In the Vineyard: June 30, 2017

In the Vineyard :: June 30, 2017 :: Volume 17, Issue 11

News from National

VOTF Responds to Charges Against Cardinal Pell

This week the clergy sexual abuse scandal captured new media attention with reports that Cardinal George Pell must answer charges of “historical sexual abuse.” Cardinal Pell was given a leave of absence to return to Australia to answer the charges. You will find links to the stories in this week’s Focus (below, including comments from Marie Collins). But here is the VOTF response published when news of the charges became public.

Jun. 29, 2017―The Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal today reached into the heart of the Vatican. Pontifical advisor and prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy Cardinal George Pell of Australia has been granted leave by Pope Francis to return to Australia to answer charges over allegations of historical child sexual abuse.

Allegations of abuse and coverup have dogged Pell for years, at least since 2002, but he was never charged with historical child sex abuse until now. The Australian police have released no additional information about the present charges.

Voice of the Faithful applauds the actions taken thus far: Pell’s return to Australia and leave of absence from his position in Rome. Our regret is that such steps are, like so many responses to charges of clergy sex abuse, long-delayed by past reluctance of both civil and Church authorities to credit the complaints of victims.

Mary Pat Fox, Voice of the Faithful president, said she commends the Australian authorities for making every effort to hold those responsible for the abuse of minors accountable regardless of when the abuse occurred. “The Statute of Limitations in most states within the U.S. has stood in the way of many victims getting justice. We are pleased to see Pope Francis support actions of the civil judicial system. Though a person is innocent until proven guilty, the Church has often acted to stand in the way of the judicial system.”

Reflection on AUSCP Assembly

By Executive Director Donna B. Doucette

From opening session to closing blessing, the assemblies hosted each year by the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests are equal parts exhilarating, informative, faith-filled … and exhausting. This year’s Assembly in Atlanta, June 19-22, was no exception. Keyed to the theme of Peacemaking in Our Fractured Society, the Assembly provided thoughtful and provocative presentations pertinent not only to the life of the Church but also to the pastoral perspectives priests could bring to the difficult societal disruptions we see today.

I will write about each of those presentations in upcoming In the Vineyard issues (I took some vacation time after the morning, noon, and night schedule one must keep to cover the AUSCP meeting). But here are some personal perspectives I wish to share with you now.

If you wonder whether our hopes for Church reform would ever gain traction among the clergy, if they will work with lay people to reform the Church, the answer is Yes. They can and they do, and they are as committed to the full implementation of Vatican II as any of us.

Priests across the U.S. share the same desires and concerns that we do, the same yearnings for a better Church, and even some of the same proposed solutions. It’s not every priest in the U.S. But then, it’s not every lay person who seeks to fully implement Vatican II, ordain women deacons, allow married men to be priests, halt parish closings, support survivors of sex abuse, examine diocesan finances, and so on.

At the Assembly this year I heard, as I have each year, provocative presentations and insightful observations from the invited speakers, as well as interesting discussions in response to those presentations. I’ve seen priests ask pointed questions of a bishop after his speech, and then, when the bishop avoided a forthright response, ask equally pointed follow-up questions on the same topic.

I have heard priests worrying that they may be guilty of clericalism and wondering how they can avoid it. I have heard retired pastors wonder if newly ordained priests would ever learn to actually become pastoral. I have heard Assembly attendees rue the failure of the Church to-date to fully implement the reforms of Vatican II.

Progress continues. Working together, it can accelerate.

DeaconChat Introduced at AUSCP Assembly

As VOTF members know from our web pages, recent emails, and In the Vineyard reporting, VOTF is collaborating with FutureChurch and the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) on DeaconChat, a program to foster education and conversation on women deacons.

At the AUSCP Assembly in Atlanta this month, Fr. Bob Bonnot of AUSCP, Deborah Rose-Milavec, Executive Director of FutureChurch, and Donna B. Doucette, Executive Director of Voice of the Faithful, described the effort and its purpose to attendees and urged them to sign up and start the effort in their parishes or dioceses.

Start your own contributions to the dialogue this summer by reviewing the resources available here or on the main DeaconChat page (external link) or by putting Dr. Phyllis Zagano’s book on your summer reading list. And who knows? Perhaps you know one of the priests from the AUSCP Assembly who would love to discuss the issue with you.

Did Jesus Welcome All? Does the Church?

Bishop Paprocki of the Springfield (Illinois) diocese has issued a letter to his pastors warning of the need for strict rules involving same-sex marriage and the “gay lifestyle.” There are sanctions on the sacraments of initiation (Baptism) and burial, and last rites will not be given unless there is a strong sign of remorse.

This same bishop had already issued a pastoral letter on gay marriage, but the new instructions exclude any pastor from involvement in same-sex marriage or the use of any parish property in receptions for same, or administering any sacraments. Participation in parish leadership ministry by gays is also prohibited.

The restrictions not only preclude many raised as Catholic from participating as Catholics, they also are vastly different from the calls by Pope Francis to go out into the streets in service to all, as Jesus did. He is thought of as the Pope of compassion and mercy and advises us that these attributes are essential to the active Catholic life.

An article by Beth Haile, another Midwesterner and a moral theologian, in U.S. Catholic examines the meaning of compassion and mercy with a depth that is helpful for a Catholic trying to discern and reconcile these two seemingly opposite positions. Her stress is on the importance of the Catholic tradition of solidarity.

Requiem Remembrance: Father Richard Reissmann,VOTF Priest of Integrity

Father Richard Reissmann from Delaware, who was honored by VOTF as a Priest of Integrity in 2007, recently died. At the time of his award, Father Reissmann was the only priest in his diocese willing to support VOTF in his parish, and he was himself a VOTF member.

Fr. Reismann’s testimony before the Delaware State Legislature is credited with helping in the unanimous passage of Senate Bill 29, the strongest legislation protecting children from predators. The bill eliminated the two-year statute of limitations and also provided a two-year “look-back” window.

At the time, Sister Maureen Paul Turlish, SNDdN wrote, “Long a supporter of the rights of the disenfranchised, Reissmann, a priest of 44 years in the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, spoke out early and often against the sexual abuse of children in Delaware and especially when it was perpetrated by his own brother priests. He was the only one to speak out so forcefully and with such depth of integrity behind his voice.”

In his remarks to VOTF in accepting the award, Fr. Reissmann stated that his decision to testify produced one of the most rewarding moments of his ministry. He affirmed that a docile laity is not good for the Church, and that we, too, are integral actors in speaking out on issues of justice in charity and love. He ended his remarks by saying that he was most grateful for the award, and that he is a better priest for his involvement with VOTF. He concluded, “There is much to do, and we’ve only just begun.”

Pope Francis Picks 5 New Cardinals

On Wednesday, Pope Francis created five new cardinals, encouraging them to walk with Jesus, keeping their eyes fixed securely on the cross and on the realities of the world, not becoming distracted by prestige or honor.

“He has not called you to become ‘princes’ of the Church, to ‘sit at his right or at his left.’ He calls you to serve like him and with him.”

To read more click here.


Australian cardinal and aide to Pope is charged with sexual assault
Australia’s senior Roman Catholic prelate, and one of Pope Francis’ top advisers, has been charged with sexual assault, the police in the Australian state of Victoria said on Thursday (June 29). The prelate, Cardinal George Pell, became the highest-ranking Vatican official in recent years to face criminal charges involving accusations of sexual offenses. The case will test the credibility of Francis’ initiatives to foster greater accountability after abuse scandals that have shaken the church around the world.” By Jacqueline Williams, The New York Times

Vatican sex abuse scandal reveals blind spot for Francis, By Jason Horowitz and Laurie Goodstein

George Pell, Vatican finance chief, charge with sexual abuse, By Robb M. Stewart and Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal

Cardinal Pell, Vatican finance chief, charged over historic allegations of sexual abuse, By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

Defiant and determined, Pell says he now has chance to clear his name, By Austen Ivereigh,

George Pell’s charging and what it means for the Catholic Church in Australia, By Paul Kennedy, ABC News Australia

Top adviser to Pope charged with sexual assault offenses, By Joshua Berlinger and Laure Smith-Spark, CNN

Cardinal Pell: Vatican treasurer denies Australia sex offenses, By BBC News

Top-ranking Vatican cardinal charged with sex offenses in Australia, By Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post

Cardinal George Pell takes a leave of absence after sex assault charges, By Josephine McKenna, Religion News Service

George Pell profile: the pope’s Australian hard man faces the fight of his life, By David Marr, the Guardian

Pope’s close aide charged, bringing sex abuse scandal to Vatican, By Philip Pullella and Byron Kaye, Reuters

Remarks by Marie Collins, clergy abuse survivor and former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, on Cardinal Pell’s charges

Brooklyn diocese seeks to compensate sex abuse victims
“The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn announced a program on Thursday (Jun. 22) that will seek to compensate hundreds of victims who were abused as children by its priests and deacons. The program is modeled on one begun last year by the Archdiocese of New York. Like that program, it will be run by Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros, mediators who administered the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and awarded compensation to victims of abuse by Jerry Sandusky at Pennsylvania State University.” By Sharon Otterman, The New York Times

Catholic Church in Brooklyn to compensate sexual abuse victims, By Jonathan Allen, Reuters

Brooklyn diocese announces abuse compensation program, By Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter

From 9/11 to Orlando, Ken Feinberg’s alter ego in compensating victims, By Roger Parloff, The New York Times

A gesture of good faith: NYC dioceses abuse-compensation play, Editorial by New York Daily News

Francis considers mandating consultation of laity in bishop selection
“One of the members of the Council of Cardinals said the group is considering whether to advise Pope Francis to make it mandatory for Vatican ambassadors to consult with laypeople before making recommendations for possible new bishops in the Catholic Church. Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias suggested the nine-member group might recommend that ambassadors be instructed to consult with members of a diocese’s pastoral or finance councils before passing on names of who to consider for bishop.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

Catholic groups launch conversation about female deacons
“Several progressive Catholic groups are launching an initiative aimed at giving lay Catholics and clergy across the U.S. a direct say on whether the church should ordain women deacons. Their actions follow the appointment of a panel of experts set up by Pope Francis to consider the controversial question. The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, FutureChurch and Voice of the Faithful have launched DeaconChat in a bid to promote education and dialogue on the topic.” By Josephine McKenna, Religion News Service

Catholic Groups launch conversation about female deacons, By Josephine McKenna, Religion News Service, in The Gazette, Colorado Springs

Catholic groups launch conversation about female deacons, By Josephine McKenna, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter

Topic of female deacons in the Catholic Church is being debated, By Elisa Meyer, World Religion News

U.S. bishops urged to be vigilant, never complacent, in stopping abuse
“Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, urged the U.S. bishops June 14 during their spring meeting in Indianapolis to continue to keep their commitment to stopping clergy sexual abuse and supporting victims of abuse “at the forefront” of their ministry. He said sexual abuse of minors by clergy is ‘not a thing of past’ and stressed the bishops have to always be vigilant and be sure to not ‘let complacency set in’ in their efforts to stop it.” By Catholic News Service on

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

From the VOTF Blog: Hidden in the Archives

New York lawmakers last week closed their 2017 session in “legislative hell,” as one Senator called it, without resolving a number of important issues, including the Child Victims Act, which would reform New York’s antiquated child sex abuse statutes of limitations (SOLs). It would extend the civil and criminal SOLs, revive expired civil SOLs for one year, and eliminate the “notice of claim” requirement that has hobbled public school victims’ access to justice.

“Governor Andrew Cuomo had endorsed the concept earlier in the year, making him the first state governor to step forward before being asked to sign such a bill. While the assembly had passed a version and the senate appeared to have a majority to vote for it, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, on the next to the last day of the session blocked its progress from committee to the floor …

“The problem for the Catholic bishops on SOL reform is that all of the arguments against SOL reform don’t hold water …

“They say there will be no evidence from cases long ago and, therefore, they will be at a disadvantage. If I hear ‘memories fade and evidence is lost,’ one more time … But in fact, the bishops have done some great recordkeeping on priests’ sexual assaults on children. Their Secret Archives … have held and still hold much of the information that is needed to prove up a case against a priest, bishop, and/or diocese.” — By Marcia A. Hamilton, — Read more …

Sign up for the VOTF Blog by clicking that big black and white badge on the right side of this web page!

God Calls Older People to Be Spiritual ‘Grandparents’

In a special Mass June 27 in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his ordination as an auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires in 1992, Pope Francis said that the older generation should not stop striving in their spiritual lives, but that God calls them to be spiritual “grandparents” to young people, who can learn from their experiences.

“And this is what the Lord today asks us: to be grandparents. To have the vitality to give to young people, because young people expect it from us; to not close ourselves, to give our best: they look for our experience, for our positive dreams to carry on the prophecy and the work.

“I ask the Lord for all of us that he give us this grace.”

Letter to the Editor

Women Deacons: I know that VOTF has shown interest for years in the ordination of women deacons. I also know there has been some discussion among conservative factions of women deacons who are not ordained. This accomplishes little in my opinion. Do you plan any discussions of this distinction?

K. Booth

Dear K,

We asked Dr. Phyllis Zagano, the expert on women deacons in the Church, to explain the difference between ordained and non-ordained deacons. Here is her note:

It is clear that the female deacons of the early Church—as evidenced by the rite of institution and the functions they exercised—were equivalent to male deacons. They were ordained with rites judged sacramental, according to the Coucil of Trent criteria, which included an epiclesis (invocation of the Holy Spirit), and they had tasks and duties sufficiently “diaconal” for them to be known as deacons (in later years feminized to deaconess). Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D.

That’s why we say, since the ordination of male deacons was restored after Vatican II, why not for females also?

VOTF Office

Questions, Comments?

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

P.S. For Calendar, we are “top heavy” on events in the Boston area — because those folks are most faithful in sending us notices! But we are happy to publish YOUR event too, as long as you send it in time. Email Siobhan, the Vineyard editor.

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