract of a teacher who was gay and civilly married. The New York Times story was entitled “Jesuit School, Defying Archdiocese, Refuses to Remove Teacher in Same-Sex Marriage” and can be found here As a result of this defiance, the Archbishop has declared that Brebeuf may no longer call itself “Catholic.”

Some might view this as a story about gay marriage which, while being an important issue for many readers of In the Vineyard, is not one of the core missions for VOTF. The story however, is more about clericalism, which is part of the VOTF core focus.

Putting aside for the moment the question of why homosexuality seems for some clerics to draw undue attention (why not, for example, insist that the school fire unmarried cohabitating heterosexual teachers, or divorced and remarried teachers), three points highlight the intransigence of Archbishop Thompson. First, the same part of the catechism which labels homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered,” also says that “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” 2358

Second, the Archbishops intrusion into the personnel decisions was unusual: “To our knowledge, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ direct insertion into an employment matter of a school governed by a religious order is unprecedented,” wrote the school’s president, the Rev. William Verbryke, according to an article on CNN.

Third, the statement of the school, with its oblique reference to a principal described in Vatican II, stands in sharp contrast to the authoritarian power exercised by the Archbishop:

After long and prayerful consideration, we determined that following the Archdiocese’s directive would not only violate our informed conscience on this particular matter, but also set a concerning precedent for future interference in the school’s operations and other governance matters that Brebeuf Jesuit leadership has historically had the sole right and privilege to address and decide.

The full statement is found here

One of the key documents of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, states that “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey.” In following their “informed conscience,” the Board of Trustees of Brebeuf could not obey the Archbishop.

Pope Francis defined clericalism in a speech in 2018 as follows:

Clericalism arises from an elitist and exclusivist vision of vocation, that interprets the ministry received as a power to be exercised rather than as a free and generous service to be given. This leads us to believe that we belong to a group that has all the answers and no longer needs to listen or learn anything. Clericalism is a perversion and is the root of many evils in the Church: we must humbly ask forgiveness for this and above all create the conditions so that it is not repeated. — Pope Francis’ Address to the Synod Fathers at Opening of Synod2018 on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment

It is Clericalism, not homosexuality, which is driving this dispute. Brebeuf will appeal the Archbishop’s decision. This story will continue to develop as the appeal works its way to the Vatican. For more on this story, please see the article from America Magazine.

C.M. Williams


How accurate are the new sex abuse accusations leveled against Bernardin? I was living in IL when he was accused (later retracted) and now this appears to be yet another cover-up. There are an unknown
number of bishops who are guilty of these crimes and/or cover-ups and are still in clerical positions. When will the Pope act to remove all offenders? The clergy know who are guilty, when will all be exposed and removed? I doubt this will ever be fully resolved, it just gets more painful, embarrassing, and illegal.

L. Myalls


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