In the Vineyard: May 25, 2020

In the Vineyard :: May 25, 2020 :: Volume 20, Issue 10

Secret Bishops’ Report May See Radical Changesin Australia’s Catholic Church

According to a 200-page report given to the Bishops Conference earlier this month, Australia may see significant changes in how the Catholic Church operates. Conducted by a seven-member panel, the 15-month review of church governance overall seems to indicate that bishops should relinquish some of their power in favor of increasing the control of professional laity. The panel was led by Justice Neville Owen, the former chair of the Truth, Justice, and Healing Council.

Another significant call in the report is for pastoral councils or consultative bodies set up to advise bishops and priests. These councils should ideally have equal numbers of men and women, according to the report.

In addition to calling for modifications to the structure of power in the church, the report also calls for more clarity, accountability, and transparency in financial matters. It would require church dioceses and agencies to act according to the governance standards followed by other entities. That’s a startling change, especially as religious charities are not required to report to the national regulator and the Catholic Church in Australia has historically been highly guarded about its wealth. A 2018 investigation found that the Church had misled the Royal Commission about the value of its property portfolio, and claimed that increased payments to abuse victims would require cutting funding for social programs.

Australian Catholics are calling for the release of this secret document, saying it is “supremely ironic” that they are refusing to release the report calling for greater transparency and inclusivity.

The changes recommended in the document would create a new paradigm for the Church and all of its entities in Australia, including schools, hospitals, and charities. The impact could potentially affect other Catholic organizations and dioceses around the world.

Prof. Massimo Faggioli, familiar to us as an esteemed speaker at our 2018 national VOTF conference, was one of four experts consulted by the Australian Church panel for its report. Read his analysis of the work and its potential in National Catholic Reporter.

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

For advocacy and support resources, please see here.

News from National

Changes in the Way We Worship

Some churches are beginning to open their physical doors again, although their spiritual doors have never closed. Some parishioners wonder if they will feel safe attending services in person. Despite the challenges, parishes continue to try to engage and support their members where they are. Different states are opening religious services at different rates, and some have restrictions on the number of worshipers who are allowed in at one time.

Some parishes have started new kinds of outreach, and say that parish outreach methods will be permanently changed after the Covid-19 pandemic. One parish in Louisiana has paired up parishioners who live alone to become telephone buddies, as a method to foster community when many feel lonely and disconnected.

Many believe that online streaming will continue, even as physical buildings open up, which may help accommodate those who are too concerned about their health to resume attending services in person yet.

The virus has also led to the development of “dynamic” online programs, including email devotions and similar communication. Meanwhile, printed bulletins remain essential, especially as they remain one of the ways in which generous people continue to give, although many churches have started online giving platforms to work within the new challenges of social distancing.

Regardless of the changes, parishes are still working to ensure that their members are connected to their faith, and each other, as the world continues on.

A Farewell and Best Wishes crying heart smiley

It is with great sadness but also with happiness and best wishes for a long and enjoyable retirement that we say farewell to Alice Campanella from the national office. Alice has been here from the first gathering in 2002, through all the years since, working primarily from the national office as our Membership Director, our go-to person for affiliate and membership ties, our registration coordinator for conferences, supervisor of all the volunteers there, organizer extraordinaire, and so much more.

We cannot replace her. No one else will have the organizational knowledge, the passion, and the vision she does. We will find someone to handle some of the many functions she has fulfilled the past two decades-plus. But replace her? Never.

Please join us in praying for her continued health and a pleasant retirement.

Visions of a Just Church

Join VOTF on Saturday, Oct. 3, at the Boston Marriott Newton Hotel for our 2020 Conference: Visions of a Just Church.

Our featured speaker will be Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D., (click here for Dr. Zagano’s bio) an internationally recognized scholar in Catholic studies and women’s roles in the Church and advocate of an ordained women’s diaconate.

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)

If you prefer to mail us your registration, download this form …

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.

News from Elsewhere

Encouragement from Pope Francis

Pope Francis addressed many aspects of Catholic life during the General Audience this week. He encouraged the faithful to be generous witnesses in preparation for the Ascension of the Lord. Addressing the Italian-speaking faithful, he directed his advice and prayers to the young, the elderly, the sick, and newlyweds, and prayed for and with Polish-speaking listeners as a celebration of the 100th birthday of Saint John Paul II. As the “Month of Mary,” as Pope Francis refers to the month of May, continues, he encouraged the faithful to pray the Rosary daily. He had special prayers for those who are burying the dead during the pandemic, a work of mercy.

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


Cincinnati bishop resigns after failing to report local priest later accused of rape
“A Cincinnati bishop has resigned for his role in handling alleged inappropriate conduct by a priest Bishop Joseph Binzer offered his resignation from his office as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in late April. Pope Francis accepted the resignation, which is effective Thursday (May 7). Binzer was previously removed as the Director of Priests’ Personnel after he failed to bring past concerns about Father Geoffrey Drew’s conduct to the attention of Archbishop Dennis Schnurr and the Priests’ Personnel Board.” By WKRC-tV12 News

Will the Royal Commission’s investigation bring any consequences for Cardinal Pell?
“On this week’s episode of the ‘Inside the Vatican’ podcast, Vatican correspondent Gerard O’Connell and I discuss the Australian Royal Commission’s findings that Cardinal George Pell knew about priests abusing children in the Ballarat diocese as early as 1973, a year after he began working in that diocese, and that Cardinal Pell was involved in transferring pedophile priests between parishes.” By Colleen Dulle and Gerard O’Connell, America: The Jesuit Review

NY judge upholds Child Victims Act after challenge by Rockville Centre diocese
“A judge ruled Wednesday (May 13) that New York’s Child Victims Act is constitutional, rejecting a suit filed by the Diocese of Rockville Centre that claimed the law is barred by the due process clause in the state constitution. ‘The court finds the Child Victims Act is a reasonable response to remedy the injustice of past child sexual abuse,’ Justice Steven Jaeger of the New York Supreme Court in Nassau County wrote in his May 13 decision. ‘Accordingly, it does not violate defendant diocese’s right to due process under the New York State Constitution.’” By Catholic News Agency

How central is Catholic church in New Orleans? Many federal judges recuse themselves from abuse cases
“One served as the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ in-house attorney. Another was on the board of the archdiocese’s seminary and earned an award for organizing monthly Masses for special-needs parishioners. A third is married to an attorney who is representing the archdiocese as it seeks bankruptcy protection. Yet another serves on an archdiocesan charity’s board. Respectively, U.S. District Judges Wendy Vitter, Jay Zainey, Sarah Vance and Ivan Lemelle are four members of the federal bench in New Orleans who have recused themselves from clergy abuse lawsuits that were transferred to their courthouse after the church filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on May 1.” By Ramon Antonio Vargas,

Victims of clerical sex abuse suffer from P.T.S.D. They deserve better treatment.
“Oceans of ink have been spilled about the church’s sexual abuse crisis, mostly focusing on the perpetrators and cover-ups. The magnitude of the crimes deserves attention and condemnation, but the victims should not be ignored. Their pain and long-term psychological damage cannot be undone by simply identifying and punishing the offenders, many of whom are already dead. Prayer, fasting, penance, forgiveness—some of the tools in the Catholic arsenal—are not enough to heal the wounded.” By Edwin T. Collins, America: The Jesuit Review

New Australian report may help church find its way out of abuse crisis
“There are signs that the Catholic Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis is now getting at deeper, institutional questions. In particular, how local churches — parishes and dioceses — are governed. In the last few years, a unique example that could bring encouraging news has come from the Australian church. Since 2017-18, the abuse crisis has taken on a new dimension, thanks to the unveiling of cases (such as disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick) and of extensive cover-ups identified and published in the reports of nationwide and regional investigations (such as in Australia, Chile and Pennsylvania).” By Massimo Fggioli, National Catholic Reporter

Click here to read this latest issue of Focus …

Letter to the Editor

For decades we have been asked to pray for more vocations to the priesthood. There are many people who would like to become priests, but who are prevented from doing so because of their gender or marital status, a bar that would be illegal in any other organization. Most other Christian churches accept women and men, married and single. It seems like the answer is straightforward. — B. Murphy


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