In the Vineyard :: January 27, 2012 :: Volume 12, Issue 2

News from National

Voice of the Faithful® 10th Anniversary Conference

2012 marks a significant milestone for Voice of the Faithful® members, volunteers and supporters, who have been working for 10 years to Keep the Faith, Change the Church. To help mark our decade-long commitment, we are gathering this September for a 10th Birthday Conference.

Please join us to Celebrate our mission, Rejuvenate our commitment, and Accelerate our work.

The conference takes place Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14 and 15, 2012, at the Marriott Boston Copley Place Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts.

Click here now for information and to register. And check back often—we will post more information about speakers and the agenda as they develop.

See you in September in Boston!

LATE-BREAKING NEWS: We've added Fr. Don Cozzens (author and previous Priest of Integrity Award recipient) and Jamie Manson (columnist in National Catholic Reporter) as confirmed speakers in our agenda!

Actions to Protect Children are Necessary and Must Continue Says VOTF

In the January 16, 2012 issue of America Magazine, Deacon Bernard V. Nojadera, Executive Director of the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) Child & Youth Protection office, discussed how far the hierarchy has come since 2002 with respect to protecting children.

He pointed to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People that was established in response to abuse crisis, and said “the charter is an agreement between the bishops to hold each other accountable.” Although the bishops have a “moral obligation to participate,” however, he noted that “participation in the audit is voluntary.” The Charter, he concluded, “addresses many aspects of the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy,” although “implementation continues to be refined.”

In response to this article, VOTF sent a letter to Deacon Nojadera, noting that while actions already taken to protect children are necessary and must be continued, they also clearly need to be strengthened. VOTF recommendations include:

  • Hosting listening sessions around the country to hear lay Catholics’ reactions to the abuse/cover-up revelations and their expectations for resolving them.

  • Publicly advocating for fully independent audits, with no restrictions on access to individuals or records.

  • Publicly advocating for insulation of victim assistance programs from officials of the chancery, diocesan law firms or insurance companies.

  • Publicly advocating for independent diocesan review boards.

  • Publicly calling out hierarchical leaders each time a bishop fails to fulfill the provisions of the charter, including refusal to participate in independent audits

Voice of the Faithful Focus,
January 27, 2012

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

Church to Launch Global Safeguarding Initiative
“Toward Healing and Renewal,” Feb. 6-9, 2012, Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome
Bishops and religious superiors from across the world will come to Rome in February for the launch of the Catholic Church’s global initiative on safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. Voice of the Faithful has issued this statement in advance of the symposium to caution Church hierarchy of their long-past-due responsibility to adopt universal child protection guidelines. The symposium anticipates the May deadline for dioceses worldwide to submit such guidelines.

Allegations Pile on Priest in Sex-Abuse Trial
Prosecutors and lawyers for Msgr. William Lynn and his co-defendants heatedly sparred in court before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina in anticipation of her ruling next week on whether to admit evidence of clergy sexual abuse and its coverup in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that occurred before Lynn became administrator of the archdiocese’s clergy office.
-- Judge Hears Explicit Allegations in Priest Sex-Abuse Case
-- Pennsylvania Archdiocese Named 'Unindicted Co-conspirator'
-- Clergy Abuse Survivors Group SNAP Fighting to Survive

First Trial of Clergy Sexual Abuse Against Hartford Archdiocese Begins
The first trial of a sexual abuse complaint against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford opened in Superior Court in Waterbury, Conn., Jan. 24 amid allegations that high church officials, including former Archbishop John Francis Whealon, since deceased, shifted an offending priest between parishes after learning of complaints that he had abused boys.

10 Years On, Clergy Abuse Scandal Still Reverberates
National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation discusses the Church’s clergy sexual abuse scandal 10 years after The Boston Globe broke the story of sex abuse and its systematic cover up in 2002 with Michael Rezendes, a reporter at The Boston Globe, Suzin Bartley, executive director of the Children’s Trust Fund, and attorney Mitchell Garabedian. Rezendes also was interviewed about The Boston Globe Spotlight Team’s series on clergy sexual abuse by Michel Martin of Tell Me More on National Public Radio

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

Where to Find Academic/Government Reports on Clergy Sex Abuse
VOTF has gathered the various reports conducted by academic and government investigators and placed links to those reports on one of our web pages. You can see the page link on the left, in our site menu--it's labeled "Government and Academic Reports" so it's easy to find.

Latest addition to this page is the report from The Netherlands and what the Commission of Inquiry found there. So far only the summary is available in PDF format.

World’s Catholic Church leaders meet at Rome Symposium on Clergy Sexual Abuse Feb. 6
The Roman Catholic Church has yet to develop an effective worldwide response to clergy child sexual abuse, even though widespread abuse was evident by the mid-1990s, exploded into crisis in the United States in 2002 and in the past few years has proven to be epidemic around the world. Church leaders worldwide will attend a symposium in Rome Feb. 6 to discuss such a response.

Voice of the Faithful cautions Church leaders that the time has come, and indeed is long past, not only for creating appropriate responses to abuse allegations in every diocese worldwide, but also for ending the secrecy and coverups that so exacerbate the crimes. Transparency and accountability are essential.

“Towards Healing and Renewal: A Symposium for Catholic Bishops and Religious Superiors on Sexual Abuse of Minors” is expected to draw delegates from 110 bishops’ conferences and superiors of 30 religious orders internationally.

Their goal in part will be to share “practical wisdom” of “experts in the fields of psychology, canon law, theology, and pastoral ministry” in order to promote a consistent, global response by the Church to reports of sexual abuse and to structure child protection policies. In this, the symposium points toward the May 2012 deadline for dioceses worldwide to develop guidelines for handling child abuse allegations.

The Vatican is right to bring worldwide attention and focus on this growing and continuing scandal that ruins lives and wounds the Church so deeply. The Vatican is right to seek a worldwide response to the enormous task of handling sexual abuse allegations amidst Church communities with such cultural, theological, sociological and governmental diversity. But the Vatican’s failure before now to look for global solutions and hold bishops accountable and the bishops’ actions in keeping abuse allegations secret leave VOTF without confidence that adequate guidelines will be forthcoming.

VOTF and other organizations and individuals that put children above institutional image will be watching closely for what comes from the symposium and May deadline.


James E. Post is a co-founder and past president of VOTF (2002-2006), has contributed a chapter to the new book Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: A Decade of Crisis, 2002-2012, edited by Thomas G. Plante and Kathleen L. McChesney. In his chapter, Post talks about the effect the abuse crisis had on the faithful and the formation of VOTF. He remembers the first meeting of VOTF at St John’s the Evangelist and how:

The contours of that first conversation shaped what became a highly motivated group of lay Catholics who were determined to make a difference in the way their church—our Church—behaved. We knew this was a fundamental moral issue and that the credibility meltdown we were witnessing required a lay response as well as a response from the ordained. Intuitively, we understood this problem was too big to be left to bishops and clergy alone to solve.

He talks about the importance of optimism and says:

“American Catholics have been victims of the clergy sexual abuse crisis. The institution has abused the laity in many ways, yet—we—have persevered. Despite the darkness of the scandal, we remain a people of hope.”

And to hear Post talk about things, we have reason for hope.

Letter to the Editor

Many, many years ago—in fact it was 1982—I read "Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful" by Alan Paton. When, in time, I came to be embroiled with the disaster which is clerical sexual abuse, I recalled that particular passage. To find it I had to go through all three volumes by Paton on our shelves, seeking the passage page by page. I found it on page 150 of the third volume; only to find that I had been so impressed when I had first read the book that I had noted the relevant page on the inside back cover!!!

The scene painted by Paton had it that a young Hindu woman was contemplating marriage to a Christian; and the possibility of becoming Christian.

On consulting an old Hindu priest, he said to her, "Prem, let me give you some good Hindu advice: if you ever become a Christian, you must keep your eyes on Christ so that you will not get a chance to look at Christians."

I thought it sound when I read it and all of the disasters of subsequent years have confirmed that.

Keep your eyes on Christ; keep the Faith; and change the Church.

With best wishes from the very deep South—next stop Antarctica; and with happy memories of visiting VOTF in Boston.

Peter M. Roach

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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