Keep the Faith, Change the Church.

In the Vineyard: November 22, 2021

In the Vineyard :: November 22, 2021 :: Volume 21, Issue 22



National News

Happy Thanksgiving!

All of us at VOTF’s National office wish you and your families a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

Remembering Others

O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,
And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted. -- Author Unknown


THINKING ABOUT THE SYNOD: “Synodal Church means ecclesial processes that are less centered on the clergy and more open to the leadership role of the laity, especially women. But the big question is who and what are the driving forces of synodality. And the answer is complex.” –
Massimo Faggioli, “Whose synodality? Social alliances and institutional models in global Catholicism,” National Catholic Reporter, May 17, 2021

National Black Sisters’ Conference Asks USCCB
to “Walk with Black Catholics”

The National Black Sisters' Conference, established in August 1968, is an inclusive Catholic organization of vowed Black Catholic women religious and associates from congregations across the United States. In a period when Pope Francis and the Synod are calling us to hear especially the voices of the marginalized, and we at VOTF plan to bring our voices to Synod sessions, we thought the voices of Black Sisters should be heard. 

Their letter in its entirety has been published in the Black Catholic Messenger. We present some excerpts of their remarks to Archbishop Gomez and urge you to read the entire letter

" ... Black Catholics had hoped that you and your brother bishops would have acted in solidarity with those who have suffered at the hands of white supremacy since first being kidnapped from their homeland and enslaved with the blessing of the Catholic Church...

"If respect for life is the primary issue of our time, then we would certainly have hoped that you and the Bishops’ Conference would surely understand that it is paramount that we lift up and support Black life as a precious gift from God that should be protected not only in the womb but throughout life until death.

"We would have expected that you and your brother bishops would have stood in solidarity with your African-American brothers and sisters; representing the compassionate face of Christ.

"For the most part, you have remained mysteriously and regretfully silent; often failing to call out hate groups for their racist ideologies and violence.

"We are especially troubled by your comment: '…the Church has been ‘antiracist’ from the beginning.' With all due respect, Archbishop, do you not know the history of the Church’s involvement with the slave trade, with the segregation of churches; with black people often being relegated to the back of churches and forced to receive Holy Communion after white parishioners; and the rejection of black men and women who desired to enter seminaries and religious communities? Over four hundred years of slavery, trauma, pain, disenfranchisement, and brutal violence have been a part of the fabric of this nation and the American Catholic Church.

"Black Lives Matter grew out of the frustration of seeing black lives struck down over and over again with no accountability. It is a racial justice movement--a gospel movement. ... BLM is not a pseudo-religion; nor is it a 'dangerous substitute for true religion.' It is a movement very much in the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching. It does not nor has it ever “served as a replacement for 'traditional Christian beliefs.'

"We respectfully encourage you to rethink your ill-advised remarks and rescind them. ..." Read the rest of the letter here.


Note from SNAP on Call to End Child Sex Abuse

Nov. 18 was the inaugural #EndChildSexAbuseDay, and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests has released The U.S. National Blueprint to End Sexual Violence Against Children and Adolescents with their partners in the Keep Kids Safe Coalition.

They ask that you read and endorse the blueprint at the Keep Kids Safe website, and add your name to the thousands of supporters and advocates who support this important agenda.

They also hope you share these messages and graphics about the day of action with your friends and followers. Finally, they encourage you to contact your Senators and Representatives in Congress, share the link to the blueprint, and ask them to support efforts to protect children and support survivors. For a sample letter you may adapt, see this page


The Conference Listening Sessions

Prior to the Saturday October 2, 2021, conference with our keynote speakers and project updates, Voice of the Faithful hosted Friday night listening sessions for attndees. Focus was on the 2021-2023 Synod, specifically on the Diocesan phase of the process and how VOTF and its members can participate.

After a presentation by Donna B. Doucette, VOTF Executive Director, attendees then broke into small groups to discuss their own thoughts and concerns, both Synod-related and otherwise. Scribes colleted the thoughts to report back to the entire group what each small group said. We have collected the notes from the scribes so that you may see all the comments.  

Don't forget to check out any of the speeches and presentations you may have missed from the Conference itself. They are on the VOTF Vimeo page.


New Book by Thomas Groome on Catholic Education

Prof. Tom Groome, who has generously spoken at VOTF conferences over the last two decades and has been a friend in numerous other ways, is a recognized authority on Catholic education. His latest book is now available. What Makes Education Catholic: Spiritual Foundations is available from various online sellers. Here's what Prof. Groome says on his Facebook page about the volume:

Friends,

Please take a look at what I think might be my last and best book. The world has never been more in need of spiritually grounded and values formative education. I'm still convinced we can provide as much. Take a look at What Makes Education Catholic and recommend it to your friends. Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving

If you purchase the book via Amazon we hope you use the smile.amazon option to provide a portion of the selling price to VOTF. The book also is available from Orbis Books (which provided discounts for VOTF on Prof. Massimo Faggioli's latest book) and various other outlets, including even Target.com. So, plenty of opportunities for your Chirstmas list! 


International News

Churches in Europe Atone for History of Sexual Abuse

The archdiocese of Cologne, Germany, held a service they called a “confession of guilt” on November 18, atoning for the mishandled crimes of sexual abuse that have been committed in the church. Cardinal Ranier Maria Woelki, archbishop of Cologne, is currently taking a “spiritual timeout” after being advised to do so by Pope Francis. Woelki was not found guilty of any wrongdoing in the sexual abuse crisis but has been criticized for not properly handling child sex abuse allegations. According to a statement issued by the Vatican, Weolki “committed grave errors in his approach to the question of dealing with this question, above all in the area of communication.”

The German Catholic Church’s coverup of sexual abuse came to light in 2018 in the so-called MHG study that revealed the horrifying extent of sexual abuse in the church, and Thursday’s service was intended to be a service of penance. While Cardinal Woelki is taking his spiritual timeout, the interim administrator is Auxiliary Bishop Rolf Steinhaeuser, who led the service. He said, “This service does not end with forgiveness. We cannot absolve ourselves. Nor do we ask forgiveness from those affected, to make ourselves feel better.” 

Some survivors of sexual abuse, however, do not feel that the “confession of guilt” was truly intended to be for the victims. Karl Haucke, who was abused while attending a Catholic boarding school, was one of several protesters outside the service. He said he was invited to participate but refused, saying, “It is inhumane to address me with the claim of repentance. Of course, I have the choice to go there or not, but just addressing the topic can drive people back to their memories. It’s not the church’s place to do that.” He believes it would have been better for the church to offer a serious investigation rather than what some saw as a performance of penance. 

Another attempt at atonement this month began in France. French bishops recently announced that they will sell assets in order to compensate victims of sexual abuse. Archbishop of Reims Éric de Moulins-Beaufort said, “We will ensure that no one is left behind.”

Victims groups in France heralded this statement as a significant step towards reparations, but will wait to see how the implementation process plays out. The announcement also included the creation of working groups and an independent reparations body that would process claims filed by victims. The working groups will be led by laypeople and focus on topics such as training of priests; it is set to develop concrete proposals by 2023. 

Abuse victims say this is what they were hoping for, particularly after earlier suggestions that victims’ compensation be paid from parishioner donations. Olivier Savignac, a member of De la parole aux actes!, an umbrella organization of victim groups, who was sexually abused by a priest when he was 13 years old says this is a positive step “because it’s the institution that is taking responsibility and paying.”

Victims groups had also argued for individual compensation, rather than a flat fee, saying each case should be evaluated on its own. To pay for these compensations, which some victims say include years of medical bills and other costs of the trauma endured, the Church will sell assets including real estate, and has the option to take out a loan if necessary. Although parishioners are still able to donate directly to the compensation fund, general donations will not fund the payments. 

Bishops voted to create an abuse-case specific court to avoid the insular culture that has protected abusers in the past. Accusations of abuse by priests will be handled by the special nationwide canonical court, rather than local church leaders. Although there is much to be done, in France and Germany, steps are being taken to address the impacts of the sexual abuse scandals that have shaken Catholics locally and worldwide.

For more information, please see herehere, and here.

To read more about VOTF’s position on child protection, please see here.

For survivor support resources, please see here.


Vatican Financial Scandal Trial Continues

Lawyers representing six defendants in the financial trial that began earlier this year concerning an investment property in London are accusing Vatican prosecutors of withholding evidence that they claim is crucial in preparing their defense. The lawyer representing Enrico Crasso, an Italian investment manager, says that the prosecution’s materials include references to statements made by Pope Francis that were not included in the evidence provided. 

The financial scandal centers around a $400 million purchase of a London office building with funds that were intended for Peter’s Pence, a charitable fund. Cardinal Becciu, formerly the third-highest ranking prelate at the Vatican, is one of the defendants on trial for financial malfeasance related to the purchase.

The lawyers also claim that sections of the video testimony have been omitted from evidence, but Vatican deputy prosecutor Alessandro Diddi explained that any gaps in the video testimony could be attributed to lunch and bathroom breaks. He said the prosecution worked with technical experts to provide all of the available information, but some information withheld from the defense concerns issues and individuals that are still under investigation. The defense lawyers have seized on these omissions and request that the charges against their clients be dropped. They allege that the prosecution failed to hand over all materials as required in October. Giuseppe Pignatone, the president of the Vatican City State criminal court, says that the judges will consider the issues raised by the defendants’ lawyers and reply when the court reconvenes. 

Meanwhile, Pope Francis’s attempts to increase transparency in the Vatican continue. He placed the financial assets of the Secretariat of State under the control of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA) as part of the reforms.

Bishop Nunzio Galantino, the president of APSA, which manages the Vatican’s investment portfolio and real estate holdings, admits that the decision “increased the workload” but does have the impact of centralizing the oversight of the Vatican’s financial affairs. He said it also increases “transparency and control over everything that involves the management and administration of the Holy See’s resources.” However, APSA does not necessarily have a stellar record when it comes to transparency and accountability: the first time it released a synthesis of its annual budget was in July 2021. 

Regardless of the reforms in place and to come, this financial scandal is costly: The London property at the heart of this scandal is being sold to a private equity firm and will incur a financial loss of over $100 million for the Vatican. 

For more information, please see here and here

For VOTF’s statement on financial accountability, please see here. 



TOP STORIES

New report on abuse shows ‘need for continued commitment and diligence’
“The 18th annual report on U.S. diocesan and eparchial compliance with the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People found a total of 4,250 clergy sex abuse allegations for the 2019-2020 audit year, about two-thirds of which stem from lawsuits, compensation programs and bankruptcies … ‘Though the Church’s efforts are admirable, constant vigilance is still required and the commitment of the clergy and lay faithful remains necessary,’ he (Deacon Bernie Nojadera, USCCB Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection executive director) wrote. ‘The efforts of the Church will hopefully change the culture, and this will only work if everyone follows the rules.’” By John Lavenburg, Cruxnow.com

Portugal’s Catholic bishops announce independent child sexual abuse commission
“Portugal's Roman Catholic Church said on Thursday (Nov. 11) it would create an independent commission to investigate historical child sexual abuse allegedly committed by members of the clergy following pressure from prominent congregants to lift a veil of silence around the issue. Portugal's Bishops' Conference said in a statement that it decided to create the commission to improve the way cases are handled and to ‘carry out a study to clarify the history of this serious issue.’” By Catarina Demony and Sergio Goncalves, Reuters

French clerical abuse report puts spotlight on confession
“The absolute secrecy of confession is central to the Roman Catholic faith. What is said in confession is between a penitent and God, the priest a mediator. Any priest who breaks that seal can face excommunication under church laws that the Vatican places above all others. But what happens when what is confessed is a violation of the laws of the state? It is an issue that has vexed attempts to address the sexual abuse cases that have roiled the church in any number of countries, but one that has emerged as especially charged in France, where the state long ago stripped the Catholic Church of its pre-eminence.” By Norimitsu Onishi and Aurelien Breeden, The New York Times

Nebraska AG finds 258 victims of Catholic church sex abuse
“A Nebraska attorney general’s office investigation identified 258 victims who made credible allegations of sexual abuse against 57 Catholic church officials in the state going back decades, including many that high-ranking church leaders knew about and didn’t report to the authorities, according to a report released Thursday (No. 4). Prosecutors can’t charge against any current or former church officials with a crime because the statutes of limitations have expired in the vast majority of cases, Attorney General Doug Peterson said at a news conference announcing the findings.” By Grant Schulte, Associated Press, on Cruxnow.com

Sex abuse survivors urge bishops to denounce Church Militant’s agenda
“On the first of two days of public sessions during the U.S. bishops' fall general assembly, a group of sex abuse survivors in a Nov. 16 news conference called on the prelates meeting in Baltimore to focus less on who can take Communion and instead do more to end sex abuse and other abuses by clergy. The survivors also demanded the bishops condemn a group that was holding a nearby protest claiming homosexuality is linked to pedophilia.” By Rhino Guidos, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter

Bishops agree to begin review of charter earlier than planned
“An update on the U.S. bishops’ ‘Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People’ will take place sooner than originally planned. On Nov. 17, the second of two days of public sessions during their fall general assembly Nov. 15-18 in Baltimore, the bishops voted to begin the process of updating the charter in 2022 rather than in 2025. The vote was 230 bishops in favor of the plan and five bishops against it. Bishop James V. Johnston Jr. of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, chairman of the Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People, told the bishops that events in recent years made it necessary to start the review sooner than expected.” By Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service

Click here to read the rest of this issue of Focus …


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