In the Vineyard: October 20, 2016

In the Vineyard :: October 20, 2016 :: Volume 16, Issue 19


Keeping the Faith While Changing the Church

VOTF’s motto “keep the faith, change the Church” resonates within a context of “adaptive change,” a framework for leading organizations and institutions through change while retaining the key character of the organization. On Saturday, Oct. 29, we have the opportunity to hear internationally recognized leadership expert and Harvard Kennedy School scholar Ronald Heifetz talk about the principles of adaptive leadership—principles he uses to counsel governments, businesses, and organizations around the world.

In this era of massive institutional change, Dr. Heifetz’s message has implications for everyone, not just those of us involved in seeking Church reform. So it’s a great opportunity for you to invite friends and family to hear him speak on “Adaptive Leadership: Making Change Work.”

This special VOTF fundraiser will take place from 1 to 3 pm, Oct. 29, at the Wellesley Country Club, 300 Wellesley Ave., Wellesley Hills, Mass. Refreshments will be served following the talk and audience Q&A.

Admission is $35 per person; $50 for two; and two people bringing a friend will be admitted for $60. Space is limited. Anyone interested may reserve seats by clicking this Donate to VOTF form, filling in the Amount ($) total for you and your guests and writing HEIFETZ and the number of seats requested in the comment box. Those who would like to make reservations by check can write HEIFETZ on the memo line and send their check in time to be received by the Friday before the event to VOTF, P.O. Box 423, Newton, MA 02464.

For more information about adaptive change, check out the press release.

And spread the word! Every additional ticket helps raise funds for VOTF!

Omaha NE Healing Circle Report

By Jayne O’Donnell, Healing Circle Co-Facilitator

On September 24, 2016, the eighth VOTF Healing Circle was held in Omaha NE in the home of the individual who spearheaded the event. The atmosphere was bright and peaceful and an ideal setting. The host also provided a light breakfast and boxed lunches for the participants.

There were 12 attendees, including Bill Casey and myself. Many of the individuals knew each other and in short order the entire group became personally connected. As in the previous Healing Circles, there was a deep sharing of individual stories of long-term harm resulting from sexual abuse and an equally deep listening from the group.

Most of the participants were parents or siblings of a sexual abuse survivor. There was one survivor in the Circle who was also the sibling of a survivor. What was so striking in this situation was the very far-reaching negative impact on family members of survivors. The ripple effect was immeasurable. An outpouring of submerged emotions was very moving.

This Circle was the first time I co-facilitated with Bill, after the training I received in Boston in July. I think that the shared facilitating went seamlessly.

A frequent comment we heard throughout the day was the gratitude of everyone present for this healing opportunity and the wish that it had been available sooner because it was so helpful.

At the close of the day, there was serious talk of holding another Circle in Omaha in the near future. Plans by several participants included a commitment to work to extend the Statute of Limitations/Window in Nebraska. The initial post-Circle feedback was positive and every individual expressed movement toward a deeper healing.

Clergy Abuse Survivors in New York Face a Choice

Voice of the Faithful recently posted to its blog an editorial from The New York Times about a new compensation program being offered to survivors of clergy sexual abuse by the Archdiocese of New York, “Victims of priests’ abuse face a choice.”

The editorial writers wonder whether this program provides survivors with real justice and were concerned about important unanswered questions around the future of child protection and the shielding of abusive clergy, for example, as well as how compensation will be determined and distributed.

VOTF President Mary Pat Fox can shed some light on the latter. The archdiocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program will be administered by attorney Ken Feinberg, whom Mary Pat knows personally. He is an expert in mediation and alternative dispute resolution who ran the settlement programs for victims of 9/11, the British Petroleum oil spill, the Boston Marathon bombing, Agent Orange settlements, and others.

Mary Pat worked with him on the BP oil spill and when he was Special Master of Executive Compensation in the Office of Financial Stability for the U.S. Treasury Department. She says that she has found him “to be a fair and honorable person.”

Feinberg’s integrity notwithstanding, VOTF cautions clergy abuse survivors in the Archdiocese of New York to examine this program carefully before making a decision. As the editorial says, the program has limitations and a rapidly approaching deadline: Jan. 31, 2017. Here is a link to the program’s announcement on the archdiocese’s website.

VOTF Lauds Pope’s Words on Bishop Selection

The importance of bishops to a local church cannot be overstated, so the selection of bishops is a major issue for the laity. Pope Francis is equally concerned about the qualities bishops possess. He has talked about bishop selection many times during his papacy, most recently when he addressed a meeting of papal nuncios from around the world. He said, in part, in a Holy See press office extract:

The … profile of the Pastors that I consider necessary for today’s Church: witnesses of the Risen Christ and not bearers of a curriculum vitae; praying bishops, familiarized with things ‘from above’ and not crushed by the weight of what is ‘below’; bishops able to enter with patience in God’s presence, so as to possess the freedom not to betray the Kerygma entrusted to them; bishops who are pastors, not princes or officials. …”

Voice of the Faithful shares the pontiff’s concerns for the quality of our bishops, and of course, is interested in the widest possible lay input into bishop selection. In a letter to Pope Francis only a few months after his election, VOTF asked him “to restore to all the laity and clergy of a diocese a formal role in the process of recommending candidates for their bishop prior to your appointment of him.” Enclosed with the letter was the VOTF document, “Furthering the New Evangelization: Consulting the Laity on Candidates for Bishop.”

You can read about VOTF’s letter to the Pope and our proposal for including the laity in the selection of local bishops on our website by clicking on Bishop Selection under the Programs button on the home page. You also can learn there about VOTF’s web portal where any Catholic in a diocese may make recommendations about a new bishop that are forwarded directly to the U.S. papal nuncio’s email box.


Tools for Affiliates

Looking for something to discuss at your next VOTF meeting? The Year of Mercy that Pope Francis proclaimed last year concludes this November. Loyola Press has put together materials for four small group meetings on four aspects of Mercy. The materials contain everything one would need for a discussion of Mercy: introductory prayer, theme summary, scripture passage, discussion questions, and closing prayer.

Mercy is the most fundamental and defining attribute of God, revealed through God’s actions throughout the Old Testament and most notably, in the person of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Why not take some time in the next few months to explore themes of mercy through the lens of Scripture?

The four-week discussion series focuses on these themes:

  • Mercy as Compassion for Ourselves
  • Mercy as Compassion for Neighbors
  • Mercy as Compassion for Our World
  • Mercy as Compassion for Creation

For more information, go to


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

Victims of priests’ abuse face a choice
“If you were sexually abused as a child by a priest of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan wants to give you money. He announced a settlement program this month that will be run by an independent mediator, Kenneth Feinberg. It will review claims and decide on an amount, which church officials will not be able to alter or reject. The settlements will not be capped; the archdiocese has promised to pay whatever it takes, by selling assets or borrowing. There are strings attached.” By The New York Times Editorial Board

Pope Francis names 17 new cardinals, including three Americans
Pope Francis on Sunday (Oct. 9) named 17 new cardinals, including three Americans, adding prelates from developing countries to give them a greater voice in selecting the next pope. Francis’ American appointments elevate moderates in the church hierarchy, bypassing doctrinal conservatives from large archdioceses … Francis had skipped over the United States in two previous rounds of appointments.” By Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times

Catholic Church needs better way to select bishops
“By now it should be clear. Pope Francis really believes there is a serious lack of quality among priests and bishops in the Catholic church. Otherwise, he would not talk so often about the negative traits of certain men in ordained ministry, as he’s done again several times in recent days. ‘The world is tired of lying charmers and — allow me say — of ‘fashionable’ priests or ‘fashionable’ bishops,’ the pope said on Sept. 16 to a group of 94 bishops consecrated in the last two years for dioceses in mission territories.” By Robert Mickens, National Catholic Reporter

Canadian bishops write letter affirming importance of laity
“The Episcopal Commission for Doctrine of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has released a new document entitled ‘The Co-responsibility of the lay Faithful in the Church and the World.’ This pastoral letter explores the great responsibility of the laity in God’s plan for the world, in which they are not simply collaborators of the clergy but are truly ‘co-responsible’ for the Church’s being and acting.” By Zenit: The World Seen from Rome

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

Pope Francis Video

In a particularly timely prayer intention, Pope Francis asks that we pray for journalists this month – that they be motivated by the need to seek the truth.

Light Years from 1984: Where Are We Going from Here?

Parts 4 and 5. If you missed parts 1, 2 or 3 of this series, you will find them here. Thomas P. Doyle, J.C.D., C.A.D.C.

Tom Doyle is a priest, canon lawyer, addictions therapist and long-time supporter of justice and compassion for clergy sex abuse victims. He has a doctorate in canon law and five master’s degrees. Since 1984, when he became involved with the issue of sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy while serving at the Embassy, he has become an expert in the canonical and pastoral dimensions of this problem—working directly with victims, their families, accused priests, and high-ranking Church officials. The following account is a written version of his extemporaneous presentation at the SNAP conference in 2016.

What It’s Like Now

The overall response of institutional Church leadership has been disappointing, scandalous and consistent. The creation of a variety of bureaucratic and administrative policies, protocols, committees and offices in response to immense pressure, is not evidence of an institutional Church that “Gets It.” The last thirty years have made clear that the horrific problem of sexual violation by clerics has removed the protective cover from the very dark side of the institutional Church.

Read more (click the What It’s Like Now on the linked page)


Seminary Formation: Recent History, Current Circumstances, New Directions
Sister Katerina Schuch
A C21 Program, Boston College School of Theology & Ministry, Simboli Hall, Room 100
Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016, at 5:30 pm. Free admission but please register here.

Biblical Literary Criticism – Is the Bible “True?”

Why do different parts of the Bible say opposite things? Why do some parts sound like fables? How do we base our faith on what sometimes appear to be made-up stories?

Those are some of the questions Deacon Larry Bloom will consider as he talks about how to read the Bible so it makes a lot more sense, and how understanding literary forms and historical settings, rather than relying entirely on a Fundamentalist reading, yields a richer understanding.

Tuesday, November 7, 7:00 to 9:00 PM at St. Susanna 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.

Questions, Comments?

Please send them to Siobhan Carroll, Vineyard Editor, at Unless otherwise indicated, I will assume comments can be published as Letters to the Editor.

© Voice of the Faithful 2016. All Rights Reserved.