In the Vineyard :: April 20, 2012 :: Volume 12, Issue 7

News from National

Lamentation Wall to Be Unveiled at VOTF 2012 Conference
Were it not for the shocking revelation of the breadth of the clergy sexual abuse of minors that exploded in 2002, VOTF would not have been born. The unimaginable pain, suffering and anguish, that have wreaked havoc on the lives of so many victims/survivors, have left indelible marks. It is also evident that many faithful Catholics who did not experience physical abuse also experienced a wide range of unsettling emotions due to the sexual abuse revelations.

In an effort to offer a place of expression for survivors/victims and other affected Catholics, we are constructing a Lamentation Wall that will be a focal point of the 2012 conference. The structure will be a sacred space upon which we invite all affected by the sexual abuse scandal to post a personal response to the failing of the Church to protect our children and, worse yet, to the cover up of the scandal.

The expressions will be placed in a basket and offered at the closing Mass that will be celebrated by Fr. James Connell of Milwaukee, WI.

Professor Thomas H. Groome, Chairman of Religious
Education & Pastoral Ministry at Boston College,
Will Speak at Voice of the Faithful’s 10th Year Conference
Educator, theologian, prolific author and guest lecturer Thomas H. Groome, who has contributed the most widely used religion curricula in Catholic schools and parishes across the country for the past 20 years, will be among the speakers at VOTF’s 10th Year Conference in Boston later this year.

Prof. Groome will address attendees at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 15, at the Marriott Boston Copley Place Hotel. The conference begins the previous Friday afternoon, Sept. 14, at the hotel. Click here for a conference agenda.

Groome presently is chairman of the Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry Department and professor of theology and religious education at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. He joined Boston College as an assistant professor of theology in 1976. His primary areas of interest and research are in the history, theory and practice of religious education, pastoral ministry, and practical theology.

Among his books, the classic and foundational text Christian Religious Education: Sharing our Story and Vision is the most widely used textbook of religious education in Catholic and Protestant schools of theology, seminaries and pastoral institutes worldwide. His influential contribution to Catholic early education has come primarily through several curricula on which he was the primary author or editor. These include God with Us and Coming to Faith for K-8 and the Credo Series for adolescents.



As the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith comes down on women religious in the United States for doctrinal impurity, VOTF supports the sisters.

On Wednesday, the Vatican mandated reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the largest leadership body of women religious in the United States, which represents about 80 percent of the 57,000 nuns in the country. Because of LCWR's purported doctrinal impurity, the Vatican has appointed an archbishop to oversee the nuns' reform.

The record of women religious in this country taking care of the most vulnerable in our society, creating the American hospital system, for example, is a primer on Gospel values. Their long service on the front lines of poverty and disease is worthy of the respect and admiration of all, VOTF among them.

Canon Lawyers are not giving LCWR much of a chance against the Vatican, which started LCWR in 1956 and to which the sisters answer.

VOTF believes that, although the Vatican may have Canon Law on its side, the sisters have Jesus' example on theirs and his Scriptural admonition (Luke 20:46-47) about teachers of the law: "Be on guard against the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and love greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation."

Kudos from VOTF Boston to Cleveland Catholics

VOTF Boston Area Council members salute the wonderful Catholic people of Cleveland who fought to reopen their closed neighborhood parishes which are so meaningful to them. After struggling on the same path here to gain some success, we strongly relate. We have felt your pain and now are very happy to hear that 12 Churches will be reopened by Cleveland Bishop Lennon. 

This win is a fine example of what lay voices can do. The greater Catholic community now knows the upheaval and emotional turbulence caused by the closing or merging of 50 Churches thanks to the extra effort of Cleveland parishioners. We haven't forgotten Boston closings, which Lennon also designed, and we won't forget your strength and example.

Attorney Sharon Harrington of the Boston Area Council Board, active in a lay Council of Parishes begun under the wing of the early Boston Council, gleefully announced the success of the Cleveland canonical challenge before the ink was dry.

The Vatican did not accept the Lennon decision to close all the churches, citing protocol errors. Fortunately, Lennon decided after consultation to avoid prolonging a difficult situation by appealing the Vatican decision. Some of the property of closed Churches had been sold by the Cleveland Diocese, but those under appeal at the Vatican could not be sold until a decision was finalized. 

The Vatican has been tightening requirements for closings in the past year or so. A shortage of priests or necessary capital maintenance expense are not considered in itself to hold weight in a closing decision.

Anne Southwood
For VOTF Boston Area Council Board

For more about the Cleveland situation:
Cleveland Bishop to Reopen 12 Parishes
Saying that it’s time for “peace and unity” in his diocese, Cleveland’s Bishop Richard Lennon has announced that he will reopen 12 churches he’d closed.
-- "It's Time for Peace and Unity in the Diocese of Cleveland"

Voice of the Faithful FOCUS, April 19, 2012

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

Vatican Announces Reform of US Women's Religious Conference
The Vatican called for reform amid a doctrinal “crisis” within the U.S.'s Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), appointing Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to lead renewal efforts. The appointment was made as the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith revealed the findings of its multi-year doctrinal assessment of the women's conference, which has more than 1,500 members throughout the country.

In Philadelphia, a Church at the Crossroads
The trial’s verdict remains in the balance, yet one significant outcome of the grand jury is already settled: The model of triumphalist clericalism that long defined American Catholicism’s “Last Empire” is dead, and something very different is beginning to rise in its place.

An 'Invitation to Lunch' Pastoral Theology
Perhaps it is just a sign of the times that Catholics would be jolted reading that a cardinal, facing a difficult pastoral situation, would publicly acknowledge having asked himself: “How would Jesus act?” (Cardinal) Schönborn’s approach has attracted a great deal of notice, of course, because it is so strikingly different from so much of the confrontational policing of borders that goes on in the church these days.
-- Overruled by Cardinal on Gay Member of Parish Council, Pastor Resigns

Catholic Bishops Fight for Authority over U.S. Flock
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is a powerful institution, at least on paper. But a recent debate over contraception coverage has exposed a deep divide between the 271 active bishops and the rank-and-file U.S. Catholics who are supposed to follow their moral authority. It also has raised questions about why some prominent Catholic institutions ignore the bishops' teachings - and whether the bishops will be able to reassert their authority.

Pressures on Priests Fuel Dissent. Are we really talking about a revolution?
Are the winds of revolt howling in the European Church?
One would be justified to wonder, looking at the recent news coming from Europe - in Austria, in Ireland, and even in Rome itself – where calls for structural reform are coming from priests.  

Power to the Laity
In his recent address to a Conference on Leadership, Sydney based lay leader Robert Fitzgerald outlined his views concerning the need for new models of leadership within the Church. His basic thesis was that the laity have, through their leadership of some of the largest ministries within the Church, shown that they are both willing and capable of exercising effective models of leadership.

Read the rest of this issue of Focus here ...


Adult Faith Formation Lecture sponsored by North Shore-Seacoast VOTF Affiliate
“Second Vatican Council’s Theology of the Laity”, Sunday, April 29, 2012 Immaculate Conception Parish Center in Newburyport from 7 – 9 pm.

Dr. Richard R. Gaillardetz, Ph.D., Professor of Catholic Systematic Theology at Boston College is the speaker.  Dr. Gaillardetz’s lecture will focus on one of the remarkable contributions of the Council, the treatment of the role of the laity in the church and in the world.  This presentation will explore the development of the Council’s teaching in documents including The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity and Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution of Church in the Modern World)

Everyone is welcome.  Why not come to learn more about Vatican II in its 50th year.  Free will offerings are gratefully accepted.  Refreshments will be served.  For more information, call Barbara & John Gould 978-535-2321.

Boston College Church in the 21st Century
Panel Discussion: Women for Others, Leaders for the Church
The Church in the 21st Century Center

A conversation about faith and the vocation to serve others with three women, from different generations and backgrounds, who draw from their professional, personal, faith-filled experiences to make significant contributions to the Church. Moderator: Patricia De Leeuw, Vice Provost for Faculties, Office of the Provost, will be joined by Paula Ebben '89, Nancy Pineda-Madrid, and Elizabeth Stowe Fennell '05.

Date and Time:


Thursday, April 26, 2012 | 5:30 p.m.   



Heights Room, Corcoran Commons

Sponsored by:


The C21 Center, Women's Resource Center, BC Alumni Association



Ellie Zapata

Contact's Email:

Admission fee:



Parking & Directions :

Members Speak Out

VOTF member Jane Merchant sent the following letter to the Wall Street Journal after reading  Traditional Catholicism is Winning by Anne Hendershott and Christopher White.

“I found the commentary "Traditional Catholicism is Winning" troubling.  I can't agree that the "radicalism of obedience" to a hierarchy that allowed the sex abuse scandals to go on for decades is a virtue.  Nor apparently do the Catholics who left in sadness upon learning of it.  Former Catholics are now the second largest religious group in the country, hardly a cause for celebration.

What I do celebrate are the calls for renewal coming from bishops, priests, sisters and laypersons around the world who find the medieval, all male, group of Princes in their world of pomp, purple, palaces and secrecy not to reflect the Christ we know, who lived and walked among the people.  Christ scolded the hierarchs of his day for their "yoke of too many rules" and their "too long tassels" -- symbols of authority then.  He had two rules:  Love God & your neighbor as yourself.

Christ said where two or three are gathered in my name I am with them.  We need structure, ritual and community.  But when the structure overpowers Christ's message, of which one is caring for the innocence of children, it's time for a reformation.  Securing the power structure of the past will not work.  Many of us see that the Spirit is moving among us, and in the church we love.  “

Jane Hubbell Merchant

A View from Ireland

By Sean O’Conaill

More Dangerous Deference, or Loving Freedom?

In preparation for Confirmation around the age  of ten, Catholic children are taught that this sacrament will confer on them the dignity ‘Temple of the Holy Spirit’.

Are they taught how to recognize the Holy Spirit moving within them then?  If their hearts were then to burn strongly for other Temples of the Holy Spirit who were violated in the past, or they were to feel a just anger against bishops who knowingly allowed that to happen, or they were to shed tears for the mothers so cruelly betrayed – would any of those manifestations of moral indignation signify to them that the Holy Spirit was now at work within themselves?

I ask this question because of the stunning failure of the apostolic visitation to Ireland to address two other questions: First, why Irish Catholic church administrators, politicians, civil servants and police officers – all also Temples of the Holy Spirit - were not moved to moral outrage and effective action by the cruelties revealed by the series of state reports into abuse:  Ferns, Dublin, the Catholic residential institutions and Cloyne.

Second, why it was that the church’s clerical system did not become ostentatious in the cause of child protection until secular courts, media and state forced it to act. 

The apostolic visitation to Ireland was itself the product of secular revelation but its summary report shows absolutely no sign of an honest acknowledgement of this.  Are Ireland’s young Temples supposed to be forever unable to notice this, and forever unprompted by courage, honesty and love, to ask why?

Did the visitators even ask these questions of themselves?  If not, how can they convince us Catholics that the visitation was not in the main just another holy show, primarily designed to distract attention from those questions, and from the fact that the concealment of abuse within the church is a global and not just an Irish problem?

As a Catholic educated in the era of Vatican II, and subsequently by the Catholic children I taught for thirty years, I can say with the deepest conviction that those young hearts do indeed burn, feel anger and weep for all cruelty and injustice.  But while the Holy Spirit is indeed moving those children in this way they are simultaneously being taught something quite contrary by the Catholic magisterium: deference to and fear of itself and mute obedience to its minute theological formulae as the sine qua non of Catholic loyalty.

And this is still the obsession of the magisterium, as revealed by the passage  in the summary report that insists that renewal of the church forbids dissent. 

What this means is that the magisterium is still not paying attention to the effect of the prioritization of obedience to itself above moral outrage.  What this teaches is not honesty, initiative, courage and love, but subterfuge, irresponsibility, fear and malice.  We need look no further for the moral inertia of Irish Catholic officials who were forever afraid to act rightly on behalf of the weakest of our children.

I respectfully challenge here and now the Catholic magisterium to refute this, and to explain why the revelation and the tackling of the grotesque evil of abuse within the church had to come from the secular world.  The sacraments are one thing, but the church’s governing system is something else entirely – something that frustrates the brilliant work of Catholic teachers.  They too must be wondering now whether the magisterium will ever, like good Catholic children, sit up, wake up, and pay full attention. 

So again I ask: how exactly is the Holy Spirit supposed to be moving the young Catholics of Ireland and globally ‘to renew the face of the earth’?  I’ve been saying the prayer ‘Come Holy Spirit’ all my life, and the fact is that I’ve learnt far more about how that could actually happen from Catholic clergy loyal to Vatican II (now again under covert intimidation in Ireland) and from Charles Dickens, than I have from the Catholic magisterium since 1968. 

Our own bishops can’t even have the courage to demand that the Holy Spirit be freed to enable them to determine the language of the Mass for us.  What kind of leadership is this?  And what kind of theology?

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.


Page One


Shop at Amazon, Support VOTF

VOTF relies solely on the contributions of people like you to support its work.





© Voice of the Faithful 2012. All Rights Reserved