In the Vineyard: June 8, 2020

In the Vineyard :: June 8, 2020 :: Volume 20, Issue 11

News from National

Mission, Voice, Equality

Dear Friends,

I hope this finds you healthy and doing as well as can be expected in these difficult times we are living through. Reflecting on our three goals—support for survivors of clergy abuse, support for priests of integrity and structural change in the governance and guidance of the Church—and on our mission statement, which calls us to provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the Faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church, we strive for a voice and equality within the Church.

What we call for from the Church is not different from what our Black and Brown brothers and sisters ask from our country and each one of us.

It would be my hope that each one of us can strive to find equality not only within the Church but within our country as well and that each one of us will do our part, whether that be to pray, march or have a conversation to better understand. Remember the power of the listening sessions we had at our affiliate meetings in the beginning of VOTF, where survivors told their stories? Hearing another’s story is very powerful and can provide a good path to understanding.

Wishing you a blessed summer and hoping to see you at our October 3 conference (even if it’s only virtually),

Mary Pat Fox, President

Australia’s Report and Restructuring

The report commissioned by Australia’s bishops and religious orders has been released, although not officially, and calls for sweeping changes to the structure of Catholic Church operations across the country. “The Light from the Southern Cross” covers issues from shared decision-making with laypeople, to women’s roles, to the Vatican’s process of appointments.

Throughout the report, themes of “co-responsibility” and shared governance are proposed as the solution to many of the issues that have plagued the Church as of late, including the institutional cover-up of child sexual abuse. The report’s major suggestions comprise: involving women in “senior decision-making bodies,” including lay people in the bishop appointment process and decision considered by the bishop, and mandating that allegations of abuse or coverup be evaluated by independent experts.

The report also calls for more transparency and regular auditing of financial matters and safeguards put in place to protect children.

Despite the early release, a spokesperson for the bishops said that, while the version leaked is not the final document, any additional changes would be minor. The report was to have been kept confidential until the late fall, but was leaked last week.

Major changes to the structure of the Australian Catholic Church may be imminent, especially with regards to the college of consultors proposed in the document, including both laymen and laywomen. Bishops would be required to consult with them as well as with independent subject matter experts, as appropriate.

“The Light From the Southern Cross” has especially important implications for the role of women in the Catholic Church, stating “the most visible indicator of the barriers to full participation is that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Australia, as in the Church across the world, remains exclusively male.”

Australia’s Catholic Church may look very different in the years to come, and could be a role model to emulate for other nations. Here are some reports on the details. From the NCR item, you can scroll to the bottom and download the entire 208-page report:

Many of the reforms and updates called for the Southern Cross report are efforts that VOTF has spearheaded and continues to support. Our annual report on diocesan finances, for example; calls for eliminating clericalism, for restoration of ordained women deacons, and so on.

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

For advocacy and support resources, please see here.

To read VOTF’s position on women’s roles in the church, please see here ( For VOTF’s position on clericalism, please see here (

Donate Online Today & Receive FREE Book

We’re all dealing with being stuck indoors during this COVID-19 pandemic, and you probably can’t or don’t want to venture outdoors to mail your mid-year donation to Voice of the Faithful. But online donation makes giving easy. Just click here.

And if you donate $100 or more to VOTF now during our 2020 end-of-fiscal-year appeal, you will receive a FREE book, Women: Icons of Christ by Catholic scholar Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D.

The offer won’t last forever; our donor has sent us a certain number of book. So, don’t delay!

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

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


Explaining the Vatican’s lingering ambivalence on ‘zero tolerance’
“‘Zero tolerance’ for sexual abuse has become one of those notoriously elastic phrases, such as ‘change,’ ‘hope’ and ‘progress,’ which everyone claims to be for but no one seems to define in exactly the same way. In American Catholic parlance, however, the term ‘zero tolerance’ does have a fairly precise meaning, derived from the US bishops’ 2002 Dallas charter and norms: Permanent removal from ministry, and, in most cases, laicization, for even one justified allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. In that sense, ‘zero tolerance’ remains a contested point. To this day, a central plank in the indictment of many abuse survivors and their advocates is that the Vatican has not imposed a universal ‘zero tolerance’ policy everywhere in the world, which is often taken as a sign of reluctance to reform.” By John L. Allen, Jr.,

Secret bishops’ report calls for radical revamp of Catholic Church
“Australia’s Catholic Church could be dramatically overhauled to give lay people more power, increase the number of women in leadership roles and force parishes to open up their finances to the public. A secret 200-page report being considered by the nation’s bishops has called for unprecedented reform in a bid to make the church more inclusive and break down the structures that contributed to decades of clergy abuse and cover-ups … But in a sign of how sensitive the church is to issues of reform, the body that commissioned the report – the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference – is unlikely to publicly release or reveal how it will respond to its 86 recommendations until the end of the year.” By Farrah Tomazin, The Sydney Morning Herald

Brooklyn bishop accused by 2nd man of sex abuse in the 1970s
“The Roman Catholic bishop of Brooklyn, already under a church investigation for alleged sex abuse, has been accused by a second man of abuse in the 1970s, when the bishop was a parish priest in New Jersey. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio ‘repeatedly sexually abused’ Samier Tadros starting when he was about 6 years old, according to a March 9 letter that Tadros’ lawyer sent to the attorney representing the Archdiocese of Newark. The letter alleges the abuse happened in Holy Rosary Church in Jersey City.” By Michael Rezendes, Associated Press

‘Vos Estis’ at one year: Some question pope’s process for investigating bishops
“It is a bit early to assess the effect of Pope Francis’ new global system for how the Catholic Church evaluates reports of clergy sexual abuse or cover-up by individual bishops, say canon lawyers who spoke to NCR. They also raised questions about the new process, first established in May 2019, which involves the empowering of archbishops to conduct investigations of prelates accused in their local regions. Among their main concerns with the procedure, outlined in Francis’ motu proprio Vos Estis Lux Mundi: the possible bias that can arise in asking one prelate to investigate another, and whether there has been an appropriate level of transparency about bishops who are being investigated.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

Australia’s bishops seeking ‘whole-of-Church’ approach for child protection
“Plans are moving forward for the establishment of a national system for child protection within the Australian Catholic Church, according to a report following the meeting of the country’s Catholic bishops earlier this month. The ‘National Response Protocol’ will develop a comprehensive system for reporting complaints of clergy abuse or misconduct and establish new guidelines for child protection policies.” By Christopher White,

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

Compassion for the World

Pope Francis’ prayer intention for June is as follows:

Many people suffer due to the great difficulties they endure.
We can help them by accompanying them along an itinerary full of compassion which transforms people’s lives.
It brings them closer to the Heart of Christ, which welcomes all of us into the revolution of tenderness.
We pray that all those who suffer may find their way in life, allowing themselves to be touched by the Heart of Jesus.

To watch the video, click here.


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