In the Vineyard ::April 10, 2015 :: Volume 15, Issue 7

Vatican's failure to hold Bishop Barros accountable

The Vatican’s recent statement that the Congregation of Bishops has found “no objective reason to preclude” Juan Madrid Barros’ appointment as bishop of Osorno, Chile, is extremely disheartening to Catholic Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful, especially in light of the promise of Francis’ papacy for a more accountable, collegial Church.

Barros is accused by victims of covering up for Fr. Fernando Karadima, whom the Vatican found guilty in 2011 of sexual abuse of minors. Apparently, the terse Vatican statement on Barros’ appointment does not address these allegations.

The Vatican’s position is particularly troubling in at least two ways.

First, Pope Francis appears to be going back on his word to hold bishops accountable for covering up clergy sexual abuse. He has said repeatedly that such accountability is necessary. In July 2014, for example, he is reported as saying bishops “will be held accountable” for failing to protect children from sexual abuse in his homily during Mass with clergy sexual abuse survivors. Similarly, following the meeting this past February of his Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, the Vatican is reported to have vowed a keen awareness “that the issue of accountability is of major importance.”

Second, the concerns of clergy and laity in Osorno seem to have been ignored. Their attempts to bar Barros’ appointment failed, and congregants at his installation Mass created a near riot that drove the bishop to escape the cathedral through a side door. The Vatican’s failure to listen to clergy and laity in Osorno brings into question all of Pope Francis’ statements about his wishes to bring collegiality to Church governance, to listen to the laity and to make decisions at the local level.

Now installed, it’s hard to see how Barros could live up to what Francis admonished papal nuncios to heed in a June 2013 address: “In the delicate task of carrying out inquiries for episcopal appointments, be careful that the candidates are pastors close to the people, fathers and brothers ...”
Pope Francis has addressed this issue many times over the past two years, but his most telling remark concerning how he would like to see the Church make decisions comes from his October 2013 interview with America magazine: “All the faithful, considered as a whole, are infallible in matters of belief ... When the dialogue among the people and the bishops and the pope goes down this road and is genuine, then it is assisted by the Holy Spirit .. We should not even think, therefore, that ‘thinking with the Church’ means only thinking with the hierarchy of the Church.”

In Osorno, no “dialogue among the people and the bishops and the pope” seems to have occurred, at the expense of Francis’ accountable, collegial Church. Barros is bishop, and the Vatican appears disinclined to remove him. Perhaps, in considering the situation, Barros will take to heart Chilean Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati’s remark. Ezzati is reported to have said that “a bishop can, eventually, resign.”

Altar Girls?
Catholics who heard about the refusal of Father Illo to allow altar girls at Star of the Sea parish and school in the San Francisco diocese were angered and dismayed. And the pastor’s claim that “many Catholics” supported him prompted Call To Action to start an online petition to demonstrate that most Catholics do NOT support him. 

If you would like to sign the petition, you can find it here:

You can read more about the letter writing campaign and public actions of the parents here: and here:


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


Vatican: No ‘objective reasons’ to preclude appointment of Chilean bishop
“The Vatican has responded to public outcry against Pope Francis' naming of a new bishop in Chile accused of covering up sexual abuse, saying the bishop's candidature was ‘carefully examined’ prior to his appointment but no ‘objective reasons’ were found to preclude it. Marking a rare reaction to public criticism against a bishop's appointment, the Vatican press office released a 19-word statement Tuesday (Mar. 31) in three languages regarding Bishop Juan Barros Madrid. Chilean clergy sexual abuse survivors accuse Barros, who was installed March 21 as head of the diocese of Osorno, Chile, amid protests in the cathedral, of covering up abuse by Fr. Fernando Karadima when Barros was a priest.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter
-- In Chile decision, Pope Francis risks reputation as reformer, By Grant Gallicho, dotCommonweal
-- Members of Vatican abuse commission question Francis’ inaction in Chile, By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter
-- Pope Francis and zero tolerance, By William Doino, Jr.,
Cardinal says Catholic bishops cannot go it alone on doctrine
“The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has advised bishops’ conferences not to take ‘doctrinal and disciplinary decisions’ on issues that rightly fall under the magisterium of the church. Cardinal Gerhard Muller said that while bishops’ conferences have authority on some matters, ‘they don’t constitute a magisterium within the magisterium, independently of the pope and out of communion with other bishops.’” By Jonathan Luxmoore, Catholic News Service, on
Child abuse, enough evidence for 1,000 hearings
“The head of an Australian royal commission into child sexual abuse says he has uncovered enough material to justify public hearings on more than 1,000 institutions where child sexual abuse has been alleged.” By Simon Collins, The New Zealand Herald
English Missal translation need overhaul
“Priests from Ireland and two bishops have become the latest to call for changes to the English translation of the Mass. The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) in Ireland has called for a review of the current English missal and for priests to be allowed to use the 1998 translation as a temporary solution.” By Sarah Mac Donald, The Tablet
Francis outlines vision of human, compassionate priesthood
“Pope Francis has outlined a deeply human and compassionate model of the Catholic priesthood, telling priests around the world Thursday (Apr. 2) he understands they can become weary from their work but that they should exhaust themselves at the service of their people. Speaking in an unusually lengthy homily in St. Peter's Basilica for the celebration of Holy Thursday, the pope said he thinks and prays often about the tiredness of priests but exhorted them to give themselves away for others.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter
Click here to read the rest of this issue of Focus ...


Mary of Magdala and Early Women Leaders
Tell us, Mary, what you saw on the way” (Easter liturgy); Stories of Origin and the Question before the Church Today” with Elizabeth Johnson, csj, PhD. At Fordham’s Lincoln Center Campus in NYC.

The Resurrection is the core of our faith; come, learn about the woman and the other women who announced and lived the Resurrection.  

April 14, 12-2 pm at Fordham, Center, Corrigan Conference Center, 113 W. 60th St. | Lincoln Center Campus. Reception to Follow.

April 21, 6-8pm Tognino Hall | Duane Library | Rose Hill Campus. Reception to Follow. (Van service will be available from Lincoln Center campus. Contact  Jodi Hunt at

Free and Open to All. This lecture will be repeated twice.

Boston College Church in the 21st Century
Parishes in Transition: Learning to Live in Tabernacles

Hosffman Ospino Nancy T. Ammerman

Friday, April 24, 10:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Presenters: Nancy T. Ammerman and Hosffman Ospino
9 Lake St., Room 100, Brighton Campus
Free of Charge
Register For Event
Maps and directions
Parking will be available on the Brighton Campus.

Transitions come in all shapes and sizes, and every parish is faced with the necessity of responding to population shifts that are unlikely to stop anytime soon.  Dr. Ammerman explores the ongoing reality of change and the challenges posed by the peculiarly American ways of encouraging people to find the “church of their choice.”  She also looks for the particular habits of mind and skills of leadership that enable religious communities to thrive even when we are living in social spaces that need to be as temporary and flexible as the Israelites’ tabernacle in the wilderness.  Dr. Ospino examines major changes, tensions, questions, and possibilities in the context of U.S. Catholic parish life as Catholic communities respond to the growing Hispanic presence in an increasingly diverse Church.

Sponsored by the School of Theology and Ministry
Nancy T. Ammerman is professor of sociology of religion at Boston University.

Hosffman Ospino is STM assistant professor of Hispanic ministry and religious education and director of graduate programs in Hispanic ministry.

The Paulist Center
Fr. Frank Desiderio
The Church of Mercy
The Life and Thought of Pope Francis
April 27 at 7 pm

Fr. Frank Desiderio, CSP, will weave Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s chronology and theology into a story of reform. This multi-media presentation offers insight into how Pope Francis’ biography has shaped his vision for the Catholic Church and action for reform. Learn about his life story with anecdotes that show a consistent pattern of reform starting with the Argentine Jesuits, then the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires and, now, the Catholic Church.

A free will offering is greatly appreciated.
5 Park Street, Boston - 617-742-4460 - -

Teresa of Avila and Marilynne Robinson on Knowing God

Most Reverend Dr. Rowan Williams
SATURDAY, JULY 11, 10:00 A.M.

St. Teresa’s thoughts on encountering and living with God are much shaped by her position as an outsider to the hierarchical world of her day—a woman, and someone from a Jewish background.  This lecture reflects on the question of what the outsider, the marginal person, brings to prayer and theology.  It suggests ways of considering Teresa through the lens of Marilynne Robinson’s fiction, which continually explores and illuminates the perception of faith by the marginalized.   

Most Reverend Dr. Rowan Williams is the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury and Master at Magdalene College in Cambridge, England.

FREE of charge and open to the public
Early registration recommended.
Click here for more information, including directions and parking.

Cosponsored by the School of Theology and Ministry
and the Institute of Carmelite Studies

Book Review

By Father Tom Doyle
Potiphar’s Wife: The Vatican’s Secret and Child Sexual Abuse, available on Amazon.

Note that purchases from Amazon made through will result in a small donation to VOTF.

In 2012 Cardinal Ray Burke, late of the Signatura and now the Chaplain to the Knights of Malta, addressed a canon law convention in Kenya and said, among other things, that the church has always had a “carefully articulated process by which to investigate accusations of [sex abuse].” He went on to say that the problem is that this discipline, Canon Law, was not followed. His clear message is that had canon law been followed correctly there would be no clergy abuse problem. This assertion is far, far removed from reality. Canon Law has in fact been a major part of the problem and certainly not part of the solution.

Potiphar’s Wife is what I would label a “foundational source” about the clergy sex abuse phenomenon. By that I mean that I believe that it is one of the very small number of the hundreds of books published about clergy abuse that is essential for those who seek a comprehensive and accurate understanding of the issue.

This book was written by a true legal scholar who, although he does not have a graduate degree in Canon Law, has a grasp of the unique nature of Canon Law, its sources, its spirit and its mechanisms, that is exceptional. The book includes includes a detailed overview of the development of the clergy abuse problem in our era ... one of the best I have [seen].

Its main thrust, however, is a careful, detailed examination of the role played by Canon Law and especially by certain Vatican decrees, Crimen sollicitationis among others, in the confused and convoluted response of bishops and the Holy See to revelations of abuse. Kieran shows clearly the numerous contradictions in canon law as well as the often confused and contradictory responses of bishops and Vatican officials.

Kieran himself shared with me that the book had been criticized by some canonists in his native Australia. Yet when I searched for specific critiques, I found none, which leads me to suspect that there in fact are no critical [public] reviews and that no one has publicly challenged the author’s research and conclusions. Unless I missed something, in my opinion the author is rock-solid in his analyses and findings.

When I first received the book I suspected it might be dense and possibly slow-moving, even for a canonist, yet I was dead wrong. This book is very well written in clear, understandable language that anyone could understand. It’s as close to a “page turner” as a book about Canon Law or Church history could be. Far from dry and stodgy, it’s very lively and relevant.

Kieran Tapsell’s book is a unique and essential contribution to both an understanding of the Byzantine response of the official Catholic Church and to the sad history of this nightmare. 

Questions, Comments?

Please send them to Siobhan Carroll, Vineyard Editor, at Unless otherwise indicated, I will assume comments can be published as Letters to the Editor.


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