In the Vineyard :: December 23, 2019 :: Volume 19, Issue 23
News from National
All of us at Voice of the Faithful National wish you a joyous and peaceful Christmas.
May the blessing of joy abide within you;
May the blessing of peace rest upon you;
May the blessing of love flow out through you;
May all the blessings of God be yours at Christmas and in the new year. (author unknown)
Pope Francis Jettisons Pontifical Secrecy on Abuse
Pope Francis has changed the Catholic Church’s Canon Law to abrogate the “pontifical secret,” the Vatican’s equivalent of “top secret,” with regard to clergy sexual abuse cases. Voice of the Faithful joins clergy abuse victims and survivors and their advocates in considering this reform long overdue.
Voice of the Faithful has always promoted full transparency on clergy abuse, understanding that the Church used secrecy in an attempt to protect itself against scandal, which resulted in particularly unjust treatment of victims. Because of the Pope’s action, no one in the future may claim that they cannot hand over documentation of abuse, or testify at trials, or be uncooperative with civil authorities by claiming clergy abuse information is considered top secret by the Vatican.
The Church’s leading clergy abuse investigator, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, has called the Pope’s instruction “epochal.” Abuse survivor Marie Collins, a former member of the Papal Commission for the Protection of Minors who resigned in frustration at Vatican resistance, hailed the change, called it “excellent” and a “real positive change.”
Will this reform usher in a new era of transparency and accountability in the Church? We can only hope.
Pope Francis’ 7th Address to the Cardinals
This weekend was Pope Francis’ seventh Christmas address to the cardinals, bishops, and ranking officials of the Roman Curia since his election in March 2013. Commenting on the tradition of exchanging Christmas greetings, Francis, quoting Coptic mystic Matta El-Meskin, said, “It is rooted in the contemplation of the love of God revealed at Christmas, in which the birth of Christ is the strongest and most eloquent witness of how much God loves humankind.” He reminded his audience that “Jesus does not ask us to love him as a response to his love for us, rather he asks us to love one another with his own love. He asks us to be like him, because he has become like us.”
In a wide-ranging address, Pope Francis emphasized the need for the Church to be less rigid and more willing to change. He quoted the words of Cardinal Martini, who once said, “The church has remained 200 years behind the times. Why has it not been shaken up? Are we afraid? Fear instead of courage? Nevertheless, faith is the foundation of the church. Faith, trust, courage … . Only loves conquers tiredness.”
Pope Francis concluded by telling his collaborators in the Roman Curia: “Christmas is the feast of the love of God for us. Divine love inspires, guides, and corrects the change and defeats the human fear of leaving the ‘secure’ and launching out in the ‘mystery’.”
Read more about the address here.
German Women Take a Stand
An organization of German Catholic women is using an ongoing roundtable discussion between German bishops and laypeople, known as a “synodal path,” to raise issues concerning women’s roles in the Catholic Church. Synodality is one of the key concepts Pope Francis endorses for needed evolution in the church today.
According to Donald Snyder of National Catholic Reporter, the Catholic Women's Association in Germany, led by German politician Mechthild Heil, seeks to expand women’s roles in the Church: “Heil is calling for full equality between women and men, and women's access to all ministries in the church. ‘This includes all ordained ministries and governing ministries,’ she said.”
Such shifts in Catholic tradition are sure to encounter resistance in and out of the “synodal path.” However, even as they debate next steps, bishops and laypersons alike must acknowledge the problem: The Catholic Church in Germany is hemorrhaging adherents, with an estimated more than 200,000 people leaving the Church in 2018.
Highlighting issues we face working together to Keep the Faith, Change the Church
Pope Francis abolishes the pontifical secret for sexual misconduct cases involving clerics
“In a decision of enormous importance, long called for by survivors of abuse and their advocates, Pope Francis has abolished the pontifical secret for sexual misconduct cases concerning clerics. The ‘pontifical secret’ is not related to the seal of the confessional, which remains absolute in Catholic teaching and practice. Rather, the pontifical secret refers to confidentiality in the church’s judicial handling of clerical sex abuse and other grave crimes (as well as secrecy in other areas, such as some matters concerning the appointment of cardinals and bishops). The secrecy ensures that cases are dealt with in strict confidentiality.” By Gerard O’Connell, America: The Jesuit Review
The Vatican is using donations for the poor to fight its budget deficit, report says
“As little as 10% of donations by Roman Catholics that are specifically advertised as helping the poor and suffering actually go toward charitable work, a new report says. About two-thirds of the rest of the $55 million in donations for Pope Francis’ annual charitable appeal, known as Peter’s Pence, is used to fill the Vatican’s administrative budget deficit, The Wall Street Journal reported in an article Wednesday (Dec. 11), citing sources familiar with the spending.” By Dan Mangan, CNBC
- Is the Vatican misleading donors? Peter’s Pence, explained, By Colleen Dulle and James T. Keane, America: The Jesuit Review
Bishops take new actions to hold themselves accountable for abuse in 2019
“The clergy sexual abuse crisis continued to command a large amount of attention and action from the U.S. bishops throughout 2019. The year was headlined by actions during the bishops’ spring general assembly during which they approved a plan to implement Pope Francis’ ‘motu proprio’ on addressing abuse. The pope issued his document, ‘Vos Estis Lux Mundi’ (‘You are the light of the world’), in May to help the Catholic Church safeguard its members from abuse and hold its leaders accountable.” By Catholic News Service in CatholicPhilly.com
Abuse, safeguarding and the survivors’ stories
“If the Church is to become a safe place for children and vulnerable adults, those who have suffered abuse must be listened to. Three of the victims of abuse by Catholic priests who gave evidence to the IICSA hearings tell their stories to The Tablet. Nolan and Cumberlege. These two names were repeated day after day, by witness after witness, at the various hearings in the inquiry into the extent of failures to protect children from sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales: one of the 15 investigations into a broad range of institutions being conducted by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).” By Catherine Pepinster, The Tablet
A look at 15 states making it easier to sue over sex abuse
“Fifteen states have revised their laws in the past two years extending or suspending statute of limitations to allow child sex abuse claims stretching back decades, unleashing potentially thousands of new lawsuits against the U.S. Roman Catholic Church. Some highlights of the new laws …” By Associated Press in National Catholic Reporter
Pope Francis Focuses on Migrants this Christmas Season
Pope Francis spoke of the "binding" moral obligation to save those whose lives are threatened, including the lives of migrants and refugees, this weekend before he blessed a large cross constructed around a used orange life vest last week.
"We must rescue and save because we are all responsible for the lives of our neighbor and the Lord will ask us to account for them at the moment of judgment," the pope said Dec. 19 as he met 33 migrants and refugees brought to Rome two weeks earlier.
And, Pope Francis said, "we must set aside economic interests because at the center must be the person, every person whose life and dignity are precious in God's eyes."
A New Year Thought
Next year, when appropriate, why not distribute Women Deacon cards inside greeting cards or letters you may send? You can find copies for downloading here or through Phyllis Zagano's web page. Or just use these handy links:
Each card has two paragraphs (one front and one back) summarizing the case for women deacons. They are designed to print out (on paper or card stock) on your home computer or via a copy service. Just click the link for the language needed then save the PDF file to your computer. Print the file using your printer's double-sided function (be sure to choose "flip on long side" in the options). The two-sided page then can be cut into six separate cards (or papers) for you to hand out, or slip into greeting cards.
Videos from the 2019 Conference
Please send them to Siobhan Carroll, Vineyard Editor, at Vineyard@votf.org. Unless otherwise indicated, I will assume comments can be published as Letters to the Editor.
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