In the Vineyard :: April 5, 2013 :: Volume 13, Issue 7

News from National

April Is Child Protection Month
Ensuring safe Catholic parish/school environments for children remains a high priority for Voice of the Faithful® as we observe National Child Abuse Prevention month.

By serving as "eyes and ears" you can see that your parish follows the critical protection guidelines. The obligation of all Christians to protect children flows from the ministry and example of Jesus Christ.

1. Be sure your Parish Safety Committee:

  • Conducts annual prevention education for all children and parents.

  • Completes yearly criminal background checks for all parish clergy, staff and personnel -- and does not allow service without the checks.

  • Observes Zero Tolerance for sexual abuse.

2. Make sure YOU know:

With your help, we can increase awareness among all laity about the sexual abuse of children -- it's not someone else's child, niece, nephew, grandchild; every child is a potential target for abusers.

You also may wish to work on extending or eliminating Statues of Limitation on child sex abuse in your state (VOTF Statute of Limitation Reform: Advocacy Guide) so that those already abused may obtain justice.

Conscience and Dissent
Many Catholics are using this Lenten season and the election of Pope Francis as a chance to strengthen their faith and look at all that it means to be a Catholic. One of the areas VOTF is looking to is the place of conscience in the life of a Catholic. 

What happens when a personal decision, made in accordance with a “well-formed” conscience, places one in opposition to current Church teachings? Regardless of our respective positions on an issue, we Catholics can agree that primacy of conscience is a central Catholic belief. It is not a tenet of our faith that those who in good conscience disagree with Church teaching on this question should be silenced or banished from the Catholic Church.

For this effort, the VOTF affiliate in New York City drafted a petition in support of those who follow their consciences, developed a list of suggested readings on conscience, and prepared a list of readings on women's roles in the Church. There is still time to endorse the petition and to participate, individually or in groups, in the study of conscience and of women's roles in the Church.

You also could participate in a FutureChurch teleconference on the formation of conscience and dissent by noted theologian Dr. Paul Lakeland. The teleconference will include a discussion of how our individual consciences can empower and guide our actions as Catholics. To register go to the FutureChurch site click here


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


Catholic MPs Urge Pope Francis to Allow Ordination of Married Men
Catholic peers and MPs have written to Pope Francis asking him to consider permitting bishops in the United Kingdom to ordain married men as priests.

Five Tests of Whether Pope Francis’ Reform of the Vatican Could Be Real
As soon as Holy Week wraps up, hard questions will begin to be asked about whether Pope Francis is capable of delivering the reform in the Vatican that many cardinals believed they were voting for in electing him.

Pope Francis Supports Zero Tolerance of Child Abuse
Pope Francis is on record as supporting zero tolerance for the sexual abuse of minors by priests. In a 2012 interview, then-Cardinal Bergoglio said that a bishop called him for advice on how to deal with it, and "I told him to take away the priests' licenses, not to allow them to exercise the priesthood any more, and to begin a canonical trial in that diocese’s court."

Clergy Abuse Victims Call on Pope Francis to Open Files on Argentina’s Pedophile Priests
Activists against abuse by Roman Catholic clergy have urged Pope Francis to apologize for what they called the Argentine church’s protection of two priests who were eventually convicted of sexually assaulting children.

Pope to Review Vatican Bureaucracy, Scandal-Ridden Bank
Pope Francis, who has said he wants the Catholic Church to be a model of austerity and honesty, could restructure or even close the Vatican's scandal-ridden bank as part of a broad review of its troubled bureaucracy.

Time to Reunite All Catholics with a New Nicaea
Now, almost 17 centuries after the Council of Nicaea, the Church is at another crossroads. Catholics are deeply divided over issues of theology, authority, scriptural interpretation, tradition and canon law. Developments in archeology, biblical exegesis, historical research, psychology and other disciplines call into question whether the Nicene Creed remains sufficiently elastic to embody the truths of Christianity. At this moment in Christian history, a "new Nicaea" is needed to unify the people of God courageously and creatively through the vehicle of a general council.

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

Affiliate News

VOTF-Bridgeport’s Voice of Compassion Fund
By Jaime Dance
VOTF Bridgeports’ Voice of Compassion Fund was established in 2003 as an alternative for Catholics who want to sustain charitable and educational organizations throughout the Diocese, but who do not feel comfortable contributing to the Annual Bishop’s Appeal, especially since the Diocese does not publish regular up-to-date financial reports.

Since the Fund’s inception, $110,950 has been awarded to a variety of organizations serving the poor and needy. Each year, 100% of the money collected is given directly to charity. Contributions to the VOC fund are tax deductible. Interested members are invited annually to serve on the Granting Committee. When grants are distributed at VOTF meetings, representatives of each program are given the opportunity to describe their work on behalf of the needy. This year, contributions to the VOC Fund totaled $11,300, up 25% from the previous year.  Among those receiving grants were the Bridgeport Rescue Mission, Daughters of Charity, Dorothy Day Hospitality House, Norwalk Christian Community Action, Manna House of Hospitality, Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education, and SNAP-CT.

VOTF of Orange County Has Hope!
By Steve Dzida
We have a new Pope!  Pope Francis. We think the dominant blessing of the recently concluded conclave is hope.

Hope first for who Pope Francis is not. He is not Italian. He is not European. He is not a product of the Roman Curia. For our beloved Church, in such dire need of restructuring and reform, a Pope cut from different cloth is a sign of hope.

Hope next for who Pope Francis is.  He is one who has walked with the poor and feels their burdens.  He is one who lives in simplicity, letting go the trappings of luxury and the prerogatives of office.  He is a humble man for whom “servant leadership” is a familiar, not a foreign, concept.  For our beloved Church, in such dire need of a leader who leads by example as Jesus did, Pope Francis is a sign of hope.

That the new Pope chose the name Francis is a sign of hope.  (Were you as shocked as we were to learn that no Pope had chosen that name previously?)  Francis of Assisi heard God’s call to “Rebuild my Church!”  Francis turned his back on a life of comfort and wealth in favor of a simple life of service to the poor.  Francis lived out his life and ministry almost entirely as a lay person, never being ordained a priest and perhaps being ordained a deacon only at the end of his life. 

Could it be that Pope Francis has heard God’s call to “Rebuild my Church,” a Church plagued by scandal and a clerical culture set on proclaiming and preserving only itself rather than the Gospel?  Could it be that Pope Francis aspires to live a simple life of service to the poor and all God’s people, even as Pope, and to swear off the trappings and allure of wealth and power?  Could it be that Pope Francis recognizes the multitude of gifts bestowed by the Spirit of God on the lay people of our faith community and will join with them to discern together and follow together the will of the Spirit for God’s Church?
We can (and do) hope!

May the Spirit of God inspire Pope Francis and all the People of God.  May the light of the Cross of Christ guide Pope Francis and all the People of God as we join together to build up God’s Church!

We ARE the Church!  We ARE the Body of Christ!

Book Corner

VOTF’s New Book!
As advocates for Church reform, we have few products to sell, but we're proud that our voices are our product!
Generally, our programs involve developing and distributing free the documents describing our work, as a way to provide resources to other Catholics, keep them informed, encourage reform, and promote healing.

So, when we have an actual product like our new book Voices: Telling Our Stories, we get excited!

Not only do we have a physical "something" to promote, but that something comprises your voices -- with all your hopes, dreams, and prayers for our Church.

Voices: Telling Our Stories is our mission, goals, and product all in one.

We hope you will buy at least one copy for yourself and also encourage friends and family to purchase one, or purchase a copy for them as a gift. At $25, Voices is priced consistently with other books in the marketplace. That allows us to recoup the costs of production and distribution, as well as contribute to the programs that fulfill our mission and goals.

To purchase your copy of Voices: Telling Our Stories, as well as copies for families, friends and clergy, click here. Or send your check for $25 to VOTF, P.O. Box 423, Newton, MA 02464 and write Voices on the memo line.

A Tale of Courage ... And Voice
Book Review by Jim Post
Luke 17:2, by Michael Emerton and Patrick Emerton (Portsmouth, NH: Stone Cellar Publishing, 2013)
Michael Emerton’s account of clergy sexual abuse is a sad, but powerful story. Mike’s public relations skills were invaluable to Voice of the Faithful’s crusade for accountability in the Catholic Church. His story is shocking, surprising, and hopeful, all at the same time.

Luke 17:2 is the biblical passage that reminds us that “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged around his neck ... than that he should offend one of these little ones.” The book is actually two stories: One is the story of a young man’s abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest; the other is the story of a survivor who wrestled with his demons and found an outlet in the crusade for accountability in the Archdiocese of Boston. Truth is a powerful weapon and Mike Emerton’s story explains how he faced the ugliness of sexual abuse head-on, and helped others voice that truth to the world.

It is an inspiring story, all the more so because I know Mike Emerton. I lived the VOTF (Voice of the Faithful®) story in 2002 as one of the co-founders. With friends, neighbors, and fellow Catholics, I too became part of the effort to hold Cardinal Bernard Law accountable for covering up the crimes of Rev. John Geoghan and shielding other predator priests. We could not have been successful without the efforts of Mike Emerton and hundreds of other Catholic men and women.

But it was a mismatch – we were David against the Catholic Goliath. Cardinal Law had the full resources of the archdiocese to draw upon; we had good intentions and a courageous voice. We lost the early skirmishes, but gained some positive press. We grew in numbers, but were still outgunned by the diocesan press machine. Then Mike Emerton arrived. It was a day we remember and for which we remain thankful.

The second half of Luke 17:2 describes some of the exciting skirmishes between VOTF members and the clerical hierarchy. Mike was at the center of those events, and he shares them in a colorful and readable manner. Mike Emerton is one of VOTF’s heroes – we simply would not have become the “voice” of the faithful without his skills and personal courage.

James E. Post is John F. Smith, Jr., Professor of Management at Boston University and a Voice of the Faithful® founder and its first president.

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 2013. All Rights Reserved