In the Vineyard: September 27, 2014

In the Vineyard :: September 27, 2014 :: Volume 14, Issue 18

News From National

Mixed messages on healing the Church
VOTF has long called for transparency as a first step in addressing the wounds of clergy sex abuse and for accountability as a first step towards healing those wounds. Actions by the Vatican and in the U.S. this September illustrate how difficult it is to tell when progress will “stick.”

A Positive Sign
The arrest of a former papal nuncio for child sex abuse—after initially shielding him from prosecution in the Dominican Republic—indicates that perhaps the Vatican is ready to put meaningful action to the many words we heard this past decade about holding accountable the abusers. Perhaps the Vatican’s willingness, at last, to bring charges against a former high-ranking prelate will be the signal that all bishops at last heed—perhaps it will embolden them to sanction those bishops who continue to ignore the Dallas Charter. (VOTF statement on the arrest.)

A Negative Sign
Unfortunately, there also is evidence in September that concern for the Church’s property and money outweighs concern for the victims of clergy sex abuse. The Diocese of Hartford, instead of paying the $1 million verdict ordered by a jury in February 2012 for clergy sex abuse, continues to argue in court that the decision should be overturned.

The facts of the case are not in dispute, nor are the actions of a previous bishop in Hartford who returned a priest to ministry as a principal at a grammar school, where he abused yet another child. But the diocese now argues that the statute of limitations extension that permitted the lawsuit to go forward is unconstitutional.

Christian Nolan reviews the case in the Connecticut Law Tribune(Sept. 19 issue). He says the diocese is arguing that abuse standards were different back in 1981. According to lawyers for the diocese: “… a jury might not realize that in 1981 a reasonable person might not have known it was a bad idea to send priests who had received counseling for their pedophilia back into a school setting.”

Nolan also quotes an amicus brief from the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association in response to the diocesan claim: “’You do not need an expert for a jury to fairly conclude that no one should allow a known pedophile unsupervised access to minor children,’ Brenden Leydon of Tooher, Wocl & Leydon in Stamford wrote.”

Also taking exception to the diocesan claims is Fr. James Connell (speaker at both the 2012 and 2014 VOTF national meetings). Fr. Connell, a retired Milwaukee priest who helped found a national network of clergy and sisters committed to reporting instances of sexual abuse within the Church is also a canon lawyer. Hisletter to Hartford newspapers (published Sept. 22 in theHartford Courant says the diocesan claims against SOLs are contrary to the law the Church itself now imposes.

“The bishops in Connecticut and throughout the United States should follow the example of two recent popes, rather than fighting their decisions,” he concludes, noting that rulings by Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict have essentially removed a set statute of limitations for the church’s internal handling of clergy sexual abuse of minors cases.

News from Affiliates

Report: The Bridgeport, CT Diocesan Synod
By Jamie Dance, VOTF-Bridgeport

A Vespers Service at Saint Augustine’s Cathedral in Bridgeport on Friday, September 19, officially marked the opening ceremony of Synod 2014 and the one-year anniversary of Bishop Frank Caggiano’s installation. Attended by almost 700 people, the service included hymns, psalms, scripture readings, and a homily by the bishop. The official commissioning of more than 350 delegates to the Synod was pronounced with these words: “Bless the members of the Synod and give them gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge and fear of the Lord. Commission them to go forth and be the new prophets of Your divine plan for the Diocese of Bridgeport.”

This Synod is the fourth to be held in the Diocese, and the first in 34 years. Participating are 400 individuals, predominantly laity. VOTF-Bridgeport is well represented in the delegate pool, with three of our board members nominated by the Bishop and another board member nominated by his parish.

Continue reading …


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

Vatican arrests former nuncio on sex abuse charges
“The Vatican put its former ambassador to the Dominican Republic under house arrest Tuesday (Sept. 23) after opening a criminal trial against him, the first time a high-ranking Vatican official has ever faced criminal charges for sexually abusing youngsters. Josef Wesołowski had already been defrocked in June after the Vatican’s canon law court found him guilty of abuse and imposed its toughest penalty under church law: laicization, or returning to life as a layman. On Tuesday, the Vatican City State’s separate criminal court opened a preliminary hearing into his case and ordered him placed under house arrest.” By Associated Press on Crux
Former Vatican ambassador is facing sexual abuse trial, By Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times
Former Dominican Republic nuncio on house arrest over sex abuse charges, By Catholic News Agency

Pope sets tone in U.S. by naming inclusive prelate as Chicago archbishop
“In his first major appointment in the United States, Pope Francis named Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Wash., on Saturday (Sept. 20) to be the next archbishop of Chicago, replacing a combative conservative with a prelate whose pastoral approach to upholding church doctrine is more in keeping with the pope’s inclusive tone.” By Laurie Goodstein,The New York Times
The ‘Francis Era’ in American starts today in Chicago, By John L. Allen, Jr., Crux
Are we looking at the American Pope Francis in Chicago? By John L. Allen, Jr., Crux
Blase Cupich of Spokane names archbishop of Chicago, By Dennis Coday, National Catholic Reporter
Exclusive: Chicago’s new archbishop talks about ‘stepping into the unknown,’ By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter
Cupich resists labels, pledges to serve the common good, By Kevin Clarke, America magazine
The Pope gave this man a promotion and he could dramatically change the focus of the Catholic Church, By Jack Jenkins,
In Chicago, some see next archbishop as ‘breath of fresh air,’ By Dahleen Glanton, Lisa Black, Annemarie Mannion, Chicago Tribune
Chicago meets its new archbishop as the ‘Pope Francis effect’ sets in, By David Gibson, Religion News Service
Pope Francis names Spokane bishop to Chicago, dashing conservative hopes, By David Gibson, Religion News Service

St. Thomas theologians, Nienstedt exchange letters on pastoral leadership
“Absent a renewed emphasis in interpersonal outreach, the current pastoral state of the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese ‘is not sustainable,’ said 12 tenured theology professors of the University of St. Thomas in an open letter to Archbishop John Nienstedt. The letter, dated Friday (Sept. 12) and made public Monday (Sept. 15), comes in response to the ongoing clergy sexual abuse scandal in the archdiocese …” By Brian Roewe,National Catholic Reporter
Theologians warn of ‘pastoral breakdown’ in Twin Cities, archbishop replies, By Michael O’Loughlin, Crux
Sept. 12, 2014, letter from University of St. Thomas Theologians to Archbishop John Nienstedt

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


St. Phoebe Center: Women & Diaconal Ministry Conference
Women & Diaconal Ministry in the Orthodox Church
Saturday, December 6, 2014 / 9 AM to 5 PM
Union Theological Seminary / 3041 Broadway @ 121st St., NY, 10027


THE PAST Build a solid understanding of the female diaconate in the early and medieval Church with presentations and discussion that explore the ministry and the attempts at the restoration of the office in the modern era through the work of Evangelos Theodorou, the decisions of the Rhodes Consultation, and the churches of Russia and Greece.

THE PRESENT Learn about the ‘diaconal’ work that women are doing today as chaplains, spiritual directors, ministers of the Word, and parish administrators and outreach coordinators.
THE FUTURE Explore why an ordained ministry is necessary, how a deaconess would/could serve today, and what short-term and long-term steps could be taken for restoration of the office as well as rejuvenation of the entire diaconate—male and female—for the building up of the Church today.

CONFERENCE WILL INCLUDE presentations, a panel discussion, breakout session, Q&A after each session, and the opportunity for networking.

For more information please go to

St. Susanna – Dedham Massachusetts

October 13 Prophesy, Prophets and The Prophetic Imagination.
An exploration of Old Testament Prophecy and the Prophets of Israel and their successors in the modern world. Working with the seminal writings of Heschel and Brueggemann, Peter Hartzel of the Saint Susanna Adult Faith Formation Commission, who has taught many church history courses over the years, clears away much of the misunderstanding about the roles of prophets (e.g., “fortune-tellers”), and brings their role up to the present date.

Unless otherwise stated, all sessions are held on Monday evenings from 7:00 to 9:00 pm, in the Parish Hall, 262 Needham Street, Dedham. There is no pre-registration requirement and there are no fees, although voluntary donations are gratefully accepted to cover our speakers’ honoraria and our refreshments. For map and directions, go to the Map and Directions Page on this web site. In case of cancellation due to inclement weather, we will make every effort to post our web site, so check this page for a notice if the weather appears threatening. Come and See!

Letter to the Editor

Is there help for Sister Louise Lears?

Sr. Louise Lears of the Sisters of Charity, as reported at the time in In the Vineyard, was placed under a Church interdict in the summer of 2008 by then Archbishop Raymond Burke, on his last day in St. Louis before being transferred to a post in Rome. For her public support for the full inclusion of women in all the ministries of the Church, with particular mention of her support for women’s ordination, Sr. Louise was forbidden from participating in St. Louis ministries and was also banned from the sacraments. After statements of support from friends, colleagues, family, and people all over the country and in other parts of the world, this story has mostly faded from the news.

Soon after the interdict, Sr. Louise followed the appeal procedure according to canon law, which involves sending a written appeal to the dicasteries in Rome that were likely to hear the appeal (they do not provide guidance as to which one the appeal should be sent to). They decide among them which of them will deal with the appeal. Once an appeal has been sent, the penalties are suspended until the appeal is heard. Sr. Louise has not heard a word of response from Rome–and since Cardinal Raymond Burke is now the prefect of the highest canonical court, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, it’s not likely that she will.

The various possible outcomes are:
If her appeal is granted, it would mean “overturning” Raymond Burke, which would create a problem-causing precedent for Rome: How do you reprimand and correct someone who has held such a high Vatican post? And moreover, the repercussions would extend beyond Burke to Church teaching and practice.

If her appeal was turned down, the penalties would be reinstated and I think it’s safe to assume that the resulting U.S. public uproar would also be unwelcome to the Vatican.

So, it’s possible that the penalties will remain “suspended” while her appeal is supposedly being handled, for the rest of her life!

If anyone can find a way out of this bureaucratic/dogmatic tangle, I would think it would be Pope Francis. It should be noted that Pope Francis removed Burke from the Congregation for Bishops in December of last year. Could further changes be coming? Shall we write to him? All Catholics—clery, religious, laity—should be free to think about and discuss matters not in agreement with current Church teaching without being put under a ban.

M. Annette Joseph

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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