In the Vineyard: September 18, 2019

In the Vineyard :: September 18, 2019 :: Volume 19, Issue 17

News from National

Don’t Miss VOTF’s Annual Conference

Even the food will be divine!

Mark your calendars for Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, for Voice of the Faithful’s 2019 Conference. We will be at the Boston Marriott Newton, a suburban location with the amenities of a downtown Boston hotel. Our special return guest speaker is the Honorable Anne M. Burke, Illinois Supreme Court Justice, who spoke to us at our 10th Anniversary Conference in 2012. Justice Burke will be joined by Chicago Children’s Advocacy Executive Director Char Rivette. Together, they will show how CAC can be a model for battling clergy child abuse in your diocese.

Our second featured speaker is Fr. Richard Lennan, professor of systematic theology at Boston College. He presently directs Boston College’s sacred theology licensure program and will speak about reforms needed in seminaries: how seminaries can contribute to clericalism and steps we need in priestly formation.

In addition, the conference will feature a panel discussion during which parishioners from the Cincinnati OH, Washington D.C., and Buffalo NY areas will discuss actions they are taking at the grassroots level to help create a just Church. The panel presentations and Q&A will segue into our lunch period when attendees can continue the panel members’ discussion.

Plus you will hear from our Finance Working Group about the results of VOTF’s 2019 survey of diocesan financial transparency, and also from our developing Child Protection monitoring campaign that seeks to hold dioceses to proper standards for protecting children the same way some of them now follow the standards established for finances.

Set aside Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, and stay tuned for updates!

And as if all the intellectual stimulation isn’t enough, the food will be great: New England clam chowder, fresh vegetables, maple glazed grilled chicken, fresh New England lobster rolls, Boston cream pie and warm apple pie – and this is just a sampling!

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

$125 per person

Join us as we listen, discuss, learn, act!

Click here to register …(link is external)

Click here to download a printable 2019 Conference mail-in registration form …

Click here to reserve your discounted hotel room …(link is external)

VOTF Comment Included in Missouri AG Release

When Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt issued a statement about his referral of 12 priests to a grand jury for potential prosecution, the press release included the following comment from VOTF:

“Missouri’s attorney general joins others across the country in investigating crimes that have long been kept secret in the Church,” said Donna B. Doucette, the executive director of Voice of the Faithful, an international organization that began in response to revelations of clergy sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston in 2002. “The crimes of abusers do not diminish the many good works of other priests, but we decry the attitude of secrecy and the lack of accountability that has kept the Church hierarchy from resolving the scandal and holding those who have covered it up accountable.”

According to the AG office, Missouri identified the 12 cases after reviewing available personnel records of every priest since 1945 who served in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Diocese of Kansas City–St. Joseph, the Diocese of Springfield–Cape Girardeau, and the Diocese of Jefferson City — more than 2,000 priests and 300 deacons, seminarians, and religious women.

New Revelations on Former West Virginia BishopMichael Bransfield’s Financial Misconduct

The Washington Post dropped a bombshell investigative report last week detailing the extravagant lifestyle led by former West Virginia Bishop Michael J. Bransfield on the Catholic Church’s dime. Though the Post had previously covered Bransfield’s financial mismanagement, as well as sexual misconduct accusations made against him in September of 2018, the lurid details of Bransfield’s opulence captured by the article warrants a read. The article has excited popular comment; in the two days since its publication, it has received more than 2,000 comments, many of them harshly critical of the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church.

Bransfield’s expenditures were truly staggering. He stayed in luxurious hotels, including a penthouse in Palm Beach frequented by U.S. Presidents, and once spent more than $3,000 for a weeklong stay in one of Paris’ priciest hotels. He traveled in style, spending, over 13 years, almost a million dollars on private jets, and taking more than 200 limo rides. In the same time period, Bransfield spent nearly $140,000 on dining and another $60,000+ on jewelry. Trips to Europe, cash gifts to friends: all of it was paid for by the Church.

Not only does Bransfield’s lavishness stand in stark contrast to the frugal example of Pope Francis, it speaks, more broadly, to the failure on the part of the Vatican to hold bishops to account. Bransfield’s lifestyle, of course, did not go unnoticed, and perhaps the most striking aspect of the Washington Post article is the revelation that “parishioners in the state had sent letters to Vatican officials six years earlier seeking an investigation of his spending.”

For six years the Vatican was aware of this and did nothing, at the cost of millions of dollars to an economically depressed diocese, not to mention the fact that multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against the bishop were alleged to have occurred in the course of Bransfield’s diocesan-funded “vacations.”

Bransfield has been removed from public ministry and may be compelled to return some of the money, but that is a limited victory. True financial transparency and lay oversight is the remedy needed. Bransfield’s abuses, financial and otherwise, did not occur in a vacuum. They are the product of a culture where high-ranking clerics feel that they are entitled to luxury, celebrity, political influence, and other perks but owe nothing, neither explanation nor accountability, to anyone else.

The Pope Strikes Back

Pope Francis has time and time again demonstrated his thick skin as he pursues wide-ranging reforms of the Catholic Church. But his failure to respond to his critics does not mean he doesn’t hear them. Last week, His Holiness specifically responded to the near constant stream of criticism of his papacy emanating from the conservative wing of the American Catholic Church. Prompted by a question about a French journalist’s new book on well-heeled American traditionalists who seek to undermine his papacy, he responded by saying that it was “an honor that the Americans attack me.”

The initial comment was ambiguous enough that Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni later issued a statement clarifying that the pope was not being facetious: Pope Francis “considers criticism an honor … particularly when it comes from authoritative thinkers, in this case from an important nation,” said Bruni.

However, Pope Francis was not finished on the topic. He again addressed his critics on Tuesday, singling out “rigid” men who “throw stones and hide their hand.” “I am not afraid of schisms,” said His Holiness, “I pray that there aren’t any … Let there be dialogue, correction if there is some error.”

To which American critics may Francis have been referring? There is no shortage. From figures within the American hierarchy, such as the recently demoted Cardinal Raymond Burke, to well-heeled media groups such as the Eternal Word Network ( Lifesite, and the particularly virulent Church Militant, there is a cottage industry of Francis naysayers within the American Catholic Church. For many of his opponents, Francis’s commitment to reforms, even those reforms prompted by decades of scandal, is enough to delegitimize his papacy altogether. The increasingly open and welcoming church is, in their eyes, an attack on Church tradition.

Nicole Winfield of the Associated Press suggested that Francis’s reference to “problems” behind “rigid bishops, bishops and priests” was an allusion to conservative figures in the Church who committed egregious sexual offenses from behind a puritanical façade. The most notorious of these might be Rev. Marciel Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ, who is alleged to have abused multiple seminarians, and fathered at least one child.

It’s hard to disagree with Pope Francis on this. He does appear to be open and receptive to genuine, good-faith criticism, as evidenced by his about-face on Father Karadima and the Chilean abuse crisis. But much of the criticism emanating from the conservative wing of the American Church is not that at all. Rather, it is a concerted effort to undermine his papacy and compel him to abandon his attempts to reform the Church altogether. These critics do not want to see Francis change, they want to see Francis fail and they are willing to divide the Church to do so.

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


Vatican authorizes ‘Vos Estis’ investigation into Minnesota bishop Hoeppner
“Bishop Michael Hoeppner is the first sitting U.S. bishop to be investigated under new misconduct protocols introduced by Pope Francis earlier this year. Hoeppner, Bishop of Crookston, Minnesota, will be investigated by Minneapolis’ Archbishop Bernard Hebda, on charges that Hoeppner thwarted a police or canonical investigation of clerical sexual misconduct in his diocese. “I have been authorized by the Congregation for Bishops to commence an investigation into allegations that the Most Reverend Michael Hoeppner, the Bishop of Crookston, carried out acts or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid civil or canonical investigations of clerical sexual misconduct in the Diocese of Crookston,” Hebda told CNA Sept. 10.” By J.D. Flynn, Catholic News Agency, in The Pilot

Wyoming bishop a perfect test case for Pope’s vows of accountability
“Ask the typical American Catholic in the pews, and most could probably tell you a fair bit about Theodore McCarrick … By way of contrast, few rank-and-file churchgoers outside of Cheyenne, Wyoming, or Kansas City, Missouri, could probably pick Bishop Joseph Hart out of a lineup – and that relative obscurity is precisely what makes Hart such an ideal test case for Pope Francis’s avowed commitment to accountability, including for bishops.” By John L. Allen, Jr.,

In secret recording, Buffalo bishop admits new scandal ‘could force me to resign’
“New audio recording reveals embattled Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, New York seeking to contain yet another public relations crisis in his diocese, saying he feared it could force his resignation. The audio files, released on Wednesday (Sept. 4) by WKBW, were recorded on August 2 by Malone’s priest secretary, Father Ryszard Biernat, who took a leave of absence from his post, beginning August 14.” By Christopher White,

Denounce abuse clergy
“Five months ago, The Hoya published an investigation identifying 14 former Georgetown University religious leaders credibly accused of sexual abuse— including two associate deans, three chaplains in residence and seven professors. The university’s only response was to add two brief paragraphs on its website reaffirming that none of the abuse had occurred on campus … To demonstrate that Georgetown is capable of acting morally — and not simply taking calculative actions to protect its reputation — Georgetown must publicly condemn the 14 abusive religious leaders and organize university-wide dialogue on its historical connection to clerical abuse.” By Yumna Naqvi, The Hoya

Indictment of former Pennsylvania priest signals aggressive new reach by federal prosecutors in clergy sex abuse investigation
“Two priests have been convicted; one other awaits trial. That’s about the sum total of legal action that has taken place in the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sex abuse, which identified more than 300 predator priests statewide. That narrative could be about to change. Last week, federal prosecutors dealt the latest salvo in what is fast becoming a tide of aggressive new strategies to criminally prosecute child sex predators and their accomplices in the Catholic Church.” By Ivey DeJesus,

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

Looking for an Uplifting Movie?

Watch “Free Trip to Egypt.”

Seeking to build a bridge of mutual understanding and friendship, a Canadian-Egyptian entrepreneur living in Switzerland decides to reach out to the very people who fear him. He travels across the United States to find Americans concerned about an Islamic threat and makes them an intriguing offer: a free trip to Egypt.

The initial reactions range from disbelief to hostility, but eventually a diverse group from various backgrounds is selected. They include a teacher, a police officer, a Marine veteran, a single mom, a preacher and a beauty pageant queen. All have their preconceptions but are receptive and courageous enough to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

Soon enough, the band of travelers arrives in Egypt where the Americans are paired with local Egyptians just as diverse as they are. What happens when a retired school teacher and her husband are united with a young Egyptian revolutionary? Two photo journalists from different countries and experiences are placed together? Watch and learn.

To learn more about Free Trip to Egypt – click


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