A group of lay Catholic women have written an open letter to Pope Francis, demanding that he answer the questions raised by the recent allegations in the letter from former U.S. nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.
In the opening of their letter, the women recall a quote from Pope Francis on the role of women in the Church: “You have said that you seek ‘a more incisive female presence in the Church’ and that ‘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.’”
“We write to you, Holy Father, to pose questions that need answers,” the letter notes.
Specifically, they are seeking answers to the questions raised in Archbishop Vigano’s recent letter, which accused Pope Francis and other members of the Church hierarchy of covering up sexual-abuse allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
The women’s questions for Pope Francis include if or when he was made aware of any sanctions allegedly placed on then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI and whether he brought McCarrick back into public ministry despite knowing about these sanctions and accusations.
Asked these questions by journalists on his return flight from the recent World Meeting of Families in Ireland, Pope Francis responded by saying that he “will not say a single word on this” and instead encouraged journalists to study the statement themselves and draw their own conclusions.
“To your hurting flock, Pope Francis, your words are inadequate,” the signers of the letter say, addressing the Pope’s response. “They sting, reminiscent of the clericalism you so recently condemned. We need leadership, truth and transparency. We, your flock, deserve your answers now.”
“Please do not turn from us,” they ask in the letter. “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.”
The women who have signed the letter serve in a variety of positions and vocations within the Church, in both private and public life. They describe themselves as “deeply committed to our faith and profoundly grateful for Church teachings, the sacraments, and the many good bishops and priests who have blessed our lives.”
They are “wives, mothers, single women, consecrated women and religious sisters. We are the mothers and sisters of your priests, seminarians, future priests and religious. We are the Church’s lay leaders and the mothers of the next generation. We are professors in your seminaries and leaders in Catholic chanceries and institutions. We are theologians, evangelists, missionaries and founders of Catholic apostolates.”
“In short, we are the Church, every bit as much as the cardinals and bishops around you,” they say. The letter is signed, “With love for Christ and the Church.”
Some prominent signers of the letter include Mary Rice Hasson, the Kate O’Beirne Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center; professor Janet Smith, the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary; Leah Darrow, a Catholic speaker, author and evangelist; Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow at The Catholic Association; Kathryn Jean Lopez, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute; and Obianuju Ekeocha, the founder and president of Culture of Life Africa.
Other signers include professors and faculty from Catholic institutions, including the University of Notre Dame, The Catholic University of America and the University of St. Thomas, as well as women who are mothers of seminarians, home-schooling mothers, business owners, philosophers and psychologists.
The letter, dated Aug. 30, is described as the personal initiative of the original signatories and was not organized or sponsored by any group or organization. It had almost 15,000 signatures as of the morning of Aug. 31.