In the Vineyard: October 18, 2019

In the Vineyard :: October 18, 2019 :: Volume 19, Issue 19

News from National

Hope to See You There!

Just one short day before VOTF’s 2019 Conference: Creating a Just Church. We hope to see many of you there. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the opening remarks at 9.

Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Boston Marriott Newton, Newton, Massachusetts

Spreading the Word on Women Deacons …

The issue of women deacons was placed, literally, in the hands of every Synod member and auditor attending the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region in Rome. Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D., co-author of Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future, reports that a copy of the book was provided to all attendees as well as placed where anyone interested could pick up a copy. The volume is available in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese, and Dr. Zagano also prepared an “elevator speech” about women deacons in those languages as well as in German and Italian. (You can download one in English and Spanish here.)

Following up on that same theme, FutureChurch hosts a web page with resources for communicating with bishops prior to ad limina visits planned in November. The resources include information on both women deacons and ordination of married men as priests.

Debate on Married Priests Continues at Synod

We have yet to reach the halfway point of the Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazon region, but even before the Synod opened on October 6th, the appearance of the issue of married priests on the official list of topics had reinvigorated the long-standing Catholic debate over priestly celibacy and threatened to overshadow other important aspects of the Synod.

Most of the Synod aims at discussion of the Amazon environment and threats to it, but such discussions inevitably include the relationships with indigenous peoples. The issue of married priests, as well as a place for women as pastoral leaders (ordained deacons) arise from a concern for the lack of priests to minister to the faithful in remote, hard-to-reach areas of the rainforest.

The National Catholic Reporter’s Joshua McElwee spoke with several canon law experts and laid out the ways in which Pope Francis may go about permitting married men to enter the priesthood. He discusses two main possibilities: “Francis could issue new norms allowing bishops in the region to deviate from the church canon requiring clerics to remain celibate, or could invite the bishops to make appeal to the Vatican for special permission on a case-by-case basis.”

The first is a broader approach, while the second allows the Pope an exceptional amount of discretion and avoids radical change. McElwee also notes, crucially, that celibacy is not a matter of Church dogma, but instead is codified in canon law. This is an important distinction which bodes well for the possibility of future change. While this possibility is exciting, it is important to not overstate the centrality of married priests to the overall Synod.

The Synod is itself a remarkable undertaking, not only for the breadth of its engagement with indigenous people of the Amazon, but also in the nature of that engagement. The Synod is relying upon extensive dialogue that at times is led by indigenous civil and religious leaders. The Church is assuming the role of a student, ready to listen to the concerns of the people of the Amazon over climate change and the destruction of the Amazon, rather than simply to preach to them. Whatever the outcome of the Synod itself, this should be celebrated.

To read some of VOTF’s materials on married priests – click here. For information about ordaining women deacons, see this VOTF web page.

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


Bridgeport Diocese report on sex abuse among priests blames former Archbishop Edward Egan; nearly 300 individuals allegedly abused by 71 priests since 1953
“A scathing report released Tuesday (Oct. 1) by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport on the alleged sexual abuse of hundreds of victims by clergy since the early 1950s blames former bishops Edward Egan and Walter Curtis for violating state law, destroying records and either outright ignoring or inadequately responding to ‘an unfolding crisis.’ As the number of priest abuse victims piled up, church leaders were more concerned about protecting assets and avoiding “scandalous news articles” than protecting children and removing priests, the report found.” By Dave Altimari and Amanda Blanco, Hartford Courant

Vatican prosecutors raid Secretariat of State in financial transaction investigation
“Vatican police officers conducted a raid Oct. 1 on the offices of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and the city-state’s financial watchdog authority regarding an investigation into unspecified financial transactions. The Vatican press office, which announced the raid in a two-sentence note, did not give many details about its scope or the matter being investigated. Its statement said merely that “documents and electronic devices” had been collected with regard to transactions that took place this summer.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

Vatican orders apostolic visitation for Diocese of Buffalo
“The Vatican announced on Oct. 3 that it has appointed the Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn to lead an apostolic visitation for the troubled Diocese of Buffalo ‘in the near future.’ The results of this fact-finding mission will be reported to the Holy See’s Congregation of Bishops. The Vatican communique described the visitation as a non-judicial and non-administrative process that will not be subject to a recent papal decree that updated procedures on bishop accountability.” By America Staff

Archdiocese of New York concludes year-long review into child sex abuse scandal
“A special investigator has concluded her year-long review into how the Archdiocese of New York handled the child sex abuse scandal. One year ago, Timothy Cardinal Dolan asked (former federal judge) Barbara Jones to look into how the archdiocese responded. She discussed her findings and recommendations Monday (Sept. 30) … Jones said all of the complaints received over the last several years involved alleged conduct from years, sometimes decades, ago. Most of the priests in question have since died. She said there have only been two substantiated complaints of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest in the archdiocese after 2002, and the archdiocese is effectively investigating each complaint.” By CBS-TV News New York

German bishops vote to adopt statutes for synodal assembly
“The bishops of Germany have voted to adopt a set of statutes for their long-planned ‘Synodal Assembly.’ The decision was taken in a vote on Wednesday, Sept. 25, the final day of the plenary session of the German bishops’ conference. The bishops voted to adopt the statutes by a margin of 51-12 with 1 abstention. The vote followed hours of debate concerning several amendments. Various changes were proposed and considered in response to Vatican concerns that a previous draft of the plans was ‘not ecclesiologically valid.’” By Ed Condon, Catholic News Agency

Australian states will require priests to report abuse disclosed in confession
“The Australian states of Victoria and Tasmania have become the latest in the country to pass legislation criminalizing priests who fail to report the abuse of children disclosed during confession. The country’s six states and two territories are all expected have such laws in place in coming months. But some clerics, including Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli, one of Australia’s most senior and vocal bishops, have vowed to ignore the laws in an effort to uphold the seal of the confessional.” By Michael Sainsbury, Catholic News Service

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

The Meaning of Accountability

Almost 17 years ago the Boston Globe published its “Spotlight” reports, setting off a global reckoning with sexual abuse in the Catholic Church that doesn’t appear to be abating anytime soon. Much has changed within the Church since that time, and that progress, real progress, has been made in combatting sexual abuse, is an undeniable fact. But once again with our Church, it appears to be “two steps forward, one step back.”

A new investigative report from USA Today ( reveals little that will be surprising to those who are well acquainted with the sex abuse crisis. What it also reveals, however, is the extent to which dioceses across the country are going to avoid being held accountable for their actions.

The battlefields this time are laws being put forward in state legislatures across the country that alter the statute of limitations on civil suits involving sexual abuse. This goes farther than the $10 million that the Church has spent on lobbying in eight northeastern states ( It’s an all-out effort, both widespread and deeply personal. In Pennsylvania, for example, a state representative described being called out by name his parish priest for his support of a Pennsylvania bill extending the statute of limitations. In Maryland, another state representative discovered that his high school alma mater had sent out a mass mailer suggesting that a bill he supported on extending the statute of limitations would “destroy the high school.”

The implications of such efforts are deeply troubling. The Catholic Church, even as it vows reform, is resorting to deeply personal attacks on prominent Catholics who support efforts to bring a modicum of justice to survivors who must live their lives with the consequences of the Church’s misconduct. The roughly $239 million dollars the Church spent in 2018 alone paying for her misdeeds gives them a clear motive to do so, but is this acceptable to the faithful?

Unfortunately, the Church is working hard to stymie bipartisan efforts to extend statutes of limitations. To critics of the Catholic Church, this is further evidence of the Church’s lack of sincerity and true penance for its role in the greatest scandal of our generation. Whatever reforms the Church has undergone and continues to undergo seem contradicted by its resorting to personal attacks on advocates for survivors.

Little Girl Leaving Receives More Kudos

VOTF member Lisa Blume’s novel Little Girl Leaving: A Novel Based On A True Story has received yet another award. It’s a winner in the 2019 IAN Book of the Year Awards. The book received a Finalist Award for Outstanding Literary General Fiction from the Independent Authors Network (IAN), as well as the IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) Ben Franklin Best First Book Silver Award for Fiction, Eric Hoffer Grand Prize Short List and General Fiction Honorable Mention.

In addition, it was named a Finalist for the Montaigne Medal for most thought-provoking books, First Horizon Award for debut books, Da Vince Eye for cover art, Santa Fee Writers Project Award Long List, and B.R.A.G. Medallion.

To buy a copy of Little Girl Leaving –click here. (Purchases from Amazon made through this link will result in a small donation to VOTF).


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