In the Vineyard January 12, 2006 Please send comments to email@example.com “Without dialogue, we shoot each other.” Hans Kung, 2005 . VOTF officer election dates for 2006-8: Feb. 1 web site posting of nominees and candidates' statements Feb. 7-22 electronic voting (see Election Committee letter (http://www.votf.org/election/2006/election_reminder2006.html) for details) Feb. 28 election results posted All registered VOTF members are invited to participate in the election. Not registered? Click here. (https://app.votf.org/member/register.jsp) =============================================================== VOTF at Work in the World (Please note that many of the online publications require registering before viewing the articles mentioned.) VOTF notes the fourth anniversary of the Boston Globe's story on Fr. John Geoghan published on January 6, 2002. VOTF vice president Kris Ward wrote a prayer of remembrance (http://www.votf.org/Prayerful_Voice/jan6.html) . LATE News items: Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, 75, of Detroit, Michigan, is the first U.S. bishop to disclose that he was a victim of clergy sexual abuse. He is also the first to endorse proposals in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and other states to follow California's example and open a one-year window for victims to file lawsuits over sexual abuse, no matter how long ago it took place, according to the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- dyn/content/article/2006/01/10/AR2006011001818.html?sub=new) . also see VOTF Press Release (http://www.votf.org/Press/pressrelease/011106.html) : and Bishop Gumbleton's testimony (http://www.votf.org/Press/pressrelease/testimony0106.html) . VOTF Atlanta, Georgia -- Betty Clermont advises that Archbishop Wilton Gregory has given permission to VOTF-Atlanta to meet on Church property making this the second diocese to lift a ban on VOTF meeting on Church property (Brooklyn, NY was the first); also, note below a recent development in the diocese of Camden, NJ. =============================================================== PARISH WATCH Bob Kaintz of VOTF St. Louis reports on the Christmas Eve Mass celebrated at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church by an excommunicated priest. ( See Commentary -- "Into the Light". (http://www.votf.org/vineyard/Jan12_2006/kaintz.html) ) The Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri continues to roil over the excommunication of a priest and six board members of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church. The Christmas Eve Mass celebrated by the new pastor drew so many parishioners and supporters that another parish building was needed to accommodate the nearly 2000 attendees. VOTF suggests you visit the following sites for additional perspectives and greater understanding of the issues that brought so much controversy to Catholics in St. Louis. *ARCC -- James Coriden, JCD, Academic Dean Emeritus at Washington Theological Union, prepared for ARCC "The Canonical Doctrine of Reception (http://arcc-catholic- rights.net/doctrine_of_reception.htm) ," which is a timely consideration of community as St. Stan's situation, along with Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton, Mass. and parish closings continue to distort "communio." *St. Louis archdiocesan web site provides text of press releases, inclusive of the Jan. 6, 2006 "Decree of Suppression of St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish" (http://www.archstl.org/commoffice/2006/releases/index.html) ; Also see Archbishop Burke's Feb. 11, 2005 message (http://www.archstl.org/commoffice/2005/letters/index.html) regarding St. Stan's. *See the St. Louis Dispatch (http://www.stltoday.com/) for a chronology of the St. Stan's story; and check your local library for perhaps the best coverage of this story by Suzanne Sataline in the Dec. 20 issue of the Wall Street Journal; some members of VOTF were interested in sending a donation or message to St. Stan's. The postal address is St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, P.O. Box 31667, St. Louis, MO 63131. Their web site. (http://www.saveststans.org/) *Update on Our Lady Help of Christians, Newton, Mass. -- Both the parish pastoral and finance councils have published their findings after studying the details of the archdiocesan handling of Fr. Walter Cuenin's forced resignation. According to the reports, in sum, the archdiocese had no grounds to remove Fr. Cuenin. Go to www.ourladysfriends.com (http://www.ourladysfriends.com/) for details or contact firstname.lastname@example.org (mailto:email@example.com). 8See Sharon Harrington, VOTF Weymouth, Mass. in Commentary -- "Parish Closings: The Right Way" (http://www.votf.org/vineyard/Jan12_2006/harrington.html) *A thaw in Boston? Archbishop Sean O'Malley provided priests for Christmas services in at least three of six vigiling parishes; the archdiocese is engaged in a new round of discussions with representatives of vigiling parishes. Read More. (http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2005/12/22/sign_of_hope_at_closed_parishe s/) =============================================================== DIOCESE WATCH VOTF Boston and elsewhere have taken no winter break. Advocacy Day at the Boston, MA State House on Jan. 10 to support legislation that will protect children drew 300 to a rally, which was followed by a press conference comprised of medical experts who verified the particular dilemma for abuse victims when faced with various statutes of limitation. To keep up with Boston VOTF activities, email Dorothy Kennedy for their one-page, twice-monthly newsletter at firstname.lastname@example.org (mailto:email@example.com) . Also, a public forum site has been set up to post the opinions of key players in moving these various bills toward Mass. law. Go to www.thepeoplesforumonline.com (http://www.thepeoplesforumonline.com/) and let us know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org (mailto:email@example.com) . *The Boston Archdiocese has extended a financial settlement proposal to a second wave of victims of sexual abuse by clergy members, offering far smaller monetary awards than the first settlement in 2003 and establishing a more rigorous burden of proof for accusers. Read more. (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/31/national/31priest.html) *The Boston Globe reported: "A bankruptcy judge ruled [12/30] that the Archdiocese of Portland, not its parishes, owns church assets, dealing a major blow to its efforts to protect church property from lawsuits filed by alleged victims of priest sex abuse. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris, in a pair of opinions, ruled that church property and real estate is under the control of the archdiocese, not its individual parishes, as attorneys for the archdiocese had argued." *Attorneys wanted assurance on Abp. Levada's deposition scheduled for Jan. 9, 2006 to determine how the Portland diocese handled priest sex abuse allegations during his tenure there (1986--1995) before transferring to the San Francisco diocese. Abp. Levada now heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. Read more; (http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/states/california/northern_c alifornia/13425581.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp) for more on the same story, go to the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- dyn/content/article/2006/01/08/AR2006010800989.html%20%20) . *In Philadelphia, VOTF members and supporters gathered at Cardinal Rigali's chancery office in lieu of a response to their 70-days old request to meet with the Cardinal. See Dick Taylor's "Epiphany Vigil" (http://www.votf.org/vineyard/Jan12_2006/vigil.html) in Commentary. =============================================================== "Getting it" in one diocese -- Springfield, Mass. The diocese of Springfield, Mass. is among the many that need to close parishes. Learning from the Boston, Mass. debacle around the same decision, the Springfield diocese is reaching out to its faith communities. The Boston Globe reported, "Springfield church officials are seeking input from parishioners and lay Catholic leaders, as well as from those outside the church, as they decide how to reorganize the diocese. They are holding a Web chat to get the input of parishioners from throughout the diocese, which sprawls across the entire western part of the state. And they are going to take their time when it comes to shutting down parishes." In the article, VOTF Springfield spokesperson John Bowen was encouraged saying, "I think they've learned from Boston's mistakes." The article noted that diocese plans will include a two-hour "online chat, during which Catholics can question the Rev. John Bonzagni, the official in charge of the reorganization." *And seeming to get it in another diocese: Bishop Galante of the Camden, NJ diocese has a new vision for the laity in that diocese. According to the Inquirer (Phila., Penn.), the bishop said, "his 'vision for the future' involves lay Catholics assuming a more vigorous role in guiding their parishes." Stay tuned! For the full story, click here. (http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/local/13571079.htm) =============================================================== SURVIVOR Community Update Fr. Tom Doyle says, "No religion or church offers anything to its members or to civil society that can possibly justify any degree of deferential treatment for the sexual, emotional and spiritual devastation of the young and the vulnerable." See Tom Doyle's message in Commentary -- "It's Still About Healing" (http://www.votf.org/vineyard/Jan12_2006/doyle.html) *Note: In Ohio, SNAP has advised that the Judiciary Committee hearing on SB 17 scheduled for the 12th of January has been postponed. (The bill would extend the civil statutes of limitation for victims of child sexual abuse and create a window to allow for those who previously couldn't bring a claim to have their day in court. The bill passed unanimously in the Ohio State Senate last year.) Survivors and survivor supporters gathered in community on Saturday in Dorchester, Mass. to share pizza and fellowship. BishopAccountability.org, Speak Truth to Power, Coalition to Reform Sex Abuse Laws, and People of Conscience were among those who gathered. The Boston Globe reported, "While group members were critical of the church, they said that the friendships they made over the past four years have been strong. 'There are people who want to change the law, change the practices of the bishop, but we realize we need to change people's consciences . . . by exposing the truth,' Kellen [People of Conscience] said." Read more. (http://nl.newsbank.com/nl- search/we/Archives?p_action=doc&p_docid=10F07FAC1BA243B8&p_docnum=1) =============================================================== ==== Convocation Implementation Team Progress Report REMEMBER the July Convocation and the nine ideas that were generated for prospective action in 2006? Over the past few months, the Convocation Implementation Team (CIT) has been receiving input from affiliates around the country on the draft action plan for Financial Accountability and the template for Legislative Action. The plan reflects considerable grassroots input and is broad-based with action recommendations for the confident as well as the faint of heart. All input is expected by January 13th. The CIT will meet the weekend of January 21-22 to finalize text for distribution to the National Representative Council and officers for a final review. The CIT anticipates releasing these documents in late January-early February. =============================================================== ==== SITE-SEEING, ETC. National Catholic Reporter: (http://ncronline.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2006a/010606/010606k.php) How fine is the line between "manifestation of conscience" and protecting children? NCR reports on a remarkable consideration of confidentiality (or is it?) in an abuse case. The Jan 2-9 issue of America (http://www.americamagazine.org/) magazine (http://www.americamagazine.org/) includes an excellent look at historicity in the Bible, written by Richard Clifford, Weston Jesuit School of Theology. The current issue includes an editorial that is "singing our song" -- "In the Vineyard." While it is not about this publication, it is nevertheless about all of us. "The call to 'lay ecclesial ministry' is a unique call within the church, distinct from the more common 'lay ministry' that all Catholics are to perform in the secular world, and different from the volunteer work that many generous Catholics offer the church. As the bishops note, this ministry is clearly a 'sign of the Holy Spirit's movement.' That the hierarchy is taking this call seriously, particularly during a time when collaborative ministry between the ordained and the laity has become indispensable in many parishes, schools, hospitals and retreat houses, is a sign of health in the church." What inquiring minds might like to know about this change of ecclesiastic heart is this -- Is the "sign of the Holy Spirit's movement" recognized among women and men alike? What do you think? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org (mailto:email@example.com) . Proposal: "A THINKING Church!" Response: "Not in my back yard." Read the good news (http://ncronline.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2006a/010606/010606q.php) about Hans Kung's visit to Phoenix, AZ and Bishop Olmsted's difficulty with the thousands- fold gathering, which was part of an interfaith outreach by Jesuit Alumni of Arizona to promote what Kung has represented all of his life -- a thinking Church. . Kung leads the Foundation for Global Ethics in his hometown of Tubingen, Germany. The foundation works to identify the commonalities in all religions and proposes using them to foster peace. *The Arizona Republic covered the controversy over Kung's visit noting that Bishop Olmsted refused to permit an ad for the event in diocesan newspapers and church bulletins. He also refused the distribution of free admission tickets offered to seniors in Catholic high schools. Kung's comments on " Declaration of the Religions for a Global Ethic," (http://astro.temple.edu/%7Edialogue/Center.kung.htm) endorsed by the Parliament of the World's Religions in 1993. Next issue of In the Vineyard: January 26 PRAYER St. Theresa’s Prayer (http://www.votf.org/vineyard/Jan12_2006/theresas_prayer.html) Novena Prayer for Victims of Sexual Abuse –VOTF Central Washington (http://www.votf.org/vineyard/Jan12_2006/novena.html) COMMENTARY Page One (http://www.votf.org/vineyard/Jan12_2006/index.html) "It's Still About Healing" (http://www.votf.org/vineyard/Jan12_2006/doyle.html) -- Fr. Tom Doyle "Parish Closings: The Right Way" (http://www.votf.org/vineyard/Jan12_2006/harrington.html) VOTF Boston, Sharon Harrington "Hold Hands, Look Both Ways, and Cross Together"-- http://www.votf.org/vineyard/Jan12_2006/hearts.html) one e-mail exchange on one day in VOTF "Into the Light"-- (http://www.votf.org/vineyard/Jan12_2006/kaintz.html) VOTF St. Louis, Bob Kaintz, Christmas Eve at St. Stanislaus Kostka "Epiphany Vigil" (http://www.votf.org/vineyard/Jan12_2006/vigil.html) -- Dick Taylor, VOTF Philadelphia A Message from Fr. Tom Doyle SUPPORT FOR CHANGES IN STATE LEGISLATION RELATIVE TO SEXUAL ABUSE: SOME ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS Thomas Doyle, O.P., J.C.D. January 5, 2006 On November 17 I submitted a memo to Voice of the Faithful’s publication In the Vineyard in which I addressed several points relative to the efforts to change the Statutes of Limitation on child sexual abuse in a number of states. Since that time I have testified before the Judiciary Committee of the Ohio State Legislature. On that occasion I listened to the moving testimony of several sexual abuse victims. I also listened to concerns expressed by members of the committee about possible ramifications of the proposed changes in legislation. While there appears to be some consensus on the need to either extend the Statute beyond the present limits in several states, or eliminate it altogether, there remains concern about the so-called “look-back windows.” I wish to address some of these concerns. The State of California passed legislation to suspend the Statute of Limitations (SOL) for a one-year period to allow those who could not file civil suits to do so. The Catholic bishops of California vehemently opposed this legislation and some continue to label it as an anti-Catholic strategy promoted by victims’ attorneys primarily to reap monetary benefits. Such characterizations of the legislation, the process whereby it was adopted and the motives of those who supported it are completely false. More to the point, these characterizations are slanderous and constitute a re-victimization of men and women who have already suffered immensely at the hands of the institutional Church. There appear to be three major concerns: a) Legislation of this type is unconstitutional. b) If passed, there will not only be a flood of new cases but many false accusations and bogus cases. c) The increase in cases will result in either bankruptcy for some dioceses or at least serious crippling of the ability of the institutional Church to function. None of these concerns has any basis in either past experience or present reality. Constitutional lawyers have studied the California legislation and the legislation proposed for other states and found no problem with it. Nevertheless, Catholic lobbyists from state Catholic Conferences and other spokespersons for the institutional Church continue to claim that such legislation violates constitutional provisions. These claims are not based on any concrete information but rather are alarmist attempts at spreading misinformation. There is no historical validity for the fear of false claims and bogus cases. In my 21 years of direct experience with clergy sexual abuse I know of only ten or so claims that were proven to be either false or baseless. The attorneys put all prospective clients through a rigorous screening before accepting their cases. While some unscrupulous persons have tried to make false claims, nearly all have been rejected by plaintiff attorneys. It is also true that erroneous accusations have been made against some priests, yet experience has proven that the vast majority of the accusations made have been verified. There simply are no legions of falsely accused clerics around the country. Likewise, there is no real threat of significant numbers of persons lying in wait to make false claims and benefit from the legislation. In practice, it is practically impossible for someone to succeed with a false claim. I am aware of no monetary awards given to anyone who falsely claimed to have been sexually abused by a cleric. Finally, it is hardly likely that a flood of cases will bankrupt the Catholic Church in the United States. Since the initial revelations in 1984 there have been several thousand civil suits against Catholic dioceses and religious orders throughout the United States. To my knowledge nearly every diocese and archdiocese has been involved in civil cases brought by persons who have been sexually abused by clerics. In some dioceses ministries have been deprived of funding or have been cut back and properties have been sold. The diocesan authorities have claimed or insinuated that this has been the result of large monetary awards given to victims of clergy sexual abuse. It has not been unusual for bishops and others to try to shift the blame to the victims and allege that their claims are responsible for depriving the Catholic community of needed spiritual and charitable services. Such claims have been proven to be not only false but injurious to the victims. Although dioceses do not regularly reveal the true costs of the sexual abuse scandal, it is known that insurance companies pay a significant portion of the awards. Dioceses also do not reveal the amounts spent on attorney’s fees or for public relations firms. Many archdioceses and dioceses have expended more money to fight the victims than the amount finally negotiated for the settlement. For example, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has spent a significant amount of money in legal fees in order to prevent discovery of its personnel files. Although other bishops have surrendered such files and although the Los Angeles Archdiocese has lost its case in the local courts, on appeal and at the level of the California Supreme Court, it continues to resist discovery at tremendous cost to the people who contribute to the archdiocese. One archdiocese and two dioceses have sought bankruptcy protection. In all three cases parish life has continued. Although some erroneously thought that the dioceses would “go out of business,” this simply has not been true. The many court actions, in which various dioceses have been a party but especially the bankruptcy processes, are having a variety of consequences and one of the most important and most needed has been the beginnings of true financial accountability. Dioceses may claim they have limited funds and financial resources yet as the financial facts are forced to the surface, the true financial picture indicates otherwise. Although Catholic bishops have vigorously fought attempts at complete financial disclosure, it appears that this will be inevitable and so it should be. Another valuable consequence is the fact that people are realizing that the essence of the Church is not its financial foundation but its compassionate care for those in need as witnessed by the mission of Christ. The institutional Catholic Church has suffered immeasurable harm since the revelation of clergy sexual abuse surfaced more than twenty years ago. The harm should not be measured in terms of financial loss through costs related to individual cases. It is measured in the scandalous realization that Church members, including hierarchy, clergy and lay, placed the image, power and financial security of the institution well before the emotional and spiritual welfare of those harmed by the abuse. Historically the institutional Catholic Church has abjectly failed those who have looked to it for a pastoral response to sexual abuse. It is sad but most probably true to assume that had the secular media not exposed the scandal and had the civil courts not taken up the concerns of the victims, the situation would not have changed and the countless victims would still be imprisoned in their trauma. There are still unknown numbers of men and women whose lives have been forever scarred by clergy sexual abuse. Their only hope for validation and the beginning of healing is through the civil courts. These men and women are not interested in monetary gain or in bankrupting the dioceses. They long to be believed and to be healed. The prevention programs instituted by dioceses and the canonical defrocking of accused clerics is no valid substitute for the healing and validation owed to the many who remain silent. The opportunity to come forward, provided by renewed civil legislation, will surely not bring relief to all who suffer in silence but it will be an opportunity for some to begin life anew. The Churches and our society owe it to these people to provide every opportunity for healing. In conclusion, I would like to address a recent suggestion put forward by some and considered as viable by certain law-makers. This is the suggestion that a civil registry be created which would contain the names of clergy abusers who may not have been convicted in criminal courts but nonetheless had been proven to have committed sexual abuse. Such an idea is surely not an acceptable substitute for a retroactive window in which to bring forth claims. It may serve to alert communities if a perpetrator is living in their midst but it does absolutely nothing for those still suffering in silence and those who lost their chance at civil action because of manipulation by Church authorities. More to the point, a civil registry with the names of Catholic clerics would result in a swift reaction from the Vatican because as envisioned, it would be in violation of certain provisions of the Church’s own internal legislation. The churches are part of and not above our secular society. They are capable of great good and offer immense resources that benefit believers and non-believers alike, especially through charitable endeavors. Churches are also capable of inflicting deep harm. For the good they are to be praised and supported and for the harm they must be held accountable by civil society. No religion or church offers anything to its members or to civil society that can possibly justify any degree of deferential treatment for the sexual, emotional and spiritual devastation of the young and the vulnerable. PARISH CLOSINGS: THE RIGHT WAY Sharon Harrington, VOTF Weymouth, Mass., St. Albert the Great Parish [Sharon Harrington is an attorney and one of the leaders in St. Albert the Great Church, which had been slated for closing, whose persistent, articulate refusal to be shut down effected a reversal by the RCAB.] In the spirit that it’s easier to critique than to come up with ideas, I would like to offer some suggestions to consider for church closings. If your diocese hasn’t been hit yet, your parish closing may just be a matter of time. As someone who is still working on the issue in the Boston area since January 2004, I offer my two cents. As members of VOTF, we believe that lay people should have a meaningful voice and participation in these types of administrative, non-dogma or doctrine-type issues. We have a wealth of experience, knowledge, time, treasure and good will to share with OUR Church. We should be at the table when the initial discussions take place, and our voices should be heard as well as those of the clergy, religious and hierarchy. “Many hands make light the work” and “Two (thousand or more) heads are better than one.” As the diocese of Santa Fe did, when faced with enormous judgments, each diocese should tell the people the whole truth-financial and otherwise, and enlist the wisdom of the entire people of God in the solution. Sure, it may be messy, but let me tell you vigils and protests and the uproar that many parishes in my diocese have had to go through, are messier-and a solution is still far away, I fear. When the Administrator of Santa Fe went to his pastors, his parishes and his clergy and worked together with his people, they found a solution that worked. Santa Fe was a relatively poor diocese compared to the enormous judgments it faced, but the diocese sold off some of its non-parish property, parishes contributed what they could to the solution, and the judgments were paid in full. No parishes had to close, Mass attendance went up, and there was a two-fold increase in vocations! They found a solution that worked because they worked TOGETHER. In so doing, all participants discovered each other’s gifts and talents and their diocese GREW. If the ordinaries would face their people in the parishes and deal with them as human beings, IN PERSON, a parish closing could be community building. Isn’t peace and smooth operation of the diocese a worthwhile goal? In Boston, a number of the vigils began when people were treated in an imperious, callous way at the time of closing and had no way to directly contact the archbishop. Using the priest shortage as an excuse to close parishes simply does not comport with known facts. Many areas of the world share a pastor, or a group of priests is assigned to a cluster of churches, while a deacon, religious or lay person serves as an administrator. Lay people as well as ordained deacons and religious have wonderful gifts to share with their parish communities. Canon Law provides a number of solutions to the priest shortage and Canon Law also recognizes parishes as the place where Catholics learn and grow in their faith with one another. These relationships build up gradually over time and should never be dismissed in the face of a parish closing. There may be some parishes that are unable to continue. If that is truly the case, and the facts have been laid out for all to see, the truth will be recognized because those affected were made an integral part of the decision and were able to communicate directly with their ordinary. Closing churches should be a last resort but as such, there is a right way and a wrong way to get there. The wrong way to close a parish is now part of Church record: true facts of the diocese’s situation are hidden; closure decisions are pre-ordained; lay people feel that their role is for show and the lay people who participate are hand-picked by the clergy and hierarchy; and the politics of clerical “insiders’” affects the outcome (or is believed to affect the outcome). What you get is the regrettable and avoidable circumstances of Boston’s parish closings. Additionally, part of the Boston result has not really registered – the large number of practicing Catholics (a dying breed?) who have stopped “practicing” when their parishes were locked and sold. Literature notes a one-third “fall-away” after a parish closure. In Boston, we believe it has been closer to 90% or more. This is not a way to “re-build the Church”; this is a way to close it down and not just the building but the faith community. We in Boston who have gone through this don’t believe it had to be this way. Boston area VOTF has a wealth of information to share on this topic, and a number of very knowledgeable leaders. The Boston Council of Parishes, an outgrowth of the Boston VOTF summer meetings, does also. A number of other dioceses are facing or going through this shattering experience now. We are useful resources for Catholics anywhere and hope our fellow Catholics will be able to profit from our experience. AN EXCHANGE OF HEARTS What follows is part of an e-mail listserv exchange between two members of VOTF, Anne Southwood in Marshfield, Massachusetts and Paul Post in Seattle, Washington. We reprint it here with their permission. The conversation began when Anne responded to an inquiry from another Mass. VOTFer, Dan Dick, who was (and has been) frustrated by what he sees as a deficit in rage among so many Catholics as the institutional Church seems to continue with impunity its destructive behavior. Excerpt from Anne’s response to Dan: I’ve been beyond mad for four years. In this case, however, the punching arm would be forever lost in a morass – it would be like punching a sticky, amorphous, bottomless and limitless Pillsbury dough boy. Easy satisfaction is not possible; beyond mad requires beyond normal reactions. I’m just thankful that I have a base to reach into my being to generate continued response in a hopefully helpful way. In all our diversity, I think we are surviving an impossible situation unfolding for the past four years, in the best way in the long run. No, it is not the only way, and discerning the possible has been at times very difficult for us all, but I think it a Godward response on the whole. If we are all called to holiness, is there not a common ground to the definition which involves all the stove burners responding to the pilot light? Paul Post replied: There is virtually none of us who has not been abused. Who would make the error of allowing their mind to think that the form of abuse “I” endured was somehow qualitatively more terrible that the abuse “he” or “she” endured? Sexual abuse is thought to penetrate into the soul more deeply, to wound it more profoundly, to scar the psyche more implacably. The darkening of the Light in our dearest friend’s eyes, the extinguishing of the joyful voice in your child, the exquisite pain of a tortured parent or of a young woman who can not “reach” the heart of her chosen. There is the perpetuation of pain as boldly as if it stands in the crosswalk and denies Love to pass through to the injured. God suffers an unrequited love for mankind, and we suffer in a world that is occupied by those who actively loathe that Light in the eyes, that Joy and happiness in a child and want to crush it out, and gain pleasure in doing so. How then do we respond to this? How do we find a way to feel so much anguish yet feel joyful and full of the Light of real delight in the gift of Life we have? Is that not our biggest single problem in this work? How do we do this work, yet remain ourselves Joyful and Delightful and as attractive and beautiful as God would like us to be? I would suggest that proximity to and contact with these issues is much like handling radioactive waste. Without great care, and protection, we can find ourselves becoming sick – in this case, in the spirit. We can unwittingly find ourselves becoming mean spirited, and full of rage. Our outlook can become dark, and our joy and lightness of heart becomes heavy. (For this reason, a lot of folk leave VOTF.) It is essential that we recognize these very human signs in ourselves, recognize that they indicate we are in distress, and seek spiritual counsel, and pray for the sort of divine understanding and compassion that Jesus showed us. In any case, I believe we must strive very hard not to condemn either ourselves, or anyone else. I believe that is a great danger to us spiritually, as human beings, to be drawn into a path of hardheartedness, lovelessness, anger, and darkness. Anne Southwood: Paul, I take delight in your email. It again reminds me of the good people in VOTF. Even while you say this – God suffers an unrequited love for mankind, and we suffer in a world that is occupied by those who actively loathe that Light in the eyes, that Joy and happiness in a child. And want to crush it out…. You still reach for this – joyful and full of the Light of real delight in the gift of Life we have? I really understand theology best as personal reaction and response, joined in community. Lord knows, it wasn’t easy for people to absorb shocking revelations, but I see the VOTF reaction as theological…. I see initial local response, and now the national response, as one of very different people contributing to ecclesia. The key – and our strength – is in that response. We helped each other to deal and mature as Christians as well as offering support to survivors – and are now joined in modeling a more compelling Church. Is not a vision of a more relational and energized Church based on Gospel values necessary? Such a bold hope as changing entrenched attitudes requires vision. Despite the fact that sociologists say major change to an institution from within is nearly impossible, could I be bold enough to think that in our visionary response we were called to try? We don’t know the extent of the possible until we do. It is difficult to contact joy at times; ET can only keep on, phoning home for help. Just as the memory of personal suffering can help us relate to the pain of survivors, thankfulness for past delight can hold us in the arena…. In any case, if we just help each other, we’re doing good theology. How shall we know them? By the way they love each other. Paul Post writing to Peggie Thorp: My writing is very much about the individual experience of evil, an individual response to it, etc. And after all, we are all individuals. But Anne brings up the important role of coming together – of congregation, of communion, becoming “one” in the spirit of Christ, and how that impacts our understanding of VOTF and how it offers us as “individuals” a potential of responding within this exposure, this work, this heartsickness, etc. It is so important to follow Christ’s suggestion that when “two or more” are gathered, we are joined by Him, and we act not just as individuals, or as a group of protesters, but we act and speak with Him. Anne presents a very important and uplifting dimension to the work we share. INTO THE LIGHT Bob Kaintz of VOTF St. Louis writes of Christmas Eve Mass at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church where six board members and the new parish priest were excommunicated by Archbishop Burke. Christmas Day 2005, St. Louis, Missouri – On a rainy Christmas Eve in St. Louis the people spoke. They came and came and came from all directions – hundreds and hundreds of people. They filled the church. They stood in the church. They filled the Polish Cultural Center and then stood in the Cultural Center attending Mass by closed circuit television. Fr. Marek’s homily was the story of a Russian prince who was respected, honored, admired and feared by his people but was unloved and lonely. This prince went out into his kingdom among his subjects on a beautiful horse with the sun shining on his gold and silver clothes looking for their love and they kissed his ring and honored and respected him. But he returned as he left – unloved and lonely. There was also a poor doctor in the kingdom who lived among the people, ate with the people, and cared for the people with little recompense. But the doctor was loved by the people. It turned out that the doctor had also once been a prince, lonely and unloved. Our God was respected, honored, admired and feared until one day he loved us so that he came to us as a baby in a manger to be loved by all. The homily was delivered, part by part, in Polish and English. Communion went on and on and on for at least 25 minutes. It was like the loaves and the fishes. Fr. Marek thanked the congregation for their support and applause but said he did not come to St. Stan’s for applause. He came to live among us, eat with us, laugh with us and cry with us. He told us that rules and regulations were not the Church but that we were the Church. He told the non-parishioners that they were welcome. He told the non-Catholics that they were welcome, despite what they might have been told elsewhere. He said if we were told we were too short or too tall or too fat or too thin or too far this way or too far that way, we too were welcome. Finally he prayed for Archbishop Burke. He prayed that one day our leaders would come back to us and shepherd us like they should have been doing all along. Peace on earth and good will to all. Bob Kaintz EPIPHANY VIGIL from Dick Taylor, VOTF Philadelphia, Penn. January 6 is the Feast of the Epiphany in which we remember the vulnerable baby Jesus, who was not only adored by wise men and shepherds, but nearly killed in Herod's massacre of infants, his parents turned refugees and having to flee with him to Egypt. Forty members and friends of Voice of the Faithful of Greater Philadelphia gathered on a cold and blustery day to commemorate Epiphany and to remember the vulnerable baby Jesus and all vulnerable children, especially those sexually abused by mentally and morally ill clergy, whose leaders covered up their crimes. The prayer vigil took place at noon in front of Cardinal Justin Rigali's downtown office. Those who gathered carried many signs and two very large banners, "50 Years of Abuse and Cover-Up" and "Protect Our Children." Leaflets were distributed for passersby and archdiocesan employees to explain the reason for the vigil: to note that VOTF/GP had sent the Cardinal a letter 70 days ago and had not yet received a reply. The letter proposed four ways that the Cardinal can address the sexual abuse crisis in more depth: (1) support new laws to hold accountable both perpetrators and enablers of abuse; (2) reach out to survivors with a sincere apology and a willingness to work out a settlement; (3) endorse parish Child Safety Committees, elected by parishioners rather than imposed from above; and (4) admit publicly that the Philadelphia hierarchy conducted an unconscionable and immoral cover-up of abuse that further damaged our children. The vigil program began with a reflection on Epiphany by the mother of an abuse survivor. Next, two VOTF officers led everyone in a litany expressing our grief, praying for accountability in the Church, and for God to empower us to be silent and passive no longer. An "open mike" closed the speaking part of the program. Nearly a dozen people came forward to pray or offer thoughts. They included another mother of an abused child, the brother of a victim, two Catholic Sisters, and a university professor. A survivor who chose not to speak cried throughout; everyone was deeply moved by these prayers and reflections. The one-hour vigil ended with the announcement that the vigils will continue on the first Friday of each month "for as long as necessary." Participants were encouraged to write Cardinal Rigali, asking that he be willing to meet with VOTF. They also were encouraged to go to a website, www.pa-cares.org, which has excellent information on how to support state legislation to provide greater justice and to protect children more adequately against abuse. As things were winding up, five VOTF members entered the office to request a meeting with the Cardinal. The Cardinal's office, apparently forgetting that VOTF had sent a letter 70 days ago, told them that they would need to write a letter to ask for an appointment. PHOTO A Epiphany vigil at Philadelphia Chancery Office, January 6, 2006. Photo credit: Walter Fox PRAYER St. Theresa’s Prayer May today there be peace within. May you trust your highest power that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let his presence settle into our bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of you. Voice of the Faithful/ Central Washington Invites the Community to Prayer, Fasting, and Reflection In order to rededicate ourselves to our three goals and as a sign of our love for our church and community, we are embarking on a nine-day pilgrimage – a novena, of intentional fasting and prayer. This will start on January 9th and continue through January 17th. We invite the Catholic community and the community at large to join us on this interior pilgrimage. The purpose of prayer and fasting is to conform our lives to the will of God and to gain the interior strength to do the difficult work of rebuilding trust through dialogue, transparency, and action. We fast and pray to ask for forgiveness for not facing this responsibility many years ago and for not reaching out to victims of abuse, many of whom still hide in shame and isolation. They bear the burden of our sins. We invite the Catholic community and the community at large to join us in this novena, these nine days of prayer, fasting, and reflection, as we seek repentance, forgiveness and renewal for our Church. What can you do? Fast from a certain food, form of entertainment, or drink (some of our members will fast from solid food for the nine days.) Pray the Novena Prayer for Victims of Sexual Abuse (see below) from January 9-17. Have mercy on us, O God, have mercy on us, and forgive us for the sin of sexual abuse of children and the secrecy that has allowed this sin to fester and grow into a terrible evil that has crippled our church and our society. Give us the interior strength and depth of character to face this plague of sexual abuse with truth, honesty, transparency, and dialogue; and lead us into a new springtime of protection for our children and restored trust in our church. Amen. Please feel free to contact us at PO Box 2147, Yakima, WA 98907 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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