Letter to Pope Francis from Catholic Women

47,305 signatures

NOTE: This letter reflects the personal initiative of the individual Catholic women signing this letter, and is not sponsored by any group or organization.

August 30, 2018

His Holiness, Pope Francis
Vatican City

Your Holiness: 

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.

We are Catholic women 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.

Our hearts are broken, our faith tested, by the escalating crisis engulfing our beloved Church. We are angry, betrayed and disillusioned. The pain and suffering of the victims never ends, as each news cycle brings more horrific revelations of sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, cover-ups, and deceit—even at the Church’s highest levels.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s recent statement impels us to reach out to you directly for answers. 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?

These are devastating allegations. As USCCB President Cardinal Daniel D. DiNardo recently stated, “The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence.” We agree.

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.

Specifically, we humbly implore you to answer the following questions, as the answers are surely known to you. 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?

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.

Please do not keep us at arm’s length on these questions. We are faithful daughters of the Church who need the truth so we can help rebuild. We are not second-class Catholics to be brushed off while bishops and cardinals handle matters privately. We have a right to know. We have a right to your answers.

We 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.

We are the people who sacrifice to fund the Church’s good work.

We are the backbone of Catholic parishes, schools, and dioceses.

We are the hands, the feet, and the heart of the Church.

In short, we are the Church, every bit as much as the cardinals and bishops around you.


Holy Father, we are the “incisive presence” the Church needs, and we need your answers.


With love for Christ and the Church,

*affiliations for identification purposes only


Mary Rice Hasson, JD

Kate O'Beirne Fellow in Catholic Studies
Director, Catholic Women’s Forum
Ethics and Public Policy Center

Montse Alvarado

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

Sarah Bartel, PhD

Author, Speaker, Radio Show Host

Kari Beckman

Executive Director and Founder, Regina Caeli K-12 Programs
Executive Director and Founder, Veritatis Splendor Consortiums

Mary Beth Bonacci

Catholic Author and Speaker
Founder of Real Love, Inc.

Mary Ellen Bork

Board Member, Ethics and Public Policy Center

Madeline Bradley


Pamela Bradley

Maria Buonforte

Business Owner

Anne Husted Burleigh


Marjorie Murphy Campbell, JD, LLM, JCL


Emily Stimson Chapman

Catholic writer

Grazie Christie, MD

The Catholic Assocation
Senior policy advisor

Margot Cleveland

Adjunct Instructor
University of Notre Dame

Teresa S. Collett

Professor of Law
University of St. Thomas

Marilyn E. Coors, PhD

Associate Professor
Center for Bioethics and Humanities
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Lisa Cotter

Author, Evangelist

Maria Cunningham

Mother, Teacher

Leah Darrow

Evangelist, Catholic author/speaker

Alexandra DeSanctis

Staff writer
National Review

Catherine A. Dowling, MD

University of Michigan

Obianuju Ekeocha

Founder & President, Culture of Life Africa

Theresa H Farnan, PhD


Maureen Ferguson

The Catholic Association

Jennifer Fulwiler

Radio Host and Author

Carrie Gress, PhD

Author and Philosopher
Pontifex University

Arina Grossu


Ann Gundlach

Couple to Couple Family League
Editor, Family Foundations

Kimberly Hahn

Councilwoman-at-Large, Steubenville, OH

Mary Hallan FioRito

Cardinal Francis George Fellow in Catholic Studies
Ethics and Public Policy Center

Dr. Patricia Cooney Hathaway

Professor of Spirituality and Systematic Theology
Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI

Mary Healy

Professor of Sacred Scripture
Sacred Heart Major Seminary

Michele Hill

Business owner

Meg Kilgannon, FCP

Creighton Model Natural Family Planning
Parish NFP Coordinator

Angela Lanfranchi, MD, FACS

Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery
Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, NJ

Linda Loch

Teacher, Hospital Ministry

Kathryn Jean Lopez

Senior Fellow
National Review Institute

Ashley McGuire

The Catholic Association

Melissa Moschella, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Philosophy
The Catholic University of America

Suzanne Mulrain

PhD candidate
John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies

Kathleen Mumma

Eva Muntean

Co-Chair, Walk for Life West Coast

Mary Anne Novak

Catholic Author

Carol Nyce

Mother of Seminarian
Former parish Director of Religious Education
Founding member, ParentAndChild

Mary O’Callaghan, PhD


Catherine R. Pakaluk, PhD

Assistant Professor of Social Research and Economic Thought
The Catholic University of America

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer

Legal Advisor
The Catholic Assocation Foundation

Natalie Robertson

Ethics and Public Policy Center

Kathryn Rombs, PhD

University of Dallas
Founder, Catholic Mother's Retreat

Deborah Savage, PhD

Professor of Philosophy and Theology
St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity

Elizabeth R. Schiltz

John D. Herrick Professor of Law
Co-Director, Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought
Law and Public Policy, University of St. Thomas School of Law

Susan Selner-Wright, PhD

Associate Professor of Philosophy
Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary

Luma Simms

Ethics and Public Policy Center

Professor Janet E. Smith

Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics
Sacred Heart Major Seminary
Detroit, MI

Teresa Tomeo

Syndicated Catholic Talk Show Host

Hilary Towers

Psychologist and Author

Kathryn Vestermark

Professor of Theology

Kelly Wahlquist

President & CEO of WINE: Women In the New Evangelization

Jeanne White

Mother and businesswoman

Luanne D. Zurlo

Executive Director
Seton Education Partners

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