In the Vineyard: September 11, 2015

In the Vineyard :: September 11, 2015 :: Volume 15, Issue 17

News from National

Philadelphia affiliate invites you to a reception
VOTF/Greater Philadelphia welcomes members of Voice of the Faithful to Philadelphia Sept. 26-27 for the World Meeting of Families and the Pope’s historic visit. We are looking forward to visiting with old friends and making new friends.

For those VOTF members who plan to be in Philadelphia the evening of Sept. 24, just before the Pope comes to Philadelphia, we hope you will join us for a reception from 4 to 7 p.m. Please R.S.V.P. by Sept. 20 to Marita Green,, with your plans and for directions.

VOTF Welcomes New Development Director
Voice of the Faithful has named Priscilla Conwell Deck, Ph.D., of Beverly as its new development director. She has more than a decade of experience fundraising for Boston-area nonprofits.

Deck presently is principal of Nonprofit Institutional Advancement, Boston, which helps start-ups transition from fledgling to mature organization. She also has served as vice president for institutional advancement at the School for Field Studies, Beverly; vice president for institutional advancement at Andover Newton Theological School, Newton; and director of development for Boston Adult Literacy Fund, Boston.

While vice president for Institutional Advancement at Andover Newton Theological School, she served as adjunct faculty in the Worship, Theology and Arts program. She was part of a team that, with funding from the Luce Foundation, established the Center for Interfaith Religious and Communal Leadership Education, which built a partnership with Hebrew College to promote cross-cultural understanding and reconciliation. Earlier, she taught at Brandeis University and, before that, was on the faculty of Punahou Academy, Honolulu.

Read more

“Conversations with My Molester: A Journey of Faith”
VOTF and clergy sexual abuse survivor Michael Mack are teaming up in New York City to promote healing during Pope Francis’ U.S. visit. A playwright and actor, Mack will bring his play, “Conversations with My Molester: A Journey of Faith,” to NYC during the Pope’s visit.

“Conversations” will run Sept. 17 to Oct. 11 at The Bridge Theatre, 244 West 54th St., 12th Floor (between Broadway and 7th Avenue near Columbus Circle). Show times are Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m., and Sunday, 3 p.m. Tickets are $28 each. Group discounts are available and a discount on tickets for the first week of the show.

VOTF Healing Circle Coincides with Mack’s Play
Voice of the Faithful is partnering with Mack during the NYC run of his play to offer a Restorative Justice Healing Circle at the play’s venue on Sept. 19.

A Healing Circle is one model of Restorative Justice that offers a step toward healing for everyone harmed by clergy sexual abuse, including survivors, their families and loved ones, clergy, faith communities, and the Church itself.

VOTF has conducted successful Healing Circles in Boston and northern Virginia, and this will be the first VOTF Healing Circle in New York City.

Click here for additional information about Mack’s play. For information about VOTF Healing Circles, email Bill Casey at or Jayne O’Donnell at

Affiliate News

Mid-Michigan Affiliate Asks Pope to Fund Commission
Members of VOTF’s Mid-Michigan affiliate are writing individual letters to Pope Francis asking that the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors be fully funded. We hope other affiliates and all our members will follow their lead and write to the Pope.

As Joe Schoren, president of the affiliate, reminds us, the Vatican bureaucrats do pay attention to the number of letters they receive on a particular issue. One long-time Curia observer told a VOTF meeting that some Curia secretaries even use rulers to measure the stacks.

We urge you to read Joe’s letter and use it as a template for your own letter. Send the correspondence to:

His Holiness Pope Francis
00120 Vatican City


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


Pope: Vatican II tried to overcome ‘divorce between theology and pastoral ministry’
“The Church is called to embrace its past, present and future and avoid the temptations to condemn or to legitimize everything just because it is new and different, Pope Francis has told a group of theologians. Theology and reflection should not be at odds with pastoral ministry and the lives of real people, he said.” By Carol Glatz, Catholic Herald

As Pope visit nears, U.S. Catholic Church faces financial strain
“When Pope Francis makes his first visit to the United States this month he will face a national Catholic Church whose finances are staggering under a shrinking membership and huge payouts to sex-abuse victims, threatening to undermine its social influence.” By Richard Valdmanis, Reuters, on

U.S. Catholics open to non-traditional families
“When Pope Francis arrives in the U.S. for the World Meeting of Families later this month, he will find a Catholic public that is remarkably accepting of a variety of non-traditional families, according to a new Pew Research Center survey that provides an in-depth look at American Catholics’ views on family life, sexuality and Catholic identity.” By Pew Research Center: Religion & the Public Life
Key findings about American Catholics, By Michael Pena, Pew Research Center

Payouts don’t always bring healing, clergy abuse victim says
“Bob Rich was in his 20s when he won an $850,000 settlement from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis —compensation for years of sexual abuse at the hands of the Rev. Robert Michael Thurner … As 49-year-old Rich can attest, though, the pain doesn’t end with a settlement of any amount.” By Emma Nelson, Star Tribune

Spotlight review – Catholic church child abuse film decently tells an awful story
(Sept. 3, 2015) “‘If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one,’ is how one character here summarizes the issues. This high-minded, well-intentioned movie, co-written and directed by Tom McCarthy, is about the Boston Globe’s investigative reporting team Spotlight, and its Pulitzer-winningcampaign in 2001 to uncover widespread, systemic child abuseby Catholic priests in Massachusetts.” By Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

Pope Francis announces measures to simplify marriage annulments
“Pope Francis announced new procedures on Tuesday (Sept. 8) to make it easier for Roman Catholics to obtain marriage annulments, a change intended to streamline a process long criticized by many Catholics as too cumbersome, complicated and expensive.” By Jim Yardley and Elisabetta Povoledo, The New York Times
Francis’ annulment changes stress prompt decisions, power of local bishops, By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter
Pope’s annulment reform will recalibrate the Synod of Bishops, and more, By John L. Allen, Jr.,
Will Pope Francis’ annulment reforms impact U.S. Catholics, By David Gibson, Religion News Service

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

FutureChurch Brings Attention to Parish Closings
As Pope Francis makes his inaugural journey to the United States, Catholics from the United States and around the world are calling on him to help them keep parishes open.

Hundreds of parishes have been merged or closed in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Cleveland and beyond. Recently, the Archdiocese of New York merged or closed more than 70 parishes, often in the face of staunch opposition by committed parishioners.

When the Pope visits Our Lady Queen of Angels (OLQA) School in East Harlem in just a few weeks, we want him to learn that the Church was tragically closed in 2007 amid protest.

[Editor’s Note: VOTF affiliates in New York City and in the Boston Archdiocese worked hard to prevent these closings, and in Boston helped maintain the years-long sit-ins that protested the closings.]

Sadly, in the years that followed, two funerals, one for Carmen Gonzalez and the other for Carmen Villegas, both courageous leaders working to keep OLQA open, had to be held on the sidewalk in front of the closed Church when the bishop refused to unlock the doors.

These stories show how the efforts of dauntless faith-filled Catholics are often met by the unrelenting indifference, and sometimes obstruction, of those who are supposed to pastor.

As the Pope journeys to the United States, we hope the Pope will meet with parishioners from Our Lady Queen of Angels, Our Lady of Peace Church in Manhattan, St. Peter Claver in Philadelphia, St. Francis X. Cabrini in Scituate and other closed parishes. If he wants to learn about the devastating effect on faith life and the human cost of these corporate policies, he should sit with the many courageous Catholics who have been working for years to keep their parishes intact and listen to their stories.

The policy of closing and merging parishes that relies on a corporate model of Church rather than a pastoral one is widespread and is slowly extinguishing the richness of the body of Christ in the world today. According to Kate Kuenstler, PHJC, JCD, a canon lawyer who knows the appeals process and helps parishioners who want to use it to keep their parish communities intact, “The Parish reconfiguration process used by Dioceses most often has a business mentality, caught up with management, statistics, plans and evaluations whose principal beneficiary is not God’s people, but the church as an institution.”

The Open Letter petition also calls attention to similar problems that parishes face world-wide and is supported by priest associations in Australia, Austria, Germany, Ireland and Switzerland.

Sign the Open Letter petition urging Pope Francis to encourage bishops to keep parishes open by opening ordination and engaging new models for parish life ministry and governance.

Book Review

The Black Wall of Silence by Father Paul F. Morrissey, OSA
Reviewed by Joe Gable
An excellent story that is a fast page-turner that you can’t put down until this epic tale has been told. The author has used his God-given gift of the English word to describe the interesting characters and surroundings that put you into the story. This is a thought-provoking novel about the struggle between loyalty and honesty in the Catholic Church, the U.S. Judicial system, child abuse, and the interaction of individuals.

The story centers on how sexual abuse by a priest combined with the Church hierarchy’s effort to “cover up” this crime impacts a priest, inmate and others involved. We see how a family slowly learns to understand the life of a homosexual son and brother who is a priest and our eyes are opened about life in the prison system. All this happens as we follow Father Zach and his interaction with his mom, dad, brothers, and sister, Bishop Peter, Norma, Sister Sophia, Migo and Dina.

At the end of the book is a very informative reader’s guide that is a conversation with Fr. Paul Morrissey. This is an enjoyable novel, a very powerful story with a lesson for all of us. It is available at

Questions, Comments?

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

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