In the Vineyard :: March 8, 2021 :: Volume 21, Issue 5
VOTF’s Protection of Children Working GroupAnnounces Mini-Synod Listening Session
Following up on our successful Zoom conference last October, Voice of the Faithful is organizing several Zoom “mini-synods” during 2021, in effect, listening sessions where we’ll discuss Church issues that affect us all. VOTF wants to hear from you.
The first mini-synod is scheduled for March 25, 2021, at 7 p.m. (EDT), and the topic is Emerging from Pandemic: Ensuring Safe Environments for Children. We’re suggesting a $15 goodwill offering to defray expenses.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all our lives, but the pandemic should not keep us from maintaining the safest environments for our children. How has your parish kept up its vigilance? Do you know what your parish does to protect children? By comparing notes during our mini-synod, we can help ensure that we’re all doing our part.
We would like to hear from you:
- Are religious education classes taking place remotely?
- How is prevention training for new teachers/adults being conducted?
- Are teachers of remote learning getting background safety checks?
- Do all teachers conducting remote sessions receive child protection training?
The Working Group also will provide information on its review of diocesan websites throughout the country to evaluate the transparency of protection of children and safe environment information. You can click here to read the worksheet VOTF has developed.
Please consider inviting the religious education and safe environment staff in your parish or collaborative to join us for this Zoom conversation.
For another opportunity to learn how to protect our children join Faith and Flourishing: Strategies for Preventing and Healing Child Sexual Abuse. Sponsored by Harvard University’s Human Flourishing program, this international online symposium will be held April 8-10. Registrants can participate in daily, hour-long round table discussions to identify actions your communities can take to prevent child sexual abuse and promote healing for its victims.
Participants will also have the opportunity to view a series of presentations by global leaders and experts on the prevention and healing of child sexual abuse, and access evidence-informed tools, training materials, and multi-media resources for prevention and healing.
Registration for this symposium is free and open to the public.
Abuse Cases Continue to Emerge on All Sides
An independent commission earlier this week found that there may be as many as 10,000 victims of sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church since 1950, far surpassing an earlier estimate of 3,000. The Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) was set up in 2018 and has received 6,500 testimonials to date, relating to at least 3,000 victims. CIASE intends to release a final report early this fall.
The investigation aims to find answers to several questions, including “What do the abuses committed in the Church represent for society,” according to Jean-Marc Sauvé, the Commission’s president. The request for reports was entirely voluntary, and Sauvé wonders what percentage of total victims the work will touch. Nearly a third of reports are from victims currently over the age of 70, and half are between 50 and 69. Reports account for abuses of minors as well as of vulnerable adults, but nearly 90% of those received were abuses against minors. One-third of young adult victims were seminarians or members of religious communities at the time of the reported attacks.
Later this month, church leaders are expected to release additional information detailing crime prevention mechanisms and additional ways to support victims. Sauvé adds that the number of calls the commission received was startling, with an estimated 400 each month. Financial compensation has been mentioned, although specific details remain vague.
In the United States, stories of clerical abuses of Native American children at Catholic boarding schools has begun to emerge. The Catholic Church has yet to formally apologize to these victims, nor has it conducted investigations or paid reparations. Advocates explain that before reconciliation can occur, the truth must be heard. Denise Lajimodiere, a founder of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition, has collected evidence of 83 Catholic boarding schools in the United States that housed Indigenous children. She has been interviewing victims, and her book details corporal punishments, forced child labor, hunger, malnourishment, mental and sexual abuse, as well as abuses by other children.
Church leaders often transferred priests and sisters who were known to be abusive into missions and boarding schools for Native children. Differing slightly from what Lajimodiere calls the “white American” sexual abuse crisis, she notes that around half of the known survivors of sexual abuse are women, in Native contexts, compared to five out of six survivors in the “white American” sexual abuse crisis being men.
Ongoing research and groups dedicated to healing are beginning to work towards accountability for the abuses that occurred in Native boarding schools.
To read more about VOTF’s position on child protection, please see here.
For survivor support resources, please see here.
Pope’s Iraq Visit Respects and Honors Culture and History
Pope Francis’s historic visit to Iraq kicked off with a visit to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation, the site of a suicide bombing that took the lives of 48 Catholics in 2010. He remarked that their deaths were “a powerful reminder that inciting war, hateful attitudes, violence or the shedding of blood are incompatible with authentic religious teachings. For Christians are called to bear witness to the love of Christ in every time and place. This is the Gospel that must be proclaimed and embodied in this beloved country as well.”
Pope Francis is the first pope in history to visit Iraq. He will meet with members of Christian communities, prominent Muslim clerics, and political leaders. His trip began with a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi upon landing in Baghdad. He then addressed civil authorities and met with Iraqi President Barham Salih. Later the same day, he visited the Cathedral and spoke with local Catholic leaders.
Over the course of his three-day visit from March 5th to 8th, he will cover 900 miles. He has thus far shared messages of unity, pastoral care, and hope for and in the young people of Iraq. He said, “It is up to us to cultivate their growth in goodness and to nurture them with hope,” encouraging priests and bishops to continue their close relationships with their parishes and people and to enrich the community, including the youth.
The trip will be challenging considering the unstable situation of Iraq’s Christian populations. Diplomatically as well as physically dangerous, Pope Francis is set to be walking a narrow line as he supports Christians in the nation and continues drawing attention to those living on the margins.
What Does Cardinal Tobin’s Appointment Mean?
Pope Francis’s latest appointment of Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, as a member of the Congregation for Bishops, is an unsurprising choice. Cardinal Tobin is well-liked among his fellow bishops, is close to his people, and cares deeply for the poor and marginalized. He has a reputation for being accessible and compassionate, and his selection is further evidence of Pope Francis’s intention to usher the U.S. bishops toward a more pastoral approach, rather than the confrontational approach they have had in recent memory. His appointment indicates the Pope’s priority of social justice over political flashpoints.
The Congregation for Bishops is an influential body that has a key role in shaping the future of the Church. Cardinal Tobin will have influence over selecting future U.S. bishops, as members of the congregation often have more power within the Congregation for Bishops when it comes to selecting bishops for their own nations. Although popes are not tied to the recommendations made by the congregation, Pope Francis has been appointing leaders who have, as he explains, “the smell of the sheep,” or a close relationship with members of their dioceses. Cardinal Tobin meets this standard, and is close to Pope Francis.
Only time will tell how this appointment will influence the nature of the bishop’s conference, or widen the divides currently present.
Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup
Survivors of sex abuse by nuns suffer decades of delayed healing
“Anne Gleeson was 12 years old when she says Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet Judith Fisher — her charismatic history teacher at Immacolata School in Richmond Heights, Missouri — began singling her out for special attention. ‘She’d wander around the classroom, and she’d lean on my chair and press her fingers into my back. Or she’d send me a little note or leave a present in my desk,’ Gleeson, now 63, said. The secret, forbidden touches gave Gleeson shivers. She says the rape began in 1971 when she was 13, although it [took] three decades and some therapy for her to recognize it.” By Dawn Araujo-Hawkins, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter
The curse of clericalism: The Catholic Church must act now to address the sins of the past
“In just one week in January, it seemed as if all the grief and shame was unleashed again. Every media outlet was covering one story after another about the Catholic Church and the cumulative effect was dispiriting and demoralizing. There was the decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, which declined to hear a final appeal from the Archdiocese of St. John’s concerning its liability over the abuse of children at Mount Cashel Orphanage … So when does it end? When will the toxin that is clericalism – the corrosive pattern of entitlement and abuse of power by clergy – be purged?” By Michael W. Higgins, The Globe and Mail
‘Spotlight’ editor on retirement: Clergy abuse coverage has permanently changed church
“When Martin Baron, one of the most consequential newspaper editors in America, announced his upcoming retirement, he cited his work overseeing the Boston Globe’s coverage of clergy sexual abuse and cover-up as a highlight of his journalistic career. ‘I think the impact has been really quite profound on several levels,’ he told NCR ahead of his retirement. ‘One on investigative journalism, the other on the Catholic Church and then more broadly on institutions that are facing allegations of abuse of various types, but particularly sexual abuse.’” By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter
Will the Vatican investigate a cardinal implicated in its own abuse trial?
“An unusual sex abuse trial currently underway in the Vatican took a potentially explosive turn Wednesday (Feb. 24), and the response may have a great deal to say about how serious the reforms launched by Pope Francis actually are. Three witnesses testified that Italian Cardinal Angelo Comastri, who was relieved of his position as Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica last Saturday by Pope Francis, or his aides, had been aware of sexual abuse allegations at a pre-seminary on Vatican grounds and took no action … At the very least it creates the basis for an investigation of the 77-year-old Comastri, which, depending on the outcome, could lead to a charge of criminal negligence.” By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com
Head of French church child abuse probe says there may be 10,000 victims
“The head of an independent enquiry investigating church child abuse in France said Tuesday (Mar. 2) that there might have been up to 10,000 victims since 1950. Jean-Marc Sauve, head of a commission set up by the Catholic church, said that a previous estimate in June last year of 3,000 victims ‘is certainly an underestimate.’ ‘It’s possible that the figure is at least 10,000,’ he added at a press conference where he delivered an update on the commission’s work. A hotline set up in June 2019 for victims and witnesses to report abuse received 6,500 calls in the first 17 months of operation.” By France24.com
FutureChurch Hosts Vatican II Series
FutureChurch is hosting a four-part Pentecost Series on the history, documents and implications of Vatican II for the Church today.
The four-part “Enacting the Second Vatican Council: History, Documents, and Implications for the Church Today!” will be held Wednesday evenings May 26 through June 16, 2021, at 7 pm (Eastern time).
Vatican II produced a charter for the Church to move from the rigid, hierarchical model espoused by Pius IX at Vatican I (1869-70) to the collegial, “communio” model that emerged under John XXIII at Vatican II (1962-65). In the four brief sessions that took place from 1962-65, more than 2,500 bishops–who often disagreed on the most critical issues–produced 16 documents that touched the very essence of the Catholic faith.
Sr. Maureen Sullivan, OP, heads up this series.
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