Archive for category church reform

In closing Catholic News Service, U.S. bishops undermine their pastoral work / National Catholic Reporter

So many of the Catholic media outlets that are opposed to Francis and Vatican II exist only to promote their views, not to report, write, edit and publish Catholic news, and the truth as we can best ascertain it.

By David Gibson, National Catholic Reporter

“That Catholic News Service was the first to report on its own demise was both a tribute to the legacy of the 102-year-old outlet’s editorial independence and perverse proof of what a bone-headed decision the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops made in opting to gut CNS.

“The May 4 announcement that effectively shutters CNS’ domestic operations eliminates a rare source of credibility for the hierarchy, a critical tool for reliably informing American Catholics about the church beyond their own diocese, and a counterwitness to the proliferation of ideologically driven Catholic media platforms that are driving the church apart, and regular Catholics around the bend — often right out of Catholicism.

“According to the news service, staffers were told that the core operations in Washington and New York were to be shuttered and that only the Vatican bureau would be retained. (CNS also wrote that USCCB Publishing, which holds the rights to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the U.S. Adult Catechism and many other books, will cease its publishing operations at the end of 2022.) How even that isolated remnant in Rome can actually work, or whether it will survive, remains to be seen, as they say in television.”

By David Gibson, National Catholic Reporter — Read more ...

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Ministry & Governance: What might ‘Praedicate Evangelium’ have started / Commonweal

Gianfranco Ghirlando {Pontifical Gregorian University emeritus professor of canon law) made this striking change even clearer at a March 21 press conference, saying that ‘the power of governance in the Church does not come from orders, but from one’s mission.’ Governance becomes linked to canonical mission, which one is eligible for through baptism—not from the power of orders …

By Paul Lakeland, Commonweal

“There is great rejoicing in heaven today, or at least in that little corner where Yves Congar is still toiling away. No other twentieth-century Catholic theologian was so insistent on the close connection between baptism and mission. Now that Pope Francis has made clear in his motu proprio, Praedicate evangelium, that because “the Pope, bishops and other ordained ministers are not the only evangelizers in the church,” and “any member of the faithful can preside over a dicastery,” Congar’s great work, Lay People in the Church, comes to full fruition.

“Jesuit Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlando made this striking change even clearer at a March 21 press conference, saying that “the power of governance in the Church does not come from orders, but from one’s mission.” Governance becomes linked to canonical mission, which one is eligible for through baptism—not from the power of orders, as John Paul II had said in the previous curial reform. Now, in principle, all levels of Church governance are open to any Catholic, male or female. But there are two questions to be asked about the implications of the change for the role of ordained ministry. First, what is left for ordained ministry if governance is removed from the job description? And second, how, if at all, can we reconnect ministry and governance for the good of the Church?

“Pope Francis has long wanted the ordained to give more attention to pastoral concerns and spend less time managing a complex institution like a parish or diocese. Given the growing shortage of ordained ministers, this surely makes good sense—except, of course, that just as the pope has now made clear that there is no essential connection between ordination and governance, so it is also evident that there is no essential connection between ordination and pastoral activities.”

By Paul Lakeland, Commonweal — Read more …

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Is Pope Francis prepping for doomsday in the church? I hope so. / America: The Jesuit Review

If that interpretation proves accurate to the Vatican’s intent, it would mean not only that most of the departments in the dusty but incredibly well-decorated halls of Rome can be run by women and men who aren’t priests, but that our local parishes and dioceses could. 

By Jim McDermott, America: The Jesuit Review

“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. What is the Roman Curia? And why should I care about dicasteries? Does this mean I get to go back to eating meat on Fridays? If not, why are we talking about it?

“But in the midst of the release of the reform document (which was actually a big deal for many reasons), 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.

“If that interpretation proves accurate to the Vatican’s intent, it would mean not only that most of the departments in the dusty but incredibly well-decorated halls of Rome can be run by women and men who aren’t priests, but that our local parishes and dioceses could. Your sister could potentially be put in charge of the parish where I say Mass; my aunt Kathleen or Uncle Stan could even end up running the diocese someday! (And they would be awesome.)

“If this sounds hard to believe, let’s remember that almost all of our Catholic schools are run by incredibly talented women and men who are not priests, and have been so in most cases for decades. The same is true of our Catholic social service agencies, homeless shelters and pretty much every other Catholic institution. Even some parishes are already run by “lay administrators” who effectively serve as pastors.”

By Jim McDermott, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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A Voice of the Faithful Retrospective: 20 Years of Work on Protection Our Children

Voice of the Faithful marks its 20th year in 2022 and is offering a series of articles about who we are and what we do. The following is by Patricia T. Gomez, Voice of the Faithful Trustee and Co-Chair Protection of Children Working Group.

March 28, 2022

Twenty years have passed since the public exposé of clergy sexual abuse within the Catholic Church by the Boston Globe Spotlight Team. And it is 20 years since the foundation of Voice of the Faithful and the Protection of Children Working Group in response to those revelations.

Immediate reaction to the horror of child abuse within our church spurred us into action: listening to victims’ stories, supporting victims of clergy abuse in their journey of recovery, and working to create and maintain safe environments for children and vulnerable adults in our faith communities. The Protection of Children (POC) working group continues its mission to ensure safety of children today; in the past few years members have been working on an analysis of diocesan safe environments by reviewing diocesan website postings. 

Early in the history of VOTF the POC team identified the ongoing need to raise awareness and educate adults and children on abuse prevention measures in parish communities. We worked with local and national organizations to promote abuse prevention training. Over the years POC members engaged in conversations with many abuse prevention organizations, including consultations with the chairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Review Board on dispersing prevention information and tips for parents and adults on perpetrator grooming behaviors.

We also consulted with researchers at the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center. Through these and other efforts we came to understand that, to truly protect children in our parish communities, changes must occur at the local level. To that effect, the POC team created helpful hints to aid parishes in education and awareness efforts. Our Safety Sunday project, for example, provides short tips for publication in parish bulletins, especially during the month of April, which has been designated National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Many parish safe environment coordinators have continued to utilize the resources found on our Child Protection webpages.

Maintaining safe environments in our parishes is a strong prevention measure against potential abuse, but in recent years POC members have noted a de-emphasis on this key program. This de-emphasis diverts us from the shame and horror that abuse of children occurred and persisted for so many years in our churches. Timely reminders to remain vigilant are needed. For example, the annual observance in April of National Child Abuse Prevention month in the United States should be promoted in every diocese as a reminder of the ongoing necessity to protect the children and the vulnerable among us. Does your diocese promote this annual observance?

Voice of the Faithful has been working to help ensure the safety of our children from the beginning of its mission 20 years ago.

The responses of many bishops to cases of clergy sexual abuse over the past 20 years were designed to protect the institution at the expense of sacrificing the well-being of victims of clergy abuse. But ultimately such posturing has sacrificed the image and future of the institution. Clergy sexual abuse still resonates within the Church today because the faulty structures that allowed this abuse to occur and to be covered up still exist. The fact is: the institution has been damaged. It is time for the hierarchy to be held accountable to their own mandates for safe environments and abuse prevention measures. And it is time to enforce diocesan standards of prevention and safe environments in our parishes.

What can you do? The POC team encourages you to look into abuse prevention measures posted on your diocese’s website. Are these measures comprehensive and carried out in your parish or faith community? It is time for us in the pews to evaluate diocesan child protection measures to determine whether they are lived out in local parish communities.

During this month of April, dedicated to educate and raise awareness of the need to protect children from predators in every environment, VOTF members recall our outrage at the injustice served on victims of clergy sexual abuse, their families, and communities. We recall the shame we feel at the failure of leadership to protect our children. We support the call from Hans Zollner, S.J., president of the Centre for Child Protection in Rome, for forceful implementation of changes in church law introduced by Pope Francis and his predecessors, especially the 2019 motu propio, Vos Estis Lux Mundi (America Magazine, Feb 4, 2022).

We also call for the enforcement of standards set in the U.S. bishops’ 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and the Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons. And we call for change in the faulty structures and attitudes that foment clericalism, especially the insular and authoritarian culture fostered in many dioceses.

VOTF has focused on supporting survivors, promoting parish safe environment efforts, and calling for structural change in the governance of the Church for 20 years. And our work continues!

Following the example of the VOTF Finance Working Group, the most recent work by the POC Working Group investigated how the church as institution presents its efforts to prevent abuse and responds to those abused. Over the past three years, the POC team developed a comprehensive set of questions for reviewing diocesan websites to assess efforts of bishops in every diocese. We recently completed the website review for diocesan Child Protection and Safe Environment efforts and scored performances of the 177 dioceses in the U.S. A link to the detailed findings from that review will be available shortly on the VOTF’s Child Protection webpage.

Ongoing Child Protection Efforts

Results of our review indicate the need to enhance diocesan child protection policies and safe environment measures. Actions by all are essential to keep children safe in our church communities:

  • Clearly stated, publicly available, and comprehensive diocesan guidelines for safe environments provide measurable standards that can be modeled in parishes and are essential to prevent further child abuse.
  • The USCCB can more frequently update their Charter and Norms. 
  • The USCCB National Review Board should more closely monitor compliance with the bishops’ own standards for child protection by augmenting annual audits.

VOTF will continue to monitor diocesan child protection measures on an annual basis.

Parishioners have a key role in ensuring the protection of children in our parishes. We need to work with diocesan and parish safe environment personnel to bolster child protection guidelines at the diocesan level and ensure that safety measures are carried out in their faith communities. Alive in the life of Jesus, the entire People of God can transform into a sacramental community where children, youth, and the vulnerable are nurtured and protected in safe environments.

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Pope Francis is drawing on Vatican II to radically change how the Catholic Church is governed / America: The Jesuit Review

… Gianfranco Ghirlanda, S.J., explained the changes, saying that the ‘power of governance in the church does not come from the sacrament of [Holy] Orders’ but from one’s mission. The is a huge step for an institution that has for centuries relegated governance and administration to the ordained and only gradually opened both to lay people …

America: The Jesuit Review

Pope Francis’ long-awaited reform of the Roman Curia takes a head-on approach to the crises facing the church, using the Second Vatican Council as a road map for reclaiming the church’s credibility.

One could argue Francis was elected to carry out this reform, given that it was a main subject of the cardinals’ pre-election conversations in 2013. It is only the fifth such effort to remake the Curia in the last 500 years. The last three followed Vatican II, with efforts by Paul VI in 1967 and John Paul II in 1988 preceding Pope Francis’ reform. Since then, the church has lost credibility and hemorrhaged members in wealthy Western nations where its hold was once the strongest and is now experiencing a severe shortage of priests, leaving some Catholics without access to the sacraments for up to a year at a time …

The new constitution for the Roman Curia, “Praedicate Evangelium” (“Preach the Gospel”), which was finally released March 19 after nine years of work, recognizes that in the face of the crises of abuse, vocations and credibility, the way forward is not a “smaller but purer” church but rather a broad evangelization, the road map for which is Vatican II.

By Colleen Dulle, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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Pope releases Vatican reform, gives weight to fighting abuse

In one of the major changes, it (the new reform, Praedicate Evanglium) brings the pope’s advisory commission on preventing sexual abuse into the Vatican’s powerful doctrine office which oversees the canonical investigations into abuse cases. Previously, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors existed as an ad hoc commission that reported to the pope but had no real institutional weight or power.

Associated Press

“Pope Francis released his long-awaited reform program of the Holy See bureaucracy on Saturday (Mar. 19) that envisages greater decision-making roles for the laity and gives new institutional weight to efforts to fight clerical sex abuse.

“The 54-page text, titled “Praedicate Evanglium,” or “Proclaiming the Gospel,” replaces the founding constitution “Pastor Bonus” that was penned by St. John Paul II in 1988.

“Francis was elected pope in 2013 in large part on his promise to reform the bulky and inefficient Vatican bureaucracy, which acts as the organ of central governance for the 1.3-billion strong Catholic Church. He named a Cabinet of cardinal advisers who have met periodically since his election to help him draft the changes.

“Much of the reform work has been rolled out piecemeal over the years, with offices consolidated and financial reforms issued. But the publication of the new document, for now only in Italian, finalizes the process and puts it into effect in June.”

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press — Read more …

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How Do We ‘Keep the Faith & Change the Church’?

Voice of the Faithful marks its 20th year in 2022 and is offering a series of articles about who we are and what we do. The following is by Margaret Roylance, VOTF trustee and vice president, and chair of VOTF’s Finance Working Group.

March 1, 2022

As Mary Pat Fox described last month, Voice of the Faithful grew at an astonishing rate in the first few months. Looking back, though, the amazing thing is the speed and clarity with which the mission and goals of the organization were discerned. Centered in prayer, speaking boldly and listening attentively to one another, we were journeying together in faith 20 years before Pope Francis’ Synod. That convinces me that VOTF was and still is a movement of the Spirit.

Founder Jim Muller’s motto was “Keep the Faith – Change the Church.” When our critics asked us what that meant, we said we respected the role of the hierarchy, but all the people of God must be involved in discerning where the Spirit is leading the Church. Cardinal George of Chicago responded that “Keep the Faith, Change the Church” was problematic because any change in the Church will, “unless most carefully thought out,” change the faith. He cited the example of Martin Luther. We were under suspicion as heretics by association with the leader of the Protestant Revolt! How could we keep the faith we loved, but change the Church whose leaders had covered up such tragic crimes?

Responding to our baptismal call we submitted our needs for new leadership to the Vatican, starting with a replacement for Cardinal Law in Boston. We studied Canon Law and Church governance structures and asked the Church to follow its own promises to involve the laity in governance and guidance through membership on Diocesan Finance Councils. Canon Law requires one in every diocese. We volunteered for parish pastoral and finance councils. We did not fade away as many bishops believed we would. We were in it for the long haul.

Recognizing that the abuse crisis was enabled by a pervasive culture of financial secrecy in the Church, a dedicated group of volunteers collaborated for five years to develop a fair, fact-based, reliable and repeatable system to measure financial transparency on diocesan websites. This Finance Working Group realized that all of us, even bishops, care about grades. We published our first diocesan financial transparency report in 2017 with financial scores for every diocese in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

The average score was 60% in 2017. In 2021, our fifth annual report showed an average diocesan score of 69%, and five dioceses received perfect scores of 100%. Thirty-eight dioceses received scores in the 90s. Diocesan leaders have realized that receiving a good transparency score from an independent organization like VOTF can help convince their members to provide financial support for their programs.

We are no longer called heretics, at least not by most Catholic bishops. Bishops have thanked us for our efforts and a steady stream of CFOs has asked us for assistance in increasing their transparency scores. Genuine financial transparency is on the rise in the U.S. Church. We will continue the yearly transparency reviews, and are using the same approach to look at child protection policies on diocesan websites. We have found that love of the Church, prayer, hard work, and persistence can produce results that were unimaginable in 2002, and we are just getting started!

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The sex abuse scandal is not over. The hierarchical culture still needs transformation. / National Catholic Reporter

What cannot be overstated at this point in the nearly 40-year public history of the scandal is the force that the hierarchical culture — that privileged, secretive, unaccountable, male-only construct — can apply against any movement toward radical truth-telling.

Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter

“A 2004 story in The New York Times bore the headline, all in caps: ABUSE SCANDAL HAS BEEN ENDED, TOP BISHOP SAYS.

“That top bishop was a young Wilton Gregory who, two years earlier and as head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, had herded the rest of the U.S. hierarchy through the first phase of accountability for the scandal.

“The headline was based on a Gregory declaration, made following the release of two studies of the scandal. “The terrible history recorded here today is history,” he said.

“That, of course, turned out to be more wish than reality. The finality implied in the statement has yet eluded the bishops, a point made clear by the recent searing assessment by Barbara Thorp, who took on the job of directing the Boston Archdiocese’s response to victims back in 2002, when the ecclesial world there was exploding. She claims that despite the decades of rolling disclosures and revelations that emerged from investigative reporting, grand jury reports, civil cases, the courage of countless victims and grudging reforms resulting in greater transparency, there is still much we don’t know.”

By Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Is Pope Francis’ Synod on Synodality bound to disappoint–or will it renew the church? / America: The Jesuit Review

An even more fundamental question could draw us into the content of our journeying together. Could we ask, ‘As God’s pilgrim people journeying together, how can we more effectively bring the life-giving power of the gospel to a world so desperately in need of it?’ That question would more closely correspond to the vision of Pope John XXIII and, I believe, of Pope Francis as well.

By Louis J. Cameli, America: The Jesuit Review

“Pope Francis has begun a multi-year process for the entire church, what he has called ‘a synod on synodality.’ In his talks and in the preparatory documents, he has explained the unusual term ‘synodality’ very simply by retrieving its Greek roots. ‘Synodality,’ as he describes it, is being syn-hodos, on the road together. The Holy Father wants this vision of the church being on the road or journey together to come alive.

“When I first heard about synodality, the concept held a strong appeal for me. I saw it moving the church beyond the usual and tired constructs of institution, organization and bureaucracy. I saw it underscoring an experience of church that included a greater sense of community and connection in the unfolding of history. The Second Vatican Council had captured this with its striking image of the church as the pilgrim people of God in ‘Lumen Gentium.’ So far, synodality seemed good, indeed, very good.

“Then I began to have questions and hesitations.”

By Louis J. Cameli, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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Encuentros: Learning from 50 years of synodal experience — if we’ve been paying attention / National Catholic Reporter

‘Lack of awareness about the National Encuentros of Hispanic/Latino Ministry (aka ‘Encuentros’), and the processes of ecclesial discernment and collaboration at their core, remains a major gap in ministerial formation as well as in our shared understanding of what it means to be American Catholics.”

National Catholic Reporter

“Catholics in the United States have been engaged for 50 years in groundbreaking processes of synodal discernment, dialogue and decision-making. Some readers may ask: How is this possible? Isn’t synodality a novelty, a trend distinctive of Pope Francis’ pontificate? How come I never heard of this in my parish, diocese, Catholic school, seminary or college?

“If you asked any of these or similar questions, chances are that you are unaware of some of the most exciting — and yes, synodal — conversations about ecclesial life, mission and evangelization among Hispanic Catholics, who constitute nearly 45% of the Catholic population in the U.S.

“Lack of awareness about the National Encuentros of Hispanic/Latino Ministry (aka “Encuentros”), and the processes of ecclesial discernment and collaboration at their core, remains a major gap in ministerial formation as well as in our shared understanding of what it means to be American Catholics.

“Perhaps this is the crux of the matter. For far too long, Hispanics have been perceived as ‘foreigners,’ ‘aliens,’ ‘visitors,’ and not as constitutive members of our Catholic community.

“We continue to assume that to be Euro-American, racially white and English-speaking are the essential marks of American Catholicism. In certain circles, one could add middle-class and college-educated to that list. Consequently, whatever happens in the faith communities that do not match such identifiers fails to be perceived or treated as really American Catholic.”

By Hosffman Ospino, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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