Here are some of the key projects are pursuing this year …
Financial Accountability & Transparency—Where does our money go? Our team is working with accountants, attorneys, and canon lawyers to answer this basic question and others, such as: Who is on the diocesan Finance Council and how independent are they? Does your diocese publish independent financial audits?
As part of the effort, we are compiling data on the publicly avaialble financial reports each diocese provides for its people. We also work with Michael Ryan, whose book Nonfeasance: The Remarkable Failure of the Catholic Church to Protect Its Primary Source of Income examines the failure to consistently protect Sunday collections and describes the methods that can provide such protection. (Nonfeasance is available by clicking this BOOKS link and then clicking the Nonfeasance icon (it's on the top row at the right).
You can find additional readings and information on Mr. Ryan's church security site. Also available are draft guidelines from VOTF for diocesan finance councils and parish finance councils.
Roles for Women in the Church—When will our Church open the door to women deacons? Pious assurances aside, we all know women remain “behind the curtain” in the Church, not validated in their own pastoral charisms. Restoring the female diaconate is a start, and that’s where we’ll focus our attention: educating Catholics about a tradition lost and sorely needed in the Church today. Please read VOTF's white paper, Women Deacons: How Long Will It Take the Church to Open This Door, and you'll find a useful bibliography by clicking here.
Ordination of Married Catholics—Why won’t the Church ordain married Catholic men? Pastoral provisions allow ordination of married ministers who convert from other faith traditions. Why shouldn’t we offer the same option to Catholic men? Returning to the ordination of married men is especially critical when vocations to the celibate priesthood are declining and our parishes are closing. VOTF recently developed a petition requesting the U.S. Conference of Bishops to allow a "Pastoral Provision" allowing married Catholic men to be ordained in similar fashion to ordination of converted married Protestant ministers. Get all the ingredients you need to take action by clicking here.
Clericalism & Celibacy—VOTF has identified clericalism as a major contributor to many of the Church's problems. We are not alone in that assessment. Pope Francis also has called for reforms that address the ills of clericalism. On our clericalism web page you will find links to important VOTF papers on Clerical Culture Among Roman Catholic Diocesan Clergy, A Brief History of Celibacy and Mandatory Celibacy: Time to Discuss Its Flaws.
Bishop Selection—Why can’t we have a greater say in the appointment of our local bishop? Greater lay input is essential to address the "roving bishop promotions" that disrupt diocesan communities. VOTF members have already wrapped up two projects—in Manchester (NH) and in Chicago, where more than 600 Catholics offered their ideas through our web-site portal and on a diocese-wide survey. In 2013 and 2014 we will spread the model to other dioceses where bishops are nearing retirement age.
Survivor Support & Child Protection—We support survivors who wish to tell their stories, and those whose calls for truth and justice are even today under assault by some bishops who are determined not to answer. We look for ways to strengthen U.S. child protection guidelines which too many bishops and pastors—and sadly, too many lay people—no longer apply with vigilance. Fr. Tom Doyle, long-time advocate of clergy sexual abuse victims recently completed an extensive bibliography on clergy sexual abuse available by clicking here.
Support for U.S. Nuns—Why does the Vatican “investigate” nuns who are on the front lines of ministering to the poorest and the neediest among us when the bishops who hid pedophiles remain unexamined? VOTF continues to support the work and the collegial approach of women religious, which stand as stark counterpoints to the political aspirations of bishops. The integrity of the nuns in responding to bishops stands as a model for us all. VOTF also supports the Nun Justice Project, whose website offers background on issues and many ways in which you can support our sisters.
Support for Priests—We reach out to priests, as workers who bear the brunt of down-sized ministries, whose pensions are often one bishop-frown (or one embezzling custodian) away from lost, who find their time spent on re-learning Latinized language and awkward rituals rather than on needs of their parishioners. In supporting priests, VOTF supports associations of priests and men and women religious, like the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests and Catholic Whistleblowers. In addition, in summer 2013 VOTF was one of 10 organizations that made possible a 15-city U.S. speaking tour for reformist Austrian priest Fr. Helmut Schuller, Catholic Tipping Point: Conversations with Helmut Schuller.
Call for Church Reforms—We support Church reforms like these in order to foster the healing so essential in our Church, to strip away a clerical culture that enabled both the crimes of sex abuse and the cover-ups that hid them.
We seek reform in a “time of unease and instability and confusion,” to quote another conference speaker, Prof. Joseph O’Callaghan, “yet the seeds of reform are there.” So, to reiterate Fr. Cozzens admonition: “Never give up. [The Spirit] speaks through you … please carry on.”