PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE SIGNING THE LETTER TO POPE FRANCIS FROM CATHOLIC WOMEN

Catholic Women Speak supports a broad and inclusive church that can accommodate a wide spectrum of Catholic beliefs and practices. Our members represent the diversity of the Catholic tradition in its many forms of expression, and we understand that women around the world interpret and apply church teaching differently in different cultures, social contexts and personal situations. 

We fully support campaigns to demand the release of documents and urgent action relating to ALL charges of priestly sexual abuse and hierarchical cover-ups. This includes the outrageous case of Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar in India, who remains in office despite reports to police and senior church authorities by a nun that the bishop raped and repeatedly sexually assaulted her. We urge Pope Francis to introduce a more robust, transparent and determined campaign to tackle the sex abuse crisis and to bring to justice all those who abused or colluded in abuse, and indeed who continue to do so.

However, while individual CWS members might choose to sign the “Letter to Pope Francis from Catholic Women” currently circulating on websites and social media, we dissociate CWS as a group from that letter. The website hosting the letter offers no background information with regard to its origins or authors, and there is a disclaimer at the beginning which reads: “This letter reflects the personal initiative of the individual Catholic women signing this letter, and is not sponsored by any group or organization.”

Our research reveals that the letter originates from and is being promoted by a conservative alliance of American Catholics. We believe that those who sign it have a right to know this. It was initiated by the US-based Catholic Women’s Forum and the URL reveals that it is posted on their website. The Catholic Women’s Forum comes under the auspices of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, which describes its mission as “Defending American Ideals”. The letter is being promoted by EWTN. In an EWTN interview in the link here you can hear Dr Janet Smith (one of the sources behind the letter) attributing the abuse crisis to “the presence of active homosexuals in the priesthood”, and well-known Catholic journalist Alexandra DeSanctis defending Archbishop Viganò as “a very credible person”. You can read Dr Smith associating the abuse crisis with homosexual networks in this article on Lifesite News.

The letter demands a response from Pope Francis to claims made by Archbishop Viganò that in 2013 he warned Pope Francis about sexual abuse charges against the then Cardinal McCarrick and about the restrictions previously imposed upon the Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI. There is now abundant evidence that, if any such restrictions were imposed, Pope Benedict himself did not uphold them, and Archbishop Viganò was seen publicly embracing and praising Cardinal McCarrick in 2012.

We support Pope Francis in his struggle to bring about a more pastorally sensitive and inclusive ethos in the Church by nurturing qualities of compassion, tenderness and mercy, and by resisting the doctrinal absolutism that led to what he himself has described as an “obsession” with issues of sexuality and reproduction. In his passionate commitment to social justice, in his attentiveness to the voices of the poorest and most marginalised peoples, and in his care for the environment, we believe that he is the best available leader for the Church in these troubled times. We pray for his deepening and widening ability to listen to and learn from the voices of ordinary people, especially victims and survivors of abuse, and of course, women.

We are publishing this information here—with links to websites that we would not normally link to—so that if people choose to sign this letter they know what they are signing. People have a right to know the originating context of the letter, and we question why one has to search so diligently to discover this information which we suspect would be of considerable concern to many who have signed.

Please feel free to share this widely.