In the Vineyard: March 31, 2017

In the Vineyard :: March 31, 2017 :: Volume 17, Issue 6

News from National

Protect Those Who Depend on Us

April is National Child Abuse Prevention month and VOTF has guidelines on our website to help you identify potential abuse and thus help prevent child abuse. VOTF’s child protection efforts focus on educating parishes and the public and on monitoring parish/diocesan child-safety programs to ensure continued vigilance. Sexual abuse of children is a crime, as well as a human rights issue.

You can click here to go to VOTF’s primary Child Protection webpage, but to get you started, here are 10 points for protecting children from Teresa M. Kettlekamp, former Executive Director of the USCCB Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection:

  1. Sexual molestation is about the victim. Many people are affected when a priest abuses a minor, but the individual most impacted is the victim, who has suffered a violation of trust that can affect his or her entire life. The abuser, the family of the abused, and the parish community are all affected by this sin and crime, but the primary person of concern must be the victim.
  2. No one has the right to have access to children. If people wish to volunteer for the church, for example, in a parish or school, they must follow diocesan guidelines on background checks, safe environment training, policies and procedures, and codes of conduct. No one, no matter who they are, has an automatic right to be around children or young people who are in the care of the church without proper screening and without following the rules.
  3. Common sense is not all that common. It is naive to presume that people automatically know boundaries, so organizations and families have to spell them out. For example, no youth minister, cleric, or other adult leader should be in a child’s bedroom alone with the child.
  4. Child sexual abuse can be prevented. Awareness that child sexual abuse exists and can exist anywhere is a start. It is then critical to build safety barriers around children and young people to keep them from harm. These barriers come in the form of protective guardians, codes of conduct, background evaluations, policies and procedures, and safety training programs.
  5. The residual effects of having been abused can last a lifetime. Those who have been abused seldom “just get over it.” The sense of violation goes deep into a person’s psyche, and feelings of anger, shame, hurt, and betrayal can build long after the abuse has taken place. Some have even described the feeling as if it has “scarred their soul.”
  6. Feeling “heard” leads toward healing. Relief from hurt and anger often comes when one feels heard, when one’s pain and concerns are taken seriously, and a victim/survivor’s appropriate sense of rage and indignation are acknowledged. Not being acknowledged contributes to a victim’s sense of being invisible, unimportant, and unworthy; they are in some way “revictimized.”
  7. You cannot always predict who will be an abuser. Experience shows that most abuse is at the hands of someone who has gained the trust of a victim/survivor and his/her family. Most abuse also occurs in the family setting. Sometimes the “nicest person in the world” is an abuser, and this “niceness” enables a false sense of trust to be created between abuser and abused.
  8. There are behavioral warning signs of child abusers. Training and education help adults recognize grooming techniques that are precursors to abuse. Some abusers isolate a potential victim by giving him or her undue attention or lavish gifts. Another common grooming technique is to allow young people to participate in activities which their parents or guardians would not approve, such as watching pornography, drinking alcohol, using drugs, and to engage in excessive touching, which includes wrestling and tickling. It is also critical to be wary of age-inappropriate relationships, seen, for example, in the adult who is more comfortable with children than with other adults. Parishes can set up rules to guide interaction between adults and children.
  9. People can be taught to identify grooming behavior. Grooming behavior is the actions that abusers take to project the image that they are kind, generous, caring people, while their intent is to lure a minor into an inappropriate relationship. An abuser may develop a relationship with the family to increase his credibility. Abusers might show attention to the child by talking to him/her, being friendly, sharing alcohol, and giving the child “status” by insinuating that the child is their favorite or “special person.” Offenders can be patient and may “groom” their victim, his or her family, or community for years.
  10. Background checks work. Background checks in churches, schools, and other organizations keep predators away from children both because they scare off some predators and because they uncover past actions that should ban an adult from working or volunteering with children. If an adult has had difficulty with some boundaries that society sets, such as not driving while intoxicated or not disturbing the public peace, he or she may have difficulties with other boundaries, such as not hurting a child. Never forget that offenders lie.

Click here for a printable PDF of these 10 points.

SPECIAL NOTE: In Protecting children: Learning to listen to the voiceless, Drew Dillingham writes about the abuse of disabled children, who by some accounts are at twice the risk of physical and sexual abuse compared to children without disabilities.

Remembering Two Founders

By Clare Keane (Winchester VOTF) and Margaret Roylance (VOTF vice president)

As parishioners of St. Julia’s in Weston MA, Catherine (Cathy) Fallon and her husband Bill sat at the epicenter of the early revelations about clerical sexual abuse in the Boston archdiocese. Reports published by The Boston Globe in 2002 included disturbing information about Fr. John Geoghan, who had been assigned to St. Julia’s in 1984. In response, Cathy and Bill joined Voice of the Faithful as it emerged from meetings at St. John’s Parish in Wellesley.

The meetings inspired them, as they did so many others in the Boston area, to dedicate their talents to work for change in the church as a way to protect the faith they both loved. They started a VOTF affiliate at St. Julia’s with the permission of the Parish Council there (but not the pastor’s); they played a key role in the planning and execution of the VOTF convention at the Hynes in July of 2002; they worked on key projects as VOTF found its voice as an organization.

Clare remembers Cathy as a legendary communicator and organizer—gifts that placed her in the forefront of planning for the seminal convention at the Hynes. She helped to select and enlist many of the high-profile speakers that made the convention such an unforgettable experience.

As a participant, Margaret recalls her concern that the convention would fail to meet the expectations that the incredibly detailed planning promised. But on that day, all her worries evaporated. “I was swept away by the experience of sitting on the floor of the Hynes with so many others, raising my voice with theirs as prophetic speakers declared that we would not be silent in the face of all that we had learned.”

Margaret first met Cathy and Bill when they became charter members of the Structural Change Working Group, formed for the challenging task of articulating what VOTF meant by its third goal: working for structural change within the church. “It was not a task for the fainthearted,” Margaret says.

Margaret first met Cathy and Bill when they became charter members of the Structural Change Working Group, formed for the challenging task of articulating what VOTF meant by its third goal: working for structural change within the church. “It was not a task for the fainthearted,” Margaret says. “It was a time to move past the mountaintop moment of the convention, rolling up our sleeves and putting flesh on the bones of a movement of the Spirit. Cathy was capable, wise and gentle, and her contributions to that effort were invaluable.”

In addition to their work in Structural Change, Cathy served as a Secretary for the new organization, and Bill played a key role in developing the database that helped connect all the members.

On Monday, March 6, 2017, Cathy died in her home in Weston. “She will be remembered fondly as a faithful Catholic and a talented and effective member of VOTF,” Clare says. But most of all, and most importantly to her, she will be remembered as a loving wife to Bill and mother to their four children.

Well done, good and faithful servant!

Voice of the Faithful has prepared Lent reflections for the season. You can reach them through the graphic on our web site Home Page, or open the twice-weekly emails sent to members. Each Reflection page offers a reflection, a list of liturgical readings, and links to liturgical readings on the USCCB website. Here is the April 2 to April 4 Reflection.


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


French TV inquiry accuses 25 bishops of abuse cover-ups
“A hard-hitting French television investigation has accused 25 Catholic bishops of protecting 32 accused clerical sex abusers in France over the past half century and often transferring them to other parishes or even other countries when they were singled out for sexual abuse of minors.”
By Tom Heneghan of The Tablet in National Catholic Reporter

Catholic leaders told to come down from the pulpit to deal with sexual abuse
Catholic leaders must come down ‘from the pulpit’ to acknowledge that clergy sexual abuse of children and cover-ups had broken the Church’s heart and to do more to prevent it, speakers at a conference said on Thursday, March 23.” By Reuters Media in the Duluth News Tribune

Vatican reform on sexual abuse has stalled
“Three weeks have passed since Marie Collins resigned from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, complaining that the group’s work has been thwarted by resistance from within the Roman Curia. A few days after her public announcement, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith defended his office and denied any foot-dragging on the abuse issue. Collins quickly shot back, rebutting the cardinal’s arguments.” By Phil Lawler,

O’Malley pledges pope still committed to rooting out clergy sex abuse
“In the midst of a month in which the effectiveness of Pope Francis’ measures to fight clergy sexual abuse has come into question, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley pledged Thursday (Mar. 23) that the pontiff is still ‘thoroughly committed to rooting out the scourge of sex abuse.’ O’Malley, the head of Francis’ Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, told participants of an education seminar hosted by the group that ‘there is simply no justification in our day for failures to enact concrete safeguarding standards for our children.’” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

How the church is combatting sexual abuse: an interview with Jesuit Hans Zollner
“‘The impression that Pope Francis is not hard enough on perpetrators is wrong. The general line of judgment and sentence has not changed,’ Hans Zollner, S.J., president of the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, told ‘America’ in this interview in which he explains what the pope and the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) are doing to combat child abuse and ensure the protection of children in church institutions worldwide.” By Gerard O’Connell, America: The Jesuit Revi

Cardinal’s plan for laypeople to lead parishes
“Cardinal Reinhard Marx has announced plans to allow laypeople in his Archdiocese of Munich to lead parishes where there are no priests. In doing so he has strongly rejected the increasingly common option of coping with the dwindling number of ordained ministers by combining or “clustering” parishes. The 63-year-old cardinal is a top aide and advisor to Pope Francis.” By Christa Pongratz-Lip

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


Saint Susanna’s Adult Faith Formation, Dedham MA

Presentations run from 7:00 to 9:00 PM at the Parish Hall, 262 Needham Street, Dedham. There is no pre-registration requirement, there is no fee, and the refreshments are free. Free Will Offerings are gratefully accepted to cover the costs of our program.

May 1, 8, and 15, 2017 – Father Steve’s Book Group: Father Steve Josoma has selected the book to be read and discussed at these sessions in May. He has chosen The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu in conjunction with Douglas Abrams. A discussion group format is used for these three sessions, with small groups. Those who choose to join us should read the first section of the book, entitled “Day One,” before the first session.

SAVE THE DATE: Awakening and Empowering Laity​

This is a collaborative event sponsored by Call to Action Maryland (CTA MD) with members of COMMUNITAS, NOVA, PAX, Catholic Community of Greenbelt, and VOTF. Mark your calendar for May 6, 2017, 10 am – 3 pm Greenbelt Community Center in Maryland (15 Crescent Road, Greenbelt MD 20770).

Planned speakers include Fr.Thomas P. Doyle, J.C.D., C.A.D.C.; William Casey, Voice of the Faithful; Becky Ianni, SNAP Virginia; David Lorenz, SNAP Maryland/DC; and Clyde Cristofferson, attorney and member of NOVA.

“The safety of today’s and tomorrow’s children and the compassionate response to victims by the Church’s leaders will be uniformly assured only when the system that allowed this nightmare to happen has been fundamentally changed and replaced with a way of life that truly IS the People of God. This is happening now and will continue to happen because those whom this institution has harmed so deeply are making it happen.” (2016, Tom Doyle, Voice of the Faithful Inc)

Note: Send your local affiliate or parish events (relevant to VOTF’s mission and projects) to the Editor, and we’ll see if we can include them.

Letter to the Editor

An Open Letter to His Holiness, Pope Francis,

We are writing in support and praise for His Excellency, our Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island. Bishop Tobin is to be admired for his steadfast adherence to certain specific portions of church dogma, his devotion to moral purity and his relentless correction of error. Respectfully, while Your Holiness explicitly seeks a Church dedicated to the poor and weak, Bishop Tobin has been serving the most under-served population in the modern Catholic Church: the Apparently Sinless.

Most recently, Your Holiness unfairly placed a tremendous burden of guilt upon the Apparently Sinless by declaring that we had some kind of obligation to give to the panhandlers on the street. Thankfully, Bishop Tobin relieved us of that guilt by providing three rational reasons why we should NOT give.

His Excellency noted what has long been obvious to the Apparently Sinless, that such giving allows dishonest individuals to “prey upon” our compassion while it also creates a “very real safety hazard” to the beggars and to us. Finally, Bishop Tobin cautioned us that “throwing some loose change at a panhandler while passing by is demeaning of his or her human dignity.”

While the other two reasons were enough for me to keep the window of my luxury sedan rolled up and my eyes steadfastly forward at the stop light, I still felt some discomfort, in spite of the excellent climate control system. It wasn’t until Bishop Tobin’s posting that I realized how much I was respecting the dignity of the poor by ignoring them.

Remaining among the Apparently Sinless is not easy. It takes continuous positive reinforcement and recognition that one must avoid all sinners, lest one fall in among them and, in so doing, err. Bishop Tobin does this by pointing out and deploring the actions of those who are not Apparently Sinless. He has also sought to protect us from those sinners, by (among other things) denying them the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. It is these actions that help the Apparently Sinless to remain confident in their moral superiority.

We respectfully point out that that Your Holiness is not making Bishop Tobin’s job any easier with constant calls for “mercy” and for “charity.” In this State, the obvious sinners far outnumber the Apparently Sinless. There may be some temptation to replace Bishop Tobin and find a Pastor who could better serve that greater population, a Pastor who would better deliver what Your Holiness has called “the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy.” Before you do so, we urge you to consider the needs of the one group that Bishop Tobin serves so well: the Apparently Sinless.

C.M. Williams

Questions, Comments?

Please send them to Siobhan Carroll, Vineyard Editor, at (link sends e-mail). Unless otherwise indicated, I will assume comments can be published as Letters to the Editor.

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