In the Vineyard :: April 25, 2022 :: Volume 22, Issue 8
"Conversations on Synodality" Inspires Attendees
On April 20, Voice of the Faithful hosted a webinar with Synod theological commission members Rafael Luciani and Kristin Colberg, who are two of the 25 experts in theology, philosophy, and canon law working with the General Secretariat on the 2023 Synod.
More than 130 people registered for the event, which examined the elements of Pope Francis's theology that lend themselves to synodality, looked at the roots of synodality embedded in the People of God theology, described the basics of synodality and its roots in Vatican II, and discussed how the Synod is unfolding globally and in the U.S.
Prof. Rafael Luciani led off the session. Prof. Luciani is a Venezuelan theologian, associate professor of theology/professor extraordinarius in the ecclesiastical faculty of the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College. In addition to working on the 2023 Synod, he serves as theological advisor to the Latin American Bishops Council and is a member of the Theological Advisory Team of the presidency of the Latin American Confederation of Religious men and women.
Among the notes from his presentation, Prof. Luciani described the pastoral Church that Pope Francis desires as one that wants to learn from the world rather than to teach the world. We are a combination of missionary and disciple, he said, and the combination is powerful, because we as a Church need to learn, to reform, to change, and not to just be self-referential as in the past but actively work within the world.
"Pope Francis is playng all the cards with this Synod," he said, challenging us all to become synodal. The example of the Latin American church over the past 20 years holds the model for how we can learn not just to make decisions together but also to "elaborate those decisions" rather than just proposing ideas and letting the pastor decide which one he likes.
Prof. Luciani also spoke of how Church reform is linked to Christology.
Prof. Kristin Colberg is associate professor of theology at Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary, covering theology, ecclesiology, and theological anthropology. In addition to her work on the Synod commission, she has worked with the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, striving for Christian unity. She spoke about the historical foundations of synodality, as the "most ancient form of government" in the Church, and how it is rooted in Vatican II.
The main goal of synods (councils) in the past was to maintain unity, she noted. They responded to "threats" and thus were trying to stop a conversation to preserve the Church. "Vatican II was a bit different," she said; "it was not responding to a clear and present danger. Instead, John XXIII was trying to start a conversation." Vatican II was about internal conversion, not about making laws to stop something.
Those are just a few notes from the highly informative two-hour session with Profs. Luciani and Colberg. If you missed the Conversation, or if you would like to watch it again, VOTF will email all members a link to the video on our Vimeo channel as soon as it's uploaded.
You Can Now Register for VOTF's May Synod Input Sessions
Voice of the Faithful has scheduled additional input sessions for the Synod on Synodality for May. The Synod is the most significant opportunity ever for the Church’s laity to influence the future of the Church. Anyone interested may note the following points and then register for one Set of two sessions using the links below:
- Each Set will include two sessions.
- Questions in session two follow those of session one in each Set.
- You need register for only one set of sessions to ensure your input.
- Sessions are restricted in size to ensure all can effectively share their experiences.
- Registration for each Set will be closed when Set is full.
- Please feel free to invite friends, neighbors, adult children, and others.
Please note that after your register, the final "Submit" button provides a link to the "Synod Overview" document needed to prepare for the questions asked during the sessions. Registration for each Set will be closed when Set is full.
- Session 1—Sun., May 1, 4 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. CDT, 2 p.m. MDT, 1 p.m. PDT
- Session 2—Sun., May 8, 4 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. CDT, 2 p.m. MDT, 1 p.m. PDT
- Session 1—Tues., May 10, 6 p.m. EDT, 5 p.m. CDT, 4 p.m. MDT, 3 p.m. PDT
- Session 2—Tues., May 17, 6 p.m. EDT, 5 p.m. CDT, 4 p.m. MDT, 3 p.m. PDT
- Session 1—Thurs., May 12, 11 a. EDT, 10 a.m. CDT, 9 a.m. MDT, 8 a.m. PDT
- Session—Thurs., May 19, 11 a. EDT, 10 a.m. CDT, 9 a.m. MDT, 8 a.m. PDT
- Session 1—Fri., May 13, 4 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. CDT, 2 p.m. MDT, 1 p.m. PDT
- Session 2—Fri., May 20, 4 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. CDT, 2 p.m. MDT, 1 p.m. PDT
- Session 1—Sat., May 14, 4 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. CDT, 2 p.m. MDT, 1 p.m. PDT
- Session 2—Sat., May 21, 4 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. CDT, 2 p.m. MDT, 1 p.m. PDT
- Session 1—Mon., May 16, Noon EDT, 11 a.m. CDT, 10 a.m. MDT, 9 a.m. PDT
- Session 2—Mon., May 23, Noon EDT, 11 a.m. CDT, 10 a.m. MDT, 9 a.m. PDT
- Session 1—Wed., May 18, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT
- Session 2—Wed., May 25, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT
- Session 1—Tues, May 24, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT
- Session 2—Tues., May 31, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT
The Synod is for Mutual Discernment
This is your opportunity to express your hopes, dreams, desires, and, yes, even your concerns for the future of the Catholic Church. We will listen intently to the Holy Spirit and engage in mutual discernment to seek a path forward for our Church. The Synod on Synodality, officially called “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” will provide all people of God with a chance to express how they see the Church becoming the synodal, pastoral, evangelical Church it should be.
VOTF emphasizes that all voices are to be heard for the Synod, even the voices of those who feel uncomfortable talking in a group about their experiences and hopes for the future of the Church. Anyone who would like additional information may email firstname.lastname@example.org(link sends e-mail).
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month
Each year, the federal government promotes child protection throughout the United States by naming April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Voice of the Faithful has long promoted child protection. This spring Voice of the Faithful will release the results of a new project that reviewed the websites of every U.S. diocese to determine the level of adherence to child protection guidelines. While you await the results of VOTF's review, read the information and see what activities the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has compiled to recognize April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has also compiled a list of resources.
Also, click here to view "How Is the Catholic Church Safeguarding Children? A Perspective After the Recent Developments in Europe," a livestream recording of Notre Dame's 2022 Keeley Vatican Lecture. The lecture features Rev. Dr. Hans Zollner, S.J., Ordinary Professor at the Institute of Psychology and President of the Center for Child Protection of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
Abuse Survivors to Receive $87.5 Million in New Jersey Settlement
In one of the largest cash settlements in the United States involving clergy sex abuse victims, the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, has agreed to pay $87.5 million to approximately 300 people who identify themselves as victims of clergy sexual abuse. The agreement was filed earlier this week in the local U.S. Bankruptcy Court and is awaiting approval from a bankruptcy judge.
The agreement contains provisions to fund a trust over the course of four years by the Diocese of Camden and “related Catholic entities” to compensate survivors, as well as developing and enhancing existing protocols for the protection of children. The details of the protocols are still being finalized.
The settlement also requires the diocese to publicly disclose the history of abuse. The 62-parish diocese serves approximately 500,000 Catholics in six counties in the state.
Bishop Dennis Sullivan gave a statement, saying, “I want to express my sincere apology to all those who have been affected by sexual abuse in our Diocese. My prayers go out to all survivors of abuse and I pledge my continuing commitment to ensure that this terrible chapter in the history of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey never happens again… It is my fervent hope that this settlement will be remembered as a positive step in our attempts to rectify past sins. Let us all continue to pray for the survivors, while again recommitting ourselves to the protection of all youth and vulnerable people in our care, today and always.”
Jeff Anderson, the attorney representing 74 of the survivors, calls this settlement “a powerful advance in accountability” and credits the survivors for “standing up for themselves and the truth” about sexual abuses dating back to as early as the 1950s. The majority of reported cases occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, and were reported after New Jersey expanded the window of its civil statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse. Two years ago, child victims were permitted to sue until they turned 55, or up to 7 years after they realized that they were harmed by the abuse. Prior to this expansion, the statute of limitations was until the victim turned 20 or up to two years after realizing that they were harmed by the abuse. Approximately 55 lawsuits were filed, according to court records, based on the updated statute of limitations.
The five Catholic dioceses in New Jersey released a list of more than 180 credibly accused priests in 2019, following at least two dozen other states in naming accused abusers. In the Camden diocese, Bishop Sullivan named 56 priests and a deacon connected to the diocese.
The individual victims will receive an average of $300,000 per person in compensation, although individual amounts will vary. Differing from the norm, this settlement between the plaintiffs and the diocese does not include the insurance companies representing the diocese. With the settlement, the 62 parishes and other Catholic entities are released from liability, but the victims retain the right to pursue claims against the insurers. This has the potential to substantially increase the compensation the victims may receive.
The overall $87.5 million makes this settlement one of the top five most substantial payouts for survivors of clergy sexual abuse in the U.S. (more than the $84 million paid out by the Boston diocese in 2003, but less than other settlements in California and Oregon).
Attorney Jeffrey D. Prol, the lawyer for the committee that represents the victims in the bankruptcy settlement, released a statement saying that the committee was “pleased to have reached a consensual resolution of its disputes with the Diocese and looks forward to facilitating an expeditious distribution to survivors of sexual abuse.” In an interview, he said, “for the survivors, this is not about the money. This is about making sure their voices are heard and making sure this never happens again.”
To read more about VOTF’s position on child protection, please see here.
For survivor support resources, please see here.
"What Kind of Catholics Are We?"
Did you catch the latest "Global Sisters Report" hosted by National Catholic Reporter? It features an article by Quincy Howard, a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa, who explores what it means to be a vowed sister in an Order of Preachers in a Church that rejects the idea of women preaching during liturgies. "Lucky for me, I am blessed with a high tolerance for perceived contradictions," she says.
A church with two millenia of theological, doctrinal, and scientific development is complex and messy, she says, and "holy tensions are inherently part of what makes Catholicism unique."
However, there also is "an unholy tension that is building in the U.S. It has been ushered in with the rigid, dualistic overlay of the 21st-century American culture wars."
Humans seek consistency, Sr. Howard says, and when they don't get it the unresolved contradictions "can lead to behaviors like harsh judgment, catastrophizing and defensive attacks. These response patterns are being exploited in the American Catholic community to sow division among the people of God. A universal church divided into opposing camps is the true contradiction taking root, and the lines are conveniently drawn according to the culture wars."
"As the people of God, how might Catholics begin moving toward reconciliation?" she asks.
The answer? Synodality. "The synod offers a forum for Catholic encounter, listening and discernment. It's a chance to deepen our sense of dialogue by centering the Spirit, not agendas and ideologies."
Read the article for additional perspective on the importance of the Synod for the People of God. Also note the information and links near the end of the article about the Discerning Deacons forums in May that will be part of their Synod response.
Spanish bishops brief pope on abuse commission
“Pope Francis met with the leaders of the Spanish bishops' conference and was briefed on the independent commission established by the bishops to investigate clerical sexual abuse in the country. Speaking with journalists outside the Vatican press office April 7, Cardinal Juan José Omella of Barcelona, president of the conference, said the pope encouraged the bishops to continue supporting survivors of abuse. Pope Francis ‘encouraged us to walk along that path of accompanying victims because they are at the center of everything, to collaborate in everything and, above all, to prevent these things from happening again,’ Omella said.” By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter
- Spain’s top prelate says independent abuse audit will help ‘rectify what we are doing wrong,’ By Inés San Martin
Portugal probe: 290 church sex abuse claims in 90 days work
“A lay committee looking into historic child sex abuse in the Portuguese Catholic Church said Tuesday (Apr. 12) it received witness statements from 290 alleged victims in its first three months of work, with cases involving children as young as two years old. More than half the reported cases suggest many more victims were involved, said Pedro Strecht, a psychiatrist who heads the Independent Committee for the Study of Child Abuse in the Church. The six-person committee, which includes psychiatrists, a former Supreme Court judge and a social worker, began its work in January at the behest of the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference.” By Barry Hatton, Associated Press
- Hundreds of church sexual abuse victims ‘just tip of the iceberg,’ Portuguese panel says, By Catarina Demony, Reuters
Is Pope Francis prepping for doomsday in the church? I hope so.
“If you’re not a Vaticanista, the announcement of the proposed reform of the Roman Curia on March 17 might have seemed like some pretty standard Catholic gobbledygook … But in the midst of the release of the reform document, Vatican experts recognized something that actually could change things for you and me in a potentially massive way. As one theological expert who worked on the constitution put it, the Vatican seems to be saying that the ‘power of governance in the church does not come from the sacrament of [Holy] Orders’ but from one’s mission in the church. That is, being in positions of leadership in the church should not require a collar, ordination or being a man.” By Jim McDermott, America: The Jesuit Review
- Cardinal says Curia reform requires a change in attitude at the Vatican, By Nirmala Carvalho, Cruxnow.com
74 bishops sign open letter warning of German Synodal Path’s potential for schism
“In an open letter, 74 bishops from North America, Africa, Italy and Australia have expressed their ‘growing concern’ about the German Synodal Path process and content, warning about its ‘potential for schism.’ Joining recent letters of concern by the Nordic and Polish bishops, the ‘fraternal open letter to our brother bishops in Germany’ said ‘the Synodal Path’s actions undermine the credibility of church authority, including that of Pope Francis.’” By Greg Erlandson, Catholic News Service, in America: The Jesuit Review
- German bishop responds to letter criticizing Synodal Path, By Barb Fraze, Catholic News Service
Pope Francis Continues Urging World Leaders to Work Towards Peace in Ukraine
During Pope Francis’s Angelus address at the Vatican on April 10th, he called for an Easter truce in Ukraine. “Let the weapons be put down,” he proclaimed. “Let the Easter truce begin. But not to provide more weapons and pick up the combat again - - no! - - a truce that will lead to peace, through real negotiation that is even disposed to some sacrifice for the good of the people. In fact, what victory is there in planting a flag on a pile of rubble?”
His sentiments were echoed by U. N. Secretary General António Guterres and other European Catholic and Protestant leaders who called for an Easter cease-fire. Guterres asked for a four-day “humanitarian pause” from April 21 to April 24, which was Holy Week and Easter on the Julian Calendar, which is used by most Christians in Ukraine and in Russia.
A humanitarian pause would allow civilians wanting to escape to leave safely as well as allow the delivery of aid to hardest-hit areas in Ukraine. Guterres said, “The United Nations is ready to send humanitarian aid convoys during this period to these locations. We are submitting detailed plans to the parties.”
As the war continues to spread through Ukraine, Guterres said “Instead of a celebration of new life, this Easter coincides with a Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine.” Humanitarian needs continue to mount- people are living without food, water supplies, and treatments for the sick. “I call on Russians and Ukrainians to silence the guns and forge a path to safety for so many at immediate risk,” he said.
A statement from the Vatican on April 21st said, “The Holy See and the Holy Father join with the appeal by António Guterres” and are in agreement with Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, “… Aware that nothing is impossible for God, they call on the Lord asking that the population trapped in war zones be evacuated and peace be restored quickly.” They ask world leaders “to listen to the people’s cry for peace.”
Pope Francis continues to appeal for peace, explaining that “The Vatican never rests. I cannot tell you the details because they would cease to be diplomatic efforts. But the attempts will never stop.”
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