In the Vineyard :: January 24, 2014 :: Volume 14, Issue 2

News from National

Follow the Money Trail: Help Protect Parish Collections
When we drop dollars into the collection basket, we expect them to support our parish community, care for the poor and needy, foster charitable activities ... We do NOT expect our dollars to pay for clerical extravagances, a pastor's gambling habit, an usher's new car, a collection counter's vacation, or similar misappropriations.

Michael W. Ryan, a retired federal law enforcement official experienced in conducting financial audits and security investigations, will be speaking at VOTF’s 2014 Assembly on April 5, 2014. Come listen to Michael Ryan describe "Tools for Securing Parish Collections." Learn more

Bridgeport Bishop to Meet with Local VOTF
Bridgeport, Connecticut’s new bishop, the Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano, will speak to the Bridgeport VOTF on Tuesday, February 13, at the Congregational Church on the Green in Norwalk at 7:30 p.m. The meeting is open to the public. This first-ever direct encounter between VOTF and a newly appointed bishop promises to be an evening of special interest.

For more information go to

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International News

Update on Ireland-1: Safeguards Weakening?
By Sean O'Conaill of VOTF-Ireland

For six years Ian Elliott was CEO of the Irish Catholic Church's National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Church (NBSCCC). During that time he was responsible for imposing a measure of accountability for child protection on all Irish dioceses and religious orders. A Northern Ireland Presbyterian and a highly regarded child protection professional, he masterminded the systems of child safeguarding now in place in most (if not all) parishes in Ireland—training the multitude of personnel who now allow the bishops of the Irish church to claim that “best practice” is now in place.

However, now retired from that role, Elliott has now alleged that over the past four years there have been successive reductions in the budget of the NBSCCC. Saying this threatens the coordinated single national system of monitoring and inspection that he put in place, he writes as follows in the January 2014 issue of the Maynooth monthly, The Furrow:

"History has shown that the effective monitoring of practice within the Church requires independence, and adequate resources. I would argue that to [support] site investment within individual Church authorities, and to starve the National Board of the support that it requires, is running the risk of a lapse back to poor risk management or possibly worse. I see no justification for it other than a desire to limit the role of the Board by covert means."

This is truly an alarming statement. Already, well-informed Irish Catholics have deep misgivings about the lack of strong structures of accountability for their bishops, especially on this issue of child protection. What Elliott warns about is a weakening of the limited accountability system that he established for bishops and religious congregations in Ireland.

If the budget of the NBSCCC has indeed been reduced, year-on-year, over the past four years, why exactly is that? Our bishops need to know that this is no way of restoring the trust in their leadership that was so deeply damaged by their total failure to protect Irish Catholic children until the fact of clerical child abuse was brought into the public domain—by injured Catholic families—in 1994.

More than any other individual, it was Ian Elliott who defused the anger of Irish Catholics over this issue, and restored a measure of trust in the present Irish church leadership. That trust could be irreparably damaged if Elliott's warnings are now simply ignored.

Elliott can be contacted directly at: ).
You can read Ian’s blog post A Single Safeguarding Strategy: Learning from Past Mistakes

Update on Ireland-2: Survivor Support Without Survivors?
By Sean O'Conaill of VOTF-Ireland

In 2008 and again in 2010, members of VOTFI —including on both occasions survivors of clerical sexual abuse—met with members of the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference (ICBC) to speak about the pastoral needs of survivors of clerical sexual abuse. On both occasions we outlined the need for survivors to be fully included in the development and delivery of such services, on the basis of a principle emphasised by Margaret Kennedy, (drawn originally from the experience of the disabled community): “Nothing about us without us.”

At the first meeting in 2008 we stressed the need for a continuing forum for survivors, to facilitate their meeting with one another, and their ongoing joint deliberation on their pastoral needs. At the second meeting in 2010 we stressed the need [to have] a retreat center for survivors that would allow them to rest and receive a healing ministry that would be fully sensitive to their experience of abuse by men ordained to lead them to God.

On both occasions we felt sure that the bishops attending had heard this central message of the need to involve survivors in the development of pastoral support for themselves. We were therefore sure on both occasions that these meetings would necessarily lead to others on the same theme, keeping especially our survivor members “in the loop.”

On both occasions we were soon emphatically disappointed. We did not on either occasion even receive subsequently from the attending bishops a summary account of what impressions or conclusions they themselves had taken away from those meetings, or even the basic courtesy of an acknowledgement that they had benefited in any way, and were continuing to think about what they had heard.

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

Top Pope Ally Urges Vatican Doctrine Chief to Loosen Up
“An influential aide to Pope Francis criticized the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog on Monday (Jan. 20) and urged the conservative prelate to be more flexible about reforms being discussed in the Roman Catholic Church.” By Tom Heneghan, Reuters

384 Priests Defrocked Over Abuse in Two Years
“The Vatican defrocked 260 priests for the sexual abuse of children in 2011 and 124 more in 2012 after the scandal exploded in Europe and beyond and bishops forwarded hundreds of cases to the Vatican, according to statistics compiled by the Associated Press.” By Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times.
-- Pope Francis Will Be Tough on Pedophile Priests, Says Sex Abuse Crisis Authority, By Reuters in The Guardian

In Files, a History of Sexual Abuse by Priests in the Chicago Archdiocese
“One priest, the Rev. William J. Cloutier, was accused of raping a boy in his summer cottage, locking the door when the 13-year-old started screaming, and then brandishing a handgun while threatening to kill him if he told anyone … Thousands of documents gleaned from the personnel files of the Archdiocese of Chicago were released to the public on Tuesday (Jan. 21), unspooling a lurid history of abuse by priests and halting responses from bishops in the country’s third-largest archdiocese.” By Steven Yaccino and Michael Paulson, The New York Times

Vatican Comes Under Sharp Criticism for Sex Abuse
“The Vatican came under blistering criticism from a U.N. committee Thursday (Jan. 16) for its handling of the global priest sex abuse scandal, facing its most intense public grilling to date over allegations that it protected pedophile priests at the expense of victims. The Vatican insisted it had little jurisdiction to sanction pedophile priests around the globe, saying it was for local law enforcement to do so. But officials conceded that it needs to do more, given the scale of the problem and the role the Holy See plays in the international community.” By John Heilprin and Nicole Winfield, Associated Press
-- UN Grills Vatican on Sex Abuse Scandal, By John Heilprin and Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, in The Boston Globe
-- Church Officials Speak on Sex Abuse, By Catholic News Service in America magazine
-- Church Wants to Model ‘Best Practice’ on Fighting Abuse, Vatican Says, By John Allen, National Catholic Reporter
-- Pope Francis: ‘Scandals are the Shame of the Church,’ By
-- Archbishop Silvano Tomasi’s Address to UN Committee on the Convention of the Rights of the Child, By
-- Vatican Facing UN Showdown on Sex Abuse Record, By Nicole Winfield and John Heilprin, Associated Press
-- U.N. Panel Questions Vatican Officials on Child Sex Abuse, By Nick Cumming-Bruce, The New York Times
-- Pope Francis’ Vatican to Be Grilled by U.N. on child Sex Abuse, By Kharunya Paramaguru, Time magazine

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

Letter to the Editor

Apropos of Church Teaching

The NCR story Disclosure of Systemic Coverup and Additional Sexual Abuse of Children in Chicago Archdiocese by Brian Rowe describes recent revelations of clerical sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Chicago. The Archdiocese, in compliance with a court settlement of 2008, has released documents showing that clerical sex abuse, going back almost 50 years, was mishandled in Chicago in the past and sometimes more recently.

In apologizing for the continuation in ministry of known sex abusers the Archdiocese statement pointed out that these cases would have been handled differently under current norms.

According to NCR, the statement pointed out that 95% of the cases occurred before 1988 and the decisions made by the Church then are now difficult to justify but were based upon the knowledge prevailing at the time noting that understanding of sexual abuse has evolved since then.

Excuse me! Was there no unchangeable Church Teaching about sex abuse of children before 1988? Can understanding of such a fundamental wrong evolve dramatically in just fourteen years while the Church’s understanding of consenting adult behavior such as contraception, committed gay relationships, etc. remain static over millennia?

And our bishops wonder why they are just not understood and charge those who disagree with their clams with relativism.
The shame is that they have not come up with a credible ethic of sexuality based on the truly enduring principle of mutual respect and not using another for one’s own gratification. Why didn’t they understand that with regard to child abuse until the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was adopted in 2002 after the scandal became public?

Why do many Catholics, let alone others, suspect that this Charter had a lot more to do with a firestorm of adverse publicity than any evolving of understanding?

Ed Wilson

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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