In the Vineyard: March 28, 2020

In the Vineyard :: March 28, 2020 :: Volume 20, Issue 6

News from National

Pope Francis’ Extraordinary Blessing “Urbi et Orbi”

Pope Francis gave his “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) blessing in an empty St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 27, 2020. The beginning of the blessing is below (with a link to the rest). We have also included a video of the blessing,

“When evening had come” (Mk 4:35). The Gospel passage we have just heard begins like this. For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat … are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.

Read the rest here.

See excerpts in English – here.

A Reflection

As Christians, we’re aware the God is with us during times of suffering, but did you know that the practice of placing the body of Jesus on representations of the cross did not start until the Black Plague, 12 centuries after Jesus’ crucifixion?

By Fr. Michael McGarry, CSP, Paulist Center-Boston Director

Up until the Black Plague which ravaged Europe in the Middle Ages, it was the rare Christian cross that carried the body of Jesus on it. But as the plague’s death march overwhelmed Europe, the faithful’s intuition came into play. Across Europe, both artists and ordinary folks superimposed the Corpus, Jesus’ body, on the cross as a vivid signal of one dimension of their faith: While we suffer in this life, Jesus also suffered. We join our sufferings with his, great or small, knowing that He walks with us in our suffering.

Displaying a crucifix in our homes might be a singular, faith-filled way of reminding us of that fundamental Christian insight: Jesus walks with us in our suffering. He does not gaze down on us from a lofty perch; He accompanies us, day by day.

And we each in our hearts know what pain we endure: worry about a vulnerable aunt or uncle; frustration with a six-year-old who cannot understand why she can’t go out; the perceived selfishness of a spouse as we try to make everything good; a frustration with civic leadership; the despair of a failing business. He walks with us amid them all…

What pain, great or small, am I carrying that I now ask Jesus to share with me to lighten my burden? A crucifix is a visual way of reminding us of Jesus’ positive answer to our prayer.

Call for Board of Trustees Members

This is a very exciting time for Voice of the Faithful! Efforts we have pursued since our founding increasingly are emerging as important paths towards renewal. Recently we were invited to take part in the 2020 Catholic Partnership Summit which was sponsored by the Leadership Roundtable. At the Summit many spoke about how the status quo in the Church is not sustainable. Areas where we have focused our efforts for almost 20 years, such as financial transparency, restorative justice, protection of children and new models of governance, were recognized by lay and clerical Church leaders as key to much needed healing and transformation.

At this critical moment in our movement of the Spirit, we are seeking to broaden representation on our Board of Trustees of people with fresh new ideas or practical approaches to our current efforts. We need you if you are passionate about transforming the Church. God says For I know well the plans I have in mind for you – plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

If the Spirit is calling you, please reach out to us and share your vision for the future of VOTF and of the Church. Email Mary Pat Fox or Margaret Roylance for more information.

Catholicism in the Age of Coronavirus

COVID-19 has impacted all aspects of modern life. Work, family, home, worship- nothing is untouched by the challenges of this pandemic. However, especially during this time of Lenten reflection, faith is there. Here are some ways you can adapt your faith during this challenging time:

Perhaps we will not only be able to use this time wisely in support of faith and community, but “maybe even bring about new and better ways of taking care of each other in the years to come” (Monsignor John Enzler, CEO of Catholic Charities).

And don’t forget to wash your hands!


A New and More Diverse Model for Lay and Ordained Ministries

Boston College’s conference earlier this month moved toward the implementation of the document “To Serve the People of God,” a call for changes to the formation for and practice of lay and ordained ministries, including recommendations that “seminarians be exposed regularly to the rich diversity of the people of God.” The aim of this conference is to work towards renewed vigor of lay and ordained ministries in ways that serve the Church’s sacramental life and pastoral services.

The group notably also indicated that this broad exposure should occur in classrooms through studies alongside lay peers and learning from instructors and formators, including lay men and women. They stated that “it is desirable that women be included at every stage of the formation process—as peers in class, as teachers and formators, and as collaborators in ministry,” in order to meet the expanding needs of the Church for pastoral and sacramental ministry.

The group’s objective was to develop guidance for a future of “priestly ministry that ‘manifests itself not as dominating power and privilege but now as a service to the people of God,’” according to a seminar co-chair, Richard Gaillardetz.

Other recommendations include demands for “greater intentionality in cultivating and forming ministerial vocations from diverse communities” to better reflect the cultural and racial diversity of the US church and the entire community’s involvement in “vocational recruitment, priestly formation, and the assessment of suitability for ordination.” Both objectives aim to continually redefine the ecclesial identity of ordained ministry and center the needs of the community in the process.

Please read VOTF’s position on women’s roles in the church and on clericalism.

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


The American parish today
“A few years ago Commonweal published a special issue on parishes in the U.S. We sent out correspondents to report on what they encountered … These dispatches provided an interesting, eclectic account of what it meant to worship in different parishes in different parts of the U.S. At the same time, such an approach was unable to take the full measure of the changes remaking the U.S. Catholic Church—most of all the significant changes in demographics and geography, set against the backdrop of declining vocations and broader trends in religious disaffiliation—and what they meant for local communities of Catholics.” By The Editors, Commonweal

Reporting system to record abuse complaints against bishops begins
“A reporting system accepting sexual misconduct allegations against U.S. bishops and eparchs is in place. Called the Catholic Bishops Abuse Reporting Service, or CBAR, the system became operational March 16. The mechanism incorporates a website and a toll-free telephone number through which individuals can file reports regarding a bishop. The website is Calls can be placed at (800) 276-1562.” By Dennis Sadowsky, Catholic News Service, in Catholic Standard

Retrial of U.S. Catholic official delayed over virus concerns
“The retrial of the only church official who has ever gone to prison in the Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal was delayed Monday (Mar. 16) because of the coronavirus outbreak. The retrial of Monsignor William Lynn, the longtime secretary for clergy in the Philadelphia archdiocese, had been to start Monday in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court but was put on hold until January amid court shutdowns meant to slow the spread of the pandemic.” By Maryclaire Dale, Associated Press

Theologian says clerical sexual abuse ‘always about abuse of power’
“Karlijn Demasure taught religion at a secondary school for girls in Belgium when she first came across child abuse. It turned out a girl was sexually abused at home and no one at the school knew exactly what to do. ‘The psychiatrist associated with the school was also unable to help us,’ said Demasure. ‘Should we address the father that we knew about it and that it shouldn’t be happening? Should we send the girl to therapy? Nobody knew. This episode made me decide to go back to university for further study, and to specialize as a theologian in this field. We must help these children.’” By Joke Heikens, Katholiek Nieuwsblad, on

Court-appointed official says Vatican failing on accountability in Nienstedt case
“A court-appointed official for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is alleging that the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops is failing to comply with new protocols for bishop accountability created by Pope Francis with regard to a potential investigation into former Archbishop John Nienstedt. Nienstedt led the archdiocese from 2008 until resigning under fire in 2015 after charges of failing to protect children from sexual abuse. In addition to allegations that he actively covered up for abusive priests, Nienstedt has been the subject of investigations regarding his own misconduct.” By Christopher White,

Post-reformation theology of the priesthood influenced abuse crisis, author says
“My (Clare McGrath-Merkle, OCDS, DPhil,) work has been focused mainly on the theology of the priesthood and its possible role, if any, in the crisis of sexual abuse and cover-up. The causes of the crisis are, of course, varied, but I have wanted to try to understand how this theology might have somehow contributed to a clerical identity prone to the abuse of power.” By Charles C. Camosy,

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

Visions of a Just Church: 2020 VOTF Conference

The place to be on Saturday, Oct. 3, is the Boston Marriott Newton Hotel as Voice of the Faithful returns for its 2020 Conference: Visions of a Just Church. Mark your calendars and join us as we seek visions of what a Church that is just for all the faithful would look like.

Our featured speaker will be Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D., an internationally recognized scholar in Catholic studies and women’s roles in the Church and an advocate for an ordained women’s diaconate. Author of nearly 20 books, Dr. Zagano received Voice of the Faithful’s Catherine of Siena Distinguished Layperson Award during VOTF’s 10th Year Conference in Boston in 2012 and the Issac Hecker Award for Social Justice from the Paulist Center in Boston in 2014. She is a member of the Papal Commission on the Diaconate of Women and senior research associate-in-residence and adjunct professor of religion at Hofstra University.

The cost for attending VOTF’s 2020 Conference is $150, but you can take advantage of a Two-for-$230 offer through Labor Day, Sept. 7.

Register for VOTF 2020 Conference by clicking here …(link is external)

Book your discounted group-rate room at our conference hotel, the Boston Marriott Newton, for only $159 per night …(link is external)

We will be at the same great venue as last year and will offer the same mix of interesting speakers, good food, and evocative conversation, so stay tuned for more information.


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.