In the Vineyard :: June 19, 2011 :: Volume 11, Issue 11


Report on VOTF National Meeting and American Catholic Council
More than 250 people gathered in Detroit last weekend to attend VOTF’s National Meeting on June 10 and then join the 1,800 who attended the American Catholic Council sessions June 10 through 12. Both events brought new energy for reforms in the Church—any time 2,000 people can gather in the midst of a central city blackout, a convention hall water-main break, and a food-service workers strike and still come out smiling, you know you have attained success.

The morning session for the VOTF meeting featured a Centering Prayer exercise led by Ron DuBois of the Voices in Action Spiritual & Communal Growth Team, a welcome and overview of VOTF actions by President Dan Bartley, a report on the “Philadelphia Story” by Marita Green from the Greater Philadelphia VOTF affiliate, and reports from all the Voices in Action Teams.

If you missed the meeting, you can review the presentation slides from our web page and also read some of the documents and handouts distributed at the meeting. The reports give you a good idea of what we’ve been doing these past months.

VOTF’s afternoon session was devoted to “Connecting the Dots”: presentations by Fr. Tom Doyle on the sex abuse scandal and by Jason Berry on his new book Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church. Attendees had a chance to talk with both speakers and with David Clohessy and Barbara Blaine, who participated in the panel discussion that followed. David and Barbara graciously took time out from their travels for SNAP (Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests) to be available for the panel.

American Catholic Council a Success 
Those who battled the heavy rains, blackouts, and other calamities of the weekend to attend the historic ACC—first church-wide meeting called for and by the laity in the United States—were rewarded with inspiring speeches and interviews with Hans Kung, Jeanette Rodriguez, Anthony Padovano, James Carroll, Matthew Fox, and Joan Chittister.

Breakout sessions focused on ways to take action for reforms, and allowed attendees from around the world to learn what others are doing to keep their faith alive. The session topics were based on results of the Listening Sessions held around the U.S. during the last two years in preparation for the Council meeting.

You can learn more about the results of the breakout sessions and you can hear the speeches or see the videos yourself from this historic weekend. Just go to the ACC home page and click the link there. Or you can go directly to the DVD/CD order form by clicking this link. Each video is well worth your time.

The Council ended with a liturgy developed around the theme of the weekend: bringing to reality the promise of Vatican II. For reflections on the Mass and on the ACC weekend itself, we have asked a few of the attendees to write about their experiences. You can read those reflections here. And if you attended the meeting yourself, we would love to publish your own reflections—just send them in an email to Siobhan Carroll, In the Vineyard editor, at

And while you’re thinking about what to say, here are some reflections.

A Poem ...

The Reckoning Approaches
a poem for the Roman Church

Iron-mouthed anguish moves us
past seeing into knowing
bottomless disregard for
The joyful, intricate, endless struggle
to gain what is good: our mission.

Dread renders us silent in
the un-nameable discord.
We stand stock-still
in its face
calling it impasse.

Looking backwards we find
its threads flashing
in and out of the
past’s efforts
Beaten back like a fire
Trenches dug against it.

Looking forward we see
bitter judgments and bankruptcy
and money the least of it.
O God of my heart!
What is to be done?

Intervention: what to expect.

Blasé inattention
laced with cynical impatience
To yet one more item
to be gotten through
And if we persevere
if our nerve doesn’t fail
then may come
a flutter of recognition:
something is being asked here.

Snarling growls will follow
and we must steel ourselves against
the arguments of devotion and good faith
that fill the air
And secure ourselves to the backbone of hope
while denial and disbelief demand
“Don’t you know who we are?!”
The siren song of celebrity and self-importance
calling in favors, defending disgrace
postponing the reckoning.

Our efforts to support their dignity
exhausted by a mystifying indifference.
It is past time to point toward
the fearful mire
of half-truths and lies
the fruit by which
they are known.

The truth will set us free.

Mary Katherine Roach
June 2011

Book Review

RENDER UNTO ROME: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church by Jason Berry
A review by Kevin Connors, VOTF National Treasurer

This is Jason Berry’s third book focusing on the institution of the Roman Catholic Church. So it would seem he would come to the task with a full appreciation of the vagaries and complexities, the contradictions, and utter humanness that shape the actions of the relatively few men who rule what he calls the “largest organization in the world.”

But nothing could prepare either Jason or the reader for what he found researching his latest book that opens the door on the Church’s financial system:  Secret bank accounts, bribery, nepotism, money laundering through the Vatican bank,  redeploying charitable donations to plug operating deficits, off the books accounting. Even selling off parish properties through a process called suppression to help pay for abuse settlements. It’s all there. And unlike a public corporation whose leaders are required by law to operate in an environment of openness, transparency and accountability, the Church operates under a cloak of secrecy, and with leaders whose loyalty is only to the institution and to one another.

Jason essentially takes the reader through four dioceses that gained particular notoriety during the sexual abuse scandal here in the United States (Boston, Los Angeles, San Diego and Cleveland); all the time weaving an intricate web of intrigue that extends well beyond, and back to Church officials in Rome, and to the Vatican bank, which itself is not even included on the financial books of the Church.

Render unto Rome is an intriguing and thoroughly well documented book that presents a picture of the Universal Church ... the last remaining medieval institution left in the world today... as an anomaly. It is one of the world’s foremost charities, yet its leaders are shown in many cases as corrupt, self-serving, or simply inadequate. Good intentions, therefore, are often short circuited by personal need, and greed, or by the need to protect their own legitimacy. 

I highly recommend Jason Berry’s book as a “must read” for all thinking Catholics because It clearly illuminates the short-comings of an obsolete business model that was discarded long ago by the rest of the world, and needs to be replaced. But I go too far. Read the book, and you be the judge.

From Our Members

The following URL ( links to an NCR article on June 8 regarding a popular columnist's blog on First Things, a publication founded by Richard Neuhaus and whose Board includes George Weigel and Mary Ann Glendon. First Things is published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life, an interreligious, nonpartisan research and education institute whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society. It is hardly a progressively-inclined organization.

The author lays out the case against Bishop Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph to remain in office after failing to address the predator profile of a diocesan priest after a school principal called it to his attention with explicit examples. What more does the Vatican need to act in the face of failed leadership--Philadelphia, KC-St. J, Gallup? What more do Catholics in the pews need? Yet apologies come forward with no apparent consequences comparable to leaders in any other profession in our society.
Bill Casey

Site Seeing

No pleas in Philadelphia Archdiocese sex abuse case

Is “Fraternal correction” working?

Dallas charter on life support

How good are Review Boards?

Falsely accused priest dies of a broken heart

Only minor changes proposed for abuse charter revision

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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Site Seeing

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