In the Vineyard :: August 15, 2014 :: Volume 14, Issue 15

Visiting Archbishop
Leonard Blair

A report from Jayne O’Donnell on VOTF’s meeting with Bishop Blair in Hartford CT where she and Mark Mullaney opened by describing two key VOTF initiatives.

The first initiative, on financial accountability, will chronicle the public reporting of all U.S. dioceses to identify the extent to which they share their financial information with their parishioners. We noted that Pope Francis has been clear that he wishes to be transparent and accountable with the Vatican finances and the finances of dioceses throughout the world.

VOTF is completing development of a web portal that will present, diocese by diocese, the information provided. We gave Archbishop Blair copies of five of the current reports: the Archdiocese of Boston as a model of financial disclosure, and four others that are similar in size to Hartford. We pointed out and the Archbishop confirmed that the Hartford Archdiocese had not as yet reported any financial information. We offered our assistance to rectify that situation. Archbishop Blair then asked about his former diocese of Toledo, and we will forward that report to him. (I have since found that there has been no public financial reporting in Toledo.)

During our discussion, Archbishop Blair noted he had been in Hartford only nine months and had requested financial information. He seemed willing to comply with the wishes of the Pope and follow the lead of Cardinal O'Malley at the Archdiocese of Boston.

We then described the development of our Restorative Justice project. During VOTF’s 2014 Assembly, we hosted a panel discussion entitled Pathways to Healing. The central focus of the discussion was restorative justice and shortly after, as a result of that panel discussion, a committee formed to work on the concept. VOTF will host Healing Circles as a model for healing for victims/survivors of clergy sex abuse. The first is scheduled for Boston in late October.

Archbishop Blair noted that an offender is usually included in Healing Circles and stated that, in most instances, abusers are not capable of an apology; they are narcissistic and most don’t see themselves as having done anything wrong. However, I clarified the difference between a Healing Circle that is incident-specific Circle and would include both the survivor and the offender versus a non-incident specific Circle that perhaps would include an offender who does seek to express remorse or a surrogate or representative of the hierarchy. The Archbishop recommended that I send VOTF’s work on Restorative Justice to the bishops on the USCCB. We plan to do so following the first Healing Circle in October.

We also reported that this model will be repeated in Northern VA in November and again in Wisconsin after the first of the year. Further, VOTF plans to host Healing Circles nationally and internationally. I asked that Bishop Blair consider supporting the endeavor if VOTF hosts a Healing Circle in Hartford.

In addition to sharing information about our two initiatives, our time with the bishop also included conversation about clericalism. Archbishop Blair noted that the John Jay Report (first report) identified the impact of clericalism as a cause in the clergy sexual abuse scandal. He said that he found this conclusion to be most disheartening.

The Archbishop asked Mark and me to please keep him posted on the progress of the two initiatives that we discussed. We promised him that we would so.

We felt encouraged that Archbishop Blair had taken the time to meet and will continue the dialogue toward having the Hartford Archdiocese report their financial information with other dioceses throughout the country.

We also mentioned that VOTF’s 2015 National Assembly will be held in Hartford April 18th and that we will send him an invitation to attend.


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