Here are a few of the key projects we’ll be 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?
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.
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.
Youth Initiative—Why does the Church so seldom provide the spiritual guidance our sons and daughters and grandchildren seek? We know they are spiritual—repeated polls tell us so—and we know they strongly believe in social justice. But too few look to the Church when meeting those needs. We are listening to young adults to see what we may each learn from our different experiences so that we may all grow in our Catholic faith.
Bishop Selection—Why can’t we have a greater say in the appointment of our local bishop? Greater lay input into such selections remains a critical project for us. VOTF members have already wrapped up two projects—in Manchester, New Hampshire, and in Chicago, where more than 600 Catholics offered their ideas through our web-site portal and on a diocese-wide survey. Next year 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 too many bishops and pastors—and sadly, too many lay people—no longer apply with vigilance.
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.
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.
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.”