In the Vineyard: March 22, 2021

In the Vineyard :: March 22, 2021 :: Volume 21, Issue 6

National News

Register Now for Protection of Children Mini-Synod

You are invited to join us for a Zoom Mini-Synod, where we’ll listen, discuss and hear about good practices in child protection and what parishes are doing to ensure safe environments for children during this pandemic. Your parish is the frontline in keeping our children safe.

Our Mini-Synod—Emerging from Pandemic: Ensuring Safe Environments for Children—is scheduled for March 25, 2021, at 7 p.m. (EDT). (We suggest a $15 goodwill offering to defray expenses.)

Click here to register.

Please invite the religious education and safe environment staff in your parish or collaborative to join us too. Their experiences will enhance our discussion–and help us develop ideas for application in other parishes.

It’s a great way to prepare for the April Child Protection Month.

Maybe ‘Back to Normal’ May Not Be Best for Liturgy

Fr. Daniel P. Horan is the Duns Scotus Chair of Spirituality at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, where he teaches systematic theology and spirituality. He’s also a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter, and his most recent column called for a re-examination of our “common ecclesial history” in light of the changes wrought of necessity this past year. Here’s an excerpt:

“When it comes to our communal ecclesial life, I think a major lesson of the pandemic has been that more involvement and leadership on the part of the laity and non-ordained ministers is an absolute necessity. I have participated in several dozen Zoom liturgies — some Eucharistic celebrations streamed live, others centered on the celebration of the Word that allowed for greater inclusion in who presided or preached — and each of them was spiritually nourishing in its own right.

“… Perhaps one thing that we can take away from the inspirational Zoom liturgies of the pandemic is that a new kind of lay ecclesial leadership is needed across the church, not just in those rural locations where such practices already exist out of necessity.”

However, it’s not enough to simply add in lay ingredients, Fr. Horan says. “In the past, the standard model of increasing lay participation in pastoral ministry has been a sort of ‘add on’ approach. The ordained continued to run the show, have the final say and even micromanage all aspects of the parish’s life, even if some lay women and men were hired to staff various offices and ministries. But, as we saw when the collections dried up and parish budgets tightened, the laity were the first to be furloughed or fired. That is one of the clearest indicators of who mattered and what was seen as a priority during the ‘normal’ times, made patently clear in the wake of the pandemic.”

You will find the full article here.

Also, please mark October 23 on your calendar!

That’s the date of VOTF’s 2021 Conference, Re—Membering the Church: Moving Forward. It’s going to be a virtual conference again this year, to avoid any potential conflicts with pandemic-related restrictions, and during one of our sessions we will hear from a group that has done exactly what Fr. Horan noted. They are lay people who developed Sunday liturgies for families, and who will continue that practice after we’re all back in church again.


Cardinal Tobin joins Cupich on Vatican’s influential Congregation for Bishops
“On March 4, Pope Francis named Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, as a member of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, making him the second American now serving on the group tasked with advising the pontiff on which Catholic priests to appoint as bishops across the world. Tobin effectively replaces retired Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, whose appointment to the congregation ended in November on Wuerl’s 80th birthday. Tobin now joins Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, whom Francis appointed to the group in 2016.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

The Vatican is pushing forward on synodality; the U.S. Bishops should follow suit
“Pope Francis’ appointment of Xavière Sister Nathalie Becquart and now-bishop-elect Luis Marín de San Martín to the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops is only the latest step in his efforts to push the global church toward a synodal model of leadership. That is, a model in which bishops and lay people speak freely together about the issues affecting them and where they believe the Spirit is calling them, and, through discussion and voting, reach decisions together.” By Colleen Dulle,

Cologne diocese abuse scandal: Investigators identify suspects
“A German law firm published an independent report Thursday (Mar. 18) following accusations of efforts to cover up sexual violence in Germany’s most powerful Roman Catholic diocese, Cologne. The report identified around 243 abusers of minors — priests or laypeople working for the church — and at least 386 victims between 1946 and 2018, but some of these did not fall under the jurisdiction of the Cologne diocese. Some 55% of cases referred to children under the age of 14 and around half dealt with sexual violence. The rest of the cases had to do with verbal or physical abuse. Almost two-thirds of abuses were carried out by members of the clergy, the rest by laypeople. The report also indicated a clear rise in reported abuse between 2004 and 2018.” By Deutsche Welle

‘It’s not just lip service’: Jesuits announce new commission on the role of women in the order
“On March 8—International Women’s Day—Arturo Sosa, S.J., the superior general of the Jesuits, announced the creation of the Commission on the Role and Responsibilities of Women in the Society of Jesus. Father Sosa explained in a statement that the commission is the next step in the Society’s efforts to more fully include and collaborate with women, following previous decrees from General Congregations. A task force assembled by Father Sosa in 2020 also recommended the formation of a commission of this nature. The Commission on the Role and Responsibilities of Women in the Society of Jesus is made up of 10 members: six women, three Jesuits and one lay man.” By Molly Cahill, America: The Jesuit Review

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

Lenten Reflections

Fr. Emmett Farrell’s Lenten Reflections on the Care of Creation examines our impact on the planet and our responsibility, as people of faith, for our common home. In his most recent reflection, he writes of the link between lack of clean water and the pressure on migrants to find a place to live. In each Reflection he includes actions we can take during Lent – this week’s suggestions include:

  • Ask someone who assists migrants why families risk their lives and security, searching for opportunities.
  • Invite a speaker from Catholic Relief Services to explain the situation in the world and the agency’s work with more than 60,000 refugees in our “common home.”
  • Talk with a migrant or refugee neighbor about their experience.
  • Invite a speaker or migrant from another race or culture to your group or church community.

To read more of this week’s reflection, click here.

Indigenous Youth Speak on Climate Change and Spirituality

Members of the International Indigenous Youth Council took center screen last week at the annual climate change conference at Loyola University Chicago, held online instead of in person because of the coronavirus pandemic. All week, young activists like them have logged on to share their stories, artwork and resolve in addressing climate change and the dire environmental threats facing their communities and the planet.

Michael Schuck, a theology professor and co-director of the International Jesuit Ecology Project at Loyola, who co-moderated the discussion, noted that Pope Francis has repeatedly urged people to listen to Indigenous wisdom, and that Passionist Fr. Thomas Berry predicted that the destiny of North America would be determined by the Earth wisdom of its Indigenous communities.

Learn more about the conference at

To learn more about the International Jesuit Ecology Project, click here.

Germany’s Catholic Church Facing Crises

After a long investigation, an 800-page report was released on Thursday (Mar. 18) detailing decades of “systematic cover-up” regarding accusations of sexual abuse made against members of the German Catholic Church. Covering events from 1975 to 2018, the report was critical of the actions and inaction of Stefan Hesse, now the archbishop of Hamburg. It is alleged that he neglected his duty in eleven cases involving accusations of clerical abuse. Archbishop Hesse offered his resignation to Pope Francis and requested immediate relief of his duties.

The report found that two other members of the German Church acted improperly; they were suspended. Auxiliary Bishop Dominikus Schwaderlapp, one of those suspended, also reportedly offered his resignation to Pope Francis. The report overall made clear that the church mishandled the allegations and was aware of abuse and its concealment. Cardinal Ranier Maria Woelki of Cologne was not found guilty of any wrongdoing, but explained that he was “deeply moved and shamed by this, and … convinced that for clerics, their actions must have consequences.”

The Vatican has yet to comment on Hesse’s offer of resignation. Pope Francis has previously abstained from accepting resignations as repentance for mishandling of sexual abuse accusations, at least initially; he has occasionally accepted resignations after some time.

Earlier troubles emerged when Cardinal Woelki refused to publish the results of a previous investigation, although a similar investigation was made public in the Diocese of Aachen, neighboring Cologne. The report released on Thursday, a second report, was prepared by Björn Gercke, and accused eight individuals of 75 instances of misconduct, in which they did not report abuse appropriately nor protect the individuals making the accusations. Two of the individuals are deceased, including Cardinal Joachim Meisner, who was accused of more than 20 instances of wrongdoing, including failing to report or follow up on abuse cases, failing to punish perpetrators, and failing to demonstrate sufficient care for victims. The report was centered on the handling of abuse accusations rather than the accusations themselves.

Gercke’s report explained that the overall system for handling abuse accusations was opaque and lacked a clear chain of command and action. Another lawyer who contributed to the report remarked that the German Catholic Church was “marked by chaos” and a “lack of responsibility and misunderstanding,” and that no one in the Church felt responsible for handling the accusations.

In a survey published earlier this month, one third of all German Catholics are considering leaving the Church, many citing the mishandling of abuse accusations and cases as their justification. In 2019, over one quarter of a million German Catholics officially left the Catholic Church, a greater number than ever before. Older Catholics were more likely to point to the abuse crisis, while younger Catholics indicated that they were considering leaving to avoid paying a church tax, which in Germany is obligatory for those registered as Catholic and constitutes nearly 10% of their annual income.

The report has been sent to the appropriate civil authorities, although the focus was on the mishandling of abuse cases in the Church, rather than previously unreported abuses. The report has also been sent to the Vatican.

For more information, please see here, here, and here.

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

For survivor support resources, please see here.

Pope Francis’s Statement on Same-Sex Unions

A statement released by the Vatican last week says that priests may not bless unions between same-sex couples. This stands in sharp contrast to a statement widely supported by LGBTQ Catholics last year, in which Pope Francis said that “homosexual people have a right to be in a family … they are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or made miserable over it.” In the same documentary, he indicated that he thought same-sex couples should be permitted to have civil unions.

The Vatican clarified that those comments should not be taken to indicate support for same-sex marriage, but many Catholics took it as a supportive attitude towards same-sex relationships.

The statement last week, from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, assented to by Pope Francis, was a direct answer (“Negative”) to the question: “Does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?”

Later, there were questions as to how involved Pope Francis was in the approval of the message: typically, the Vatican uses the phrases “approved” and “ordered its publication” for similar messages, and this document indicated that Pope Francis was “informed” of the document and “assented to its publication.”

The statement also explained that despite positive elements in same-sex relationships, “which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated, [such positive elements] cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing.” In the view of the Vatican, because same-sex unions involve “sexual activity outside of marriage,” given that the Church’s definition of marriage is limited to a union between one man and one woman, same-sex marriages are “part of God’s plan.”

Public reactions to the statement were strong and public; both online and in the Pope’s homeland of Argentina.

For more information, please see here, here, here, and here.


SNAP Press Conferences

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests say they will identify additional credibly accused clergy in Missouri at press confrences scheduled for March 23 in Sedalia, at 2:30 pm, and March 24 at 11 a.m. in Jefferson City.


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