In the Vineyard :: July 12, 2021 :: Volume 21, Issue 13
VOTF Church Governance Initiative
This fall VOTF will conduct its first review of U.S. diocesan websites to find out what dioceses tell their faithful about the operation of their Diocesan Finance Council. The DFC is the one place in canon law where lay involvement is specified as a requirement. Click here to read the VOTF's worksheet that will be used for this review.
You also may wish to sign up for our second mini-synod on the DFC and Church Governance, slated for Wednesday night July 14 at 7 pm (Eastern time, 6 pm Central, 5 pm Mountain and Pacific, 3 pm Alaska, and 2 pm Hawaiian).
The importance of lay involvement in Church finances cannot be overstated. If the laity had known about the secret "hush money" paid to clergy sexual abuse victims as early as 1985, when widespread abuse was first reported, much of the suffering of the scandal and cover up might have been avoided.
TO REGISTER: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VOTFsynod
Some questions we will discuss:
- Were you aware that Canon Law requires every diocese to have a Diocesan Finance Council? Does your diocese have one?
- Were you aware that under Canon Law the DFC must give or withhold consent to the bishop on certain important financial matters?
- Is a DFC charter/by-laws publicly available on your diocesan website?
- Does your diocese provide public information on the membership of the DFC?
- Would DFC members have a duty under Canon Law to disclose financial malfeasance to the diocesan faithful? If malfeasance exists within their diocese, how might they discover it? To whom should they report it?
Don't Forget to Register!
Join us on October 23 as we examine the body of the Church to see how structure, power, participation, and accountability can be brought together within the Church to fulfill its mission of bringing Christ to the world.
Two featured speakers at the conference will offer their views on re–membering the Church. Speaking first on the morning of Oct. 23 will be Sister Carol Zinn, S.S.J. Ph.D. She is Leadership Conference of Women Religious executive director and serves as Saint John Vianney Center consultant for women religious community health and transition. Formerly, she served as United Nations Economic and Social Council consultant. Following Sr. Carol’s Q&A period, Prof. Massimo Faggioli, Ph.D., will address the conference. Prof. Faggioli spoke at VOTF’s 2018 Conference, and his return is highly anticipated. He is a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University, a prolific author, and a leading international authority on Catholic Church history and ecclesiology, the inner workings of the Church.
Also during VOTF’s 2021 Conference, a panel comprising women liturgy leaders from the Paulist Center Boston (link is external) faith community will discuss lay-led liturgies, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and VOTF leaders will offer presentations on VOTF projects in diocesan financial transparency, Church governance by and through lay involvement in Diocesan Financial Councils, adherence to protection of children guidelines in parishes and dioceses, and women’s emerging voices in the Catholic Church.
Start a Conversation in Your Community
Looking for a resource to discuss current Commonweal articles in your classroom, parish, reading group, or Commonweal Local Community?
With every monthly issue, Commonweal Magazine offers a free discussion guide to use for one or more of their feature articles. This month features discussion questions for Matthew Boudway’s "There Ought to Be A Law," a reflection on the temptations of American legalism. An archive of Commonweal’s free discussion guides is posted at cwlmag.org/discuss.
Looking for Something to Read this Summer?
Available online until August 6, Today’s American Catholic highlights reviews, excerpts, and analysis of some recommended summer reads, including:
- Amy Nicholson on Water at the Roots: Poems and Insights of a Visionary Farmer by Philip Britts and edited by Jennifer Harries
- Frank Freeman on Bone Rosary, a new collection from acclaimed Michigan poet Thomas Lynch
- Michael Centore on Dedicated: The Case for Commitment in an Age of Infinite Browsing by writer and civic activist Pete Davis
- Gene Ciarlo reads Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms through the lens of Christian humanism
- James Magner, MD, shares an excerpt from The Legacy of a Steamboat Cabin Boy, a novel celebrating Irish Catholicism in 19th-century America
Wisconsin Bishop Cracks Down on Rogue Priest
La Crosse Bishop William Callahan removed Father James Altman, a Wisconsin priest who ignored COVID-19 safety protocols at the peak of the pandemic, from his position of pastor and restricted his ability to celebrate Mass and teach. He is now permitted only to celebrate Mass privately, is prohibited from teaching, and has been instructed to spend 30 days on a spiritual retreat to “give him the possibility to spiritually heal and recharge and address the issues that caused the issuance of this decree.”
Father Altman was a vocal opponent of protective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and advocated against COVID-19 vaccination, both of which were robustly supported by the Vatican and by the U.S. bishops’ conference. Over the past several months, Bishop Callahan attempted to corral Fr. Altman’s divisive and inflammatory behavior, but had been unsuccessful. Callahan’s decree instructs Altman to remain residing in the diocese and any violation of the terms of the decree “may warrant further restrictions and may lead to the imposition of ecclesiastical sanctions.”
Bishop Callahan had formally requested Altman resign, and Altman has thus far refused. His supporters have raised more than $700,000 for his defense. Altman is able to appeal Callahan’s decree to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, the body which has the ability to maintain or alter Callahan’s decision to request Altman’s resignation. If Altman disagrees with that result, he can request further review by the Vatican.
Resignation requests to priests are not uncommon, but typically priests comply with the requests. There have been a few high-profile refusals, including Rev. D. George Spagnolia, who was requested to resign due to accusations that he sexually abused a child. He appealed the decision to the Vatican, but was still requested to resign and died in 2008, six years after he was initially asked to step down.
Cardinal Becciu Indicted with Nine Others Amid
London Real Estate Scandal Investigation
Earlier this week, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, two officials from the Secretariat of State in the Vatican, and several Italian businessmen who were involved in a London real estate venture valued at 350 million euro were indicted on charges that included embezzlement, extortion, fraud, and abuse of office. Their trial is set to begin July 27th, later this month. Vatican prosecutors have accused the men of using money from donations intended for charitable works for their own gain and making speculative, imprudent investments that resulted in the loss of millions of euros from the Holy See in the form of fees and other financial loss.
Cardinal Becciu was also involved in a separate financial scandal: last year, Pope Francis fired Becciu for “donating” 100,000 euro to a charity run by his brother. Becciu insisted that the donation was to the charity, not for his brother’s personal gain. Becciu was also later connected to the real estate scandal in May 2020 when it appeared he was behind the proposal to buy a London building as an investment scheme, and, prosecutors allege, he attempted to interfere in the investigation by making a witness change his story.
Two other top Vatican officials who have been indicted for abuse of office are accused of failing to stop the London real estate transaction. As members of the Vatican’s financial watchdog agency, they had launched an investigation prior to Vatican prosecutors becoming involved, but failed to stop the deal from happening and thus performed a “decisive function” in allowing the deal to happen.
Cardinal Becciu continues to claim that he is innocent of any wrongdoing, claiming he is “the victim of a plot hatched against me.” Late last year, he claimed that the media coverage of the case caused him to lose a chance at becoming pope and filed a lawsuit against Italian magazine L’Espresso for their reporting. He says, “Only by considering this great injustice as a test of faith can I find the strength to fight this battle for truth. Finally, the moment of clarification is coming, and the court will be able to find the absolute falsity of the accusations against me and the dark plots that have evidently sustained and fed them.”
Becciu also allegedly sent approximately 500,000 euros over a five year period to his protege, Cecilia Marogna, an Italian political analyst who was hired as a “diplomatic back channel” to organize and manage humanitarian missions, including negotiating the ransoms for kidnapped missionaries. Italian news program La Iene reported that the money intended for her humanitarian organization was instead used to fund high-fashion purchases, including purchases from Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Moncler.
For VOTF’s statement on financial accountability, please see here.
Pope Francis Said to Make Quick Recovery from Surgery: Plans to Celebrate Mass from the Hospital
While Pope Francis has generally enjoyed good health throughout his tenure as Pope, he underwent intestinal surgery earlier this week at Gemelli, a hospital in Rome with a special suite reserved for popes. He lost a portion of his lung due to an illness as a child, and this week had half of his colon removed due to “severe narrowing.” He ran a low fever earlier in the week but is back to working and reading as normal as he finishes out his hospital stay. Reports indicate that he is comfortably strolling the corridors of the hospital between working and reading as he recuperates. He intends to deliver his customary noontime blessing on Sunday from the hospital’s tenth floor and hopes to return home soon after that.
Amidst news of his surgery, followers wonder if this will accelerate his agenda to reform the church, or cause greater delays. While Pope Francis has often focused on building a broad consensus, some wonder if his ailments will put pressure on him to make more sweeping changes without waiting for the rest of the Catholic world to catch up.
Vatican indicts 10, including a cardinal, in London deal
“A Vatican judge on Saturday (Jul. 3) indicted 10 people, including a once-powerful cardinal, on charges including embezzlement, abuse of office, extortion and fraud in connection with the Secretariat of State’s 350 million-euro investment in a London real estate venture. The president of the Vatican’s criminal tribunal, Giuseppe Pignatone, set July 27 as the trial date, though lawyers for some defendants questioned how they could prepare for trial so soon given they hadn’t yet formally received the indictment.” By Nicole Winfield Associated Press
- Historic Vatican indictments raise as many questions as they answer, By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com
- Indictments for Vatican financial crimes a sign of progress, By Thomas Reese, Religion News Service
The German synodal way explained
“Some Catholics in the United States are deeply concerned about the German church’s ‘synodal way.’ A quick YouTube search returns titles like, ‘What is going on in Germany!?!?!’ ‘English Bishop WARNS Vatican ‘Stop German Bishops, We’re Heading to Schism!’ and ‘Vatican in Crisis Management Mode Over Catholic Bishops in Germany.’ Is any of this true? Not really. For this week’s special episode of America’s ‘Inside the Vatican’ podcast, I spoke with four German Catholics who understand the synodal way well: A bishop involved in the synod’s forum on power, a theologian involved in the forum on women’s roles, one of the synodal way’s spiritual guides, and a critic of the process.” By Colleen Dulle, America: The Jesuit Review
- German bishop discusses the country’s synodal process with the pope, By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, in America: The Jesuit Review
Review board chair urges bishops to focus on healing for abuse survivors
“Although major steps have been taken to help achieve healing and reconciliation with survivors of clergy sexual abuse, much work remains ahead for the U.S. Catholic Church, the chairwoman of the National Review Board told the spring assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Citing the progress that has occurred since 2002 when the abuse scandal exploded, Suzanne Healy said in a prerecorded address to the bishops that the church's outreach efforts must continue to evolve as the needs of survivors are better understood. ‘We must focus on the areas of healing and reconciliation, accountability, transparency and ongoing education for all involved in child and youth protection,’ said Healy, who has chaired the NRB since June 2020.” By Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service
Polish church reports recent clergy abuse of 368 children
“In its latest report on the sexual abuse of minors, Poland’s Catholic Church says 292 clergymen allegedly abused 368 boys and girls from 2018 through 2020. The report, released June 28, comes at a time when the Vatican is investigating reports of abuse and of a lack of reaction by church leaders in Poland, a predominantly Catholic nation where the clergy enjoy special esteem. The Vatican recently punished a few Polish bishops and archbishops for negligence and barred them from church and lay ceremonies. The Holy See is also investigating reports of negligence by retired Krakow archbishop, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who before that served as personal secretary to the late pope, St. John Paul II.” By Monika Scislowska, The Associated Press
- Vatican probes alleged abuse negligence by Polish cardinal, By Associated Press on ABCNews.go.com
French priest, former Vatican adviser, to face church trial on abuse claims
“A prominent French priest and psychotherapist who was once an influential Vatican adviser on matters regarding human sexuality is going to face trial in a church court over accusations of inappropriate sexual relationships with male clients, the Paris Archdiocese has confirmed. The charges against Msgr. Tony Anatrella have not been announced.” By Elisabeth Auvillain, National Catholic Reporter
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