Archive for September, 2012

Joseph O’Callaghan Accepts Voice of the Faithful St. Catherine of Siena Distinguished Lay Person Award — “Now let us build the City of God!”

Joseph O'Callaghan received VOTF St. Catherine of Siena Award during its 10th Year Conference

Joseph O’Callaghan received VOTF St. Catherine of Siena Award during its 10th Year Conference.

Joseph O’Callaghan, a founding member of VOTF in the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, received the Voice of the Faithful St. Catherine of Siena Distinguished Lay Person Award during the movements 10th Year Conference in Boston earlier this month. A Professor Emeritus of Medieval History at Fordham University, O’Callaghan is an historian, educator, philosopher, lecturere, author and activist who has been a champion for the wounded and victimized. Here are his acceptance remarks:

“My very dear friends,

“I am deeply honored to be a recipient of the St. Catherine of Siena Award. I want to share it, however, with my sisters and brothers of Voice of the Faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport, many of whom are here this evening. The award is theirs as much as it is mine. Each one of them has unselfishly contributed his or her special gifts to the reform and renewal of the Church that we love.

“It is fitting that this award should be named for St. Catherine of Siena, for she, like us, lived during an unsettled period in the life of the Church. For seventy years in the fourteenth century the popes abandoned the bishopric of Rome, their primary responsibility, and took up residence at Avignon in southern France. Recognizing how wrong that was, Catherine admonished Pope Gregory XI and eventually persuaded him to return to Rome.

“Our Church today is buffeted by similar turbulence. The Church in which we grew up is collapsing. I believe that that is the work of the Holy Spirit who is deliberately pulling down the edifice built on clericalism and hierarchy, an edifice that Jesus would find incomprehensible.

“Yet, amid the wreckage that now afflicts the institutional Church, Catholics everywhere, and most especially our brave and courageous nuns,  continue to do the work of Jesus Christ, feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, the sick, and the elderly, and speaking out against war and militarism. The beauty of the Church, when viewed through the lens of the commitment of its followers to the transformation of our society, is still there for all to see.

“We are in the early stages of a New Catholic Reformation, a time of unease and instability and confusion. Yet the seeds of reform are there, transforming the Church, restoring its pristine beauty, and giving it a new luster. That process of renewal will continue long after most of us have passed through the gates of Paradise to see God, no longer darkly, but face to face.

“We cannot now conceive of the many aspects of that renewed and reformed Church, but let me suggest some possibilities.

“The Church that we envision will, at last, reveal the full flowering of the spirit of Vatican II. Rather than a hierarchical Church dominated by celibate males, our Church will truly be manifest as the People of God.

“Our Church will acknowledge, once and for all, that all of us, men and women, are equally disciples of Jesus and, by virtue of our baptism, have a full right to participate in every aspect of the life of the Church, administrative, economic, liturgical, theological, and pastoral.

“Our Church, after so many centuries of denial, will acknowledge that women, the primary transmitters of the faith ever since Mary Magdalene first proclaimed the good news of the Resurrection, are made in the image and likeness of God and are truly called to serve God in every phase of ministry.

“Our Church, casting aside centuries of homophobia, will warmly embrace our gay brothers and sisters, whose nature is the work of a good God who creates only good things.

“Our Church will put an end to the two-class system embedded in canon law that reserves all decision-making power to a self-selected and self-perpetuating band of ordained men and denies to the non-ordained, both men and women, who constitute the vast body of the faithful, any meaningful role in the work of the Church.

“Our Church will elect as our bishops and pastors, persons known to the community, who understand that their role is to be servants, not tyrants. Our bishops and pastors will live among us, not apart from us, conversing with us, listening to us, getting to know us, and sharing in our joys and sorrows.  Like St. Peter, some will choose to marry, and others like St. Paul, will choose not to. Our bishops will put aside all false pomp and circumstance, lavish costumes and pointy hats, better suited to the baroque era, rings encrusted with jewels, and shepherd’s crooks made of gold and silver that no real shepherd could ever afford.

“Our Church will seek to change current laws that reserve ownership of church property to the bishops alone. Rather, the ownership of churches and schools will be vested in the People of God who built them and sustain them financially. Our bishops, instead of regarding that property as their own to be disposed of as they will, will recognize that they have an unbreakable obligation to be accountable and transparent in their stewardship.

“Our Church will not tolerate the terrible betrayal of our children by priests and bishops entrusted with their care. Our bishops, unlike those who, proclaiming themselves the authentic teachers of morality, nevertheless presided over and facilitated the worst moral crisis in the history of the Church, will no longer countenance and cover-up the sexual abuse of our children by priests and nuns. As we honor and remember the survivors, our Church will be resolved that this will not happen again.

“Our Church, emulating the practice of the earliest times, when great religious questions were debated and voted upon in church councils rather than decided by fiat from Rome, will create elected representative councils and synods on every level. In them our Church will seek to determine the sensus fidei or sense of the faith shared by the entire People of God. In them all the faithful will have an effective voice concerning every issue affecting our spiritual lives.

“Our Church, while united in faith, will recognize that unity does not require uniformity. Just at the Body of Christ is made up of many members with many different gifts, our Church will welcome diversity.

“Our Church will understand the essential role of our theologians who probe the mysteries of our faith.

“Our Church will reject forever the totalitarian spirit that demands an unquestioning submission of mind and will. Our Church will no longer bully, threaten, silence, or wrongfully excommunicate our theologians, but will encourage their inquiries in the expectation that they will lead to a deeper understanding of our Christian faith.

“Let me conclude with these words from a hymn known to all of us, a hymn that could be our anthem: ‘Let us build the City of God, May our tears be turned into dancing, For the Lord, our light and our love, has turned the night into day.’ For many years now we have shed copious tears because of the malaise afflicting our Church.  Yet we must use all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength so that our Church may be sanctified and cleansed and shine forth once more ‘in splendor without spot or wrinkle’ (Eph. 5:27), as a sign of truth, hope, trust, honesty, inclusivity, charity, and justice. As a people of hope, we know that the time will come, though we know not the day nor the hour, when the Lord will wipe away every tear and lift the darkness that envelops our Church and shine a new, bright light upon us.

“Now, let’s build the City of God!”

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Fr. Patrick Bergquist Accepts Voice of the Faithful Priest of Integrity Award


Fr. Patrick Bergquist accepts Voice of the Faithful Priest of Integrity Award

Fr. Patrick Bergquist accepts Voice of the Faithful Priest of Integrity Award.

Fr. Patrick Bergquist of Fairbanks, Alaska, accepted the Voice of the Faithful Priest of Integrity Award during the movement’s 10th Year Conference, Sept. 14-15, 2012, at the Marriott Copley Place Hotel, Boston, Massachusetts. Following are his acceptance remarks:

“First and foremost, I sincerely want to thank Voice of the Faithful for continuing to be that consistent and prophetic voice crying out in the wilderness in which we – as church – now find ourselves.

“Ten years ago, when this sad and sordid story was breaking – and breaking yet again her in Boston – the ice up north in Alaska was really just beginning to crack. But when it did eventually break – it exposed a tale seemingly so tragic as to make even the good heavens above begin to wake and weep.

“To all my sisters and brothers who have been hurt and violated and abused at the hands of my brother priests – I am truly, truly sorry. And to all my sisters and brothers who have had to share in the bitter shame and disgrace of our church at the hands of my brother priests – I am heartily sorry. And to my sisters and brothers – most especially Native Alaskans – who have had their innocence, their language, their culture forcibly and cruelly ripped from their hearts and souls – I am deeply, deeply sorry.

“As a priest and poet of sorts, I must confess – that I live and write and work from a place of deep sorrow and pain. And yet, I can never forget this is also a place of even deeper hope. And though I fear – as I wrote in The Long Winter’s Night – that ours might just well be a winter’s night barely half spent – I nevertheless have decided to hope and pray and strive for spring: even if it is just the promise of that spring that waits beneath the weight of the winter’s snows.

“And as someone of faith, I refuse to believe it’s simply coincidence or happenstance that we’ve gathered here today on the Feast of the Triumphant of the Cross – or that the Scripture readings for Mass this weekend include both Isaiah’s Suffering Servant and Jesus’ own foretelling of His Cross; including the invitation that – ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny themselves – take up their cross, and follow me.’

“My challenge then – really my plea to all my brother priests – is that we not shy away from this scandal – but instead choose to embrace it: taking on the shared guilt of our brothers – even as we dare to share in the sacrifice of Jesus. For this is our cross to bear – the cross we take up without fear or regret – without anger or resentment – but instead with great humility and even greater hope.”

See photos from VOTF’s 10th Year Conference by clicking here, and click here to read the conference’s program book.

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The Vatican Giveth & the Vatican Taketh Away

Vatican Lifts Suspension of Priest Who Altered Prayers at Mass

“An Illinois priest who was forced out of his parish by his bishop for improvising prayers during Mass has had his suspension reversed by the Vatican. The Vatican’s reversal means he can celebrate Mass in another diocese, Rowe said, as long as he has the local bishop’s approval. Others, however, disputed that interpretation of the decree.” By Tim Townsend, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in National Catholic Reporter

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Laity can help determine cardinal’s successor

“Chicago-area Catholics have an unprecedented opportunity to express their concerns and recommendations about our next leader of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Last January, as standard procedure on his 75th birthday, Cardinal Francis George submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict. The search for his successor was progressing even before the cardinal’s recent cancer recurrence.” Op-Ed in Chicago Daily Herald by Paul Culhane, secretary of Chicagoland Voice of the Faithful, a member of VOTF’s Chicago Archbishop Selection Project and an emeritus professor at Northern Illinois University

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Responding to clericalism and sex abuse / U.S. Catholic

Responding to clericalism and sex abusePrinciple: “In the church all are one in Christ; there is no Greek or Roman, no Jew or Gentile, no male or female”—and no hierarchy of privilege or status or honor conferred by ministerial office or rank alone. All baptized believers immersed in the sacramental life and apostolic works of the Catholic community are to be respected as equal inheritors of the ancient traditions and full participants in the work of redemption, a work accomplished by and through Christ alone. The church, catholic and apostolic, is a graced community of sinners and pilgrims, and those who receive holy orders must never set themselves apart from or above the faithful; to the contrary, the clergy must be subject, like the laity, to the correction and exhortations of all the faithful.

The sexual abuse of children and young adults by a tiny minority of Catholic priests is itself a terrible stain on the institutional church—but the repeated failure of the bishops and other priests to report and remove the perpetrators has magnified and deepened, beyond immediate repair, the erosion of trust and the crisis of faith within the Catholic community. “Responding to clericalism and sex abuse,” by Scott Appleby, U.S. Catholic magazine

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Catholic Laity Seek Voice in Choice of Bishop

“Voice of the Faithful is trying to make sure parishioners have a meaningful say in the choice of the  next archbishop of Chicago. To that end, VOTF has set up a Web site to solicit comments on who should succeed Cardinal Francis George (who turned 75 on Jan. 16).  It says this effort is based on canon law  212, which states, ‘The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.'” By Paul Moses in dotCommonweal

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Finn Conviction Shows Major Child Protection Charter Flaw — Bishop Accountablity

Voice of the Faithful® has maintained for years that one of the serious flaws preventing the U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People from being effective is lack of accountability for bishops. Bishop accountability, specifically the stipulation of disciplinary action for charter violations, for example, was key among the recommendations VOTF made when meeting in February 2011 with Diane Knight, then chair of the USCCB National Review Board, and Teresa Kettelkamp, then Executive Director of the USCCB Office for the Protection of Children and Young People. VOTF reiterated those recommendations in April 2011, as the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was expanding. Now, Al Notzon, present Chairman of the USCCB’s National Review Board will soon bring bishop accountability before his board, according to a recent National Catholic Reporter article.

Kansas City Bishop’s Guilty Verdict Raises National Questions

“The conviction last week of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., Bishop Robert Finn for failing to report suspected child abuse indicates that “clearly there is a problem” with how the procedures adopted by the U.S. church to protect children are being used, a key adviser to the U.S. bishops on the issue said Monday (Sept. 10, 2012).

“Central to that problem, said Al Notzon III, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ National Review Board for clergy sex abuse, is the question of accountability for bishops who do not comply with the norms and conditions the body of bishops agreed to 10 years ago. The procedures are spelled out in the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

“One of Notzon’s predecessors on the review board, Judge Michael Merz, called the Finn case “a serious embarrassment to the church.”

“How can you continue to preach that the charter is effective if, in fact, these types of things continue to happen?” Merz asked.

“Notzon told NCR on Monday he planned to bring up the problem with the full review board, then make recommendations to the U.S. bishops.” Quotes from article by Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

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Suffer the Children / The New York Times

Suffer the Children

“Over the last two decades the Catholic Church has spelled out stricter policies, including the prompt notification of law enforcement officials. And its defenders have complained that newly revealed instances of wrongdoing are usually old cases that predated better awareness of child sexual abuse, better education about it and a toughened resolve.

“But the case of Father Ratigan postdates all of that — by many, many years. It suggests the tenacity of willful ignorance and deliberate evasion, even when the price is nothing less than the ravaged psyches of vulnerable children.”

By Frank Bruni, O-Ed Columnist, The New York Times

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Bishop Finn Conviction Precipitates Two Issues: Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese Governance & USCCB Integrity

National Catholic Reporter Editorial

“If Bishop Robert W. Finn wanted today to volunteer at a parish in the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese to teach a religious education class or chaperone a parish youth group to World Youth Day, he couldn’t do it. Convicted of a misdemeanor charge of failure to report suspected child abuse, Finn wouldn’t pass the background check necessary to work with young people in the Catholic church.

“That is, he could not serve in those positions if he were just a layman, deacon or priest. But he is a bishop, and that makes all the difference. And he can, apparently, do anything he wants under church law.

“There are two issues at play here: the governance of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese and the integrity of the U.S. bishops as a national conference …”

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Defying Canon and Civil Laws, Diocese Failed to Stop a Priest / The New York Times

Defying Canon and Civil Laws, Diocese Failed to Stop a Priest

After Father Ratigan was arrested, Bishop Finn met with his priests. Asked why Father Ratigan was not removed earlier, the bishop replied, according to the testimony, that he had wanted ‘to save Father Ratigan’s priesthood’ and that he had understood that Father Ratigan’s problem was “only pornography.” By Laurie Goodstein, The New York Time

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