A group of prominent Catholic women wrote to Pope Francis Thursday, charging him with providing an “inadequate” response to a recently released report that accuses the pope of ignoring sanctions placed on the former archbishop of Washington, DC, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, despite knowing that McCarrick had sexually abused priests, seminarians, and minors.
The Catholic women, among them seminary professors, theologians, evangelists, and missionaries, boldly assert to Pope Francis their decision to pen a letter to him is based upon his own words regarding a desire for “a more incisive female presence in the Church.”
In their letter, the women remind the pope he said: “Women are capable of seeing things with a different angle from [men], with a different eye. Women are able to pose questions that we men are not able to understand.”
In a document released August 22, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the Vatican’s former ambassador to the United States, linked both the sexual abuse crisis in the Church as well as coverups by bishops to an extensive “homosexual network” in the Church.
In his report, Viganò charged that, as the papal nuncio to the United States, he personally informed the pope of McCarrick’s abuse on June 23, 2013 – three months after Francis was elected pope by the College of Cardinals – and yet the pope “continued to cover for [McCarrick].”
Viganò wrote that, despite knowing of McCarrick’s abusive history, Pope Francis “did not take into account the sanctions that Pope Benedict had imposed on [McCarrick] and made him his trusted counselor.”
The former ambassador has called upon Pope Francis to resign his office.
“Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s recent statement impels us to reach out to you directly for answers,” the women write to Pope Francis. “His testimony accuses you, Holy Father, and highly placed cardinals of turning a blind eye to former Cardinal McCarrick’s egregious behavior, and promoting this predator as a global spokesman and spiritual leader. Is this true?”
In their letter, the Catholic women confront Francis regarding his recent interview with reporters who questioned him about the allegations presented by Viganò in his document:
Several crucial questions raised by Archbishop Viganò’s statement, however, require neither lengthy investigations nor physical evidence. They require only your direct response, Holy Father. When reporters questioned you recently about Archbishop Viganò’s charges, you replied, “I will not say a single word on this.” You told reporters to “read the statement carefully and make your own judgment.”
To your hurting flock, Pope Francis, your words are inadequate. They sting, reminiscent of the clericalism you so recently condemned. We need leadership, truth, and transparency. We, your flock, deserve your answers now.
The women, who introduce themselves as “wives, mothers, single women, consecrated women, and religious sisters,” pose their own questions to Francis, stating:
Archbishop Viganò says that in June 2013 he conveyed to you this message (in essence) about then-Cardinal McCarrick:
“He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests and Pope Benedict ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance.”
- Is this true? What did Archbishop Viganò convey to you in June 2013 about then-Cardinal McCarrick?
- When did you learn of any allegations of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct with adults by then-Cardinal McCarrick?
- When did you learn of Pope Benedict’s restrictions on then-Cardinal McCarrick? And did you release then-Cardinal McCarrick from any of Pope Benedict’s restrictions?
The Catholic women, who also identify themselves as “the mothers and sisters of your priests, seminarians, future priests and religious,” challenge Francis to be true to his word to Catholics throughout the world:
Holy Father, in your letter to the People of God on the scandals, you wrote: “An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.” That’s why we expect you, our Holy Father, to be honest with us.
Please do not turn from us. You’ve committed yourself to changing clerical ways in the Church. That a cardinal would prey on seminarians is abhorrent. We need to know we can trust you to be honest with us about what happened. The victims who have suffered so greatly need to know they can trust you. Families, who will be the source of the Church’s renewal, need to know we can trust you, and thus trust the Church.
“Holy Father, we are the ‘incisive presence’ the Church needs, and we need your answers,” the women conclude.
The Catholic women invite others to sign the letter, which, at the time of publication, had over 4,600 signatures.
Among the women signers of the letter to Pope Francis are Mary Rise Hasson, JD, director of the Catholic Women’s Forum Ethics and Public Policy Center; Kathryn Jean Lopez, senior fellow, National Review Institute; Mary O’Callaghan, Ph.D., psychologist; Maureen Ferguson, Grazie Christie, M.D., Ashley McGuire, and Andrea Picciotti-Bayer of The Catholic Association; Obianuju Ekeocha, founder, Culture of Life Africa; Deborah Savage, Ph.D., professor of philosophy and theology, St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Janet E. Smith, professor, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, Michigan.