Update: Letter to Pope Francis
Dear Catholic Women,
One month ago, a small group of women signed and posted a “Letter to Pope Francis,” asking Pope Francis for answers to key questions about the abuse scandal. We had no idea then that over 46,000 Catholic women—faithful Catholic women like you—would sign that letter, or that it would be covered by media across the globe. Or that it would spark a similar letter signed by over 10,000 Catholic men. The Holy Spirit is stirring the hearts of Catholics, calling us to prayer and action.
It has been humbling and edifying to read the many emails from women sharing their personal experiences and concerns, their love for the Church, and their initiatives to help the Church address this crisis. Thank you! I would be grateful for any gift to support our ongoing work on this issue. (To support this effort, please consider contributing to the Catholic Women’s Forum here!)
So what now? I have a few updates and suggestions.
The Letter – Your Signature Counted!
- I brought the letter and signatures to the papal nuncio here in Washington, D.C. for direct delivery to the Vatican twice —after the first week, with 32,000 signatures, and again after the meeting between Pope Francis and leading U.S. bishops, with signatures from over 45,000 women.
- The nuncio responded both times, confirming that the letter and signatures were sent to the Vatican.
Has the Pope read our letter and will he reply? I don’t know. But already I have seen the power of so many Catholic women speaking up and asking for the truth.
- Numerous priests and bishops have shared with me how grateful they are for our letter—how it has encouraged their faith and strengthened their resolve to make things right and to press for greater transparency from Rome and in our dioceses.
- The letter also has unified diverse Catholic women, bringing us together in the firm conviction that healing begins with the truth.
- We are not alone. A broad spectrum of Catholic leaders, including the USCCB leadership, editors at America, Commonweal, and Crux, and several individual bishops, also has urged Pope Francis to answer these key questions.
U.S. bishops want Vatican action, but will forge ahead
- Cardinal DiNardo and several leading bishops asked Pope Francis for an “apostolic visitation” to investigate the McCarrick situation. (Only the Pope has the power to authorize the release of Vatican files and to compel bishops to cooperate in an investigation.)
- On September 29th, Archbishop Vigano released a second statement on the McCarrick cover-up and again urging the Pope and other Curial officials to be transparent about past missteps and to release relevant documents. (Some news reports suggest that the Vatican will offer “clarifications” about the Vigano allegations, nothing has yet materialized.)
- Pope Francis, so far, is unwilling to authorize an apostolic visitation.
- The USCCB leadership under Cardinal DiNardo has proposed a four-part plan to address the crisis, including an independent reporting system for bishop misconduct and a U.S. investigation into McCarrick’s case. While imperfect, these proposals are a start. I support them and hope for further positive developments at the bishops’ November meeting.
- The Pope will convene a February 2019 meeting of national bishop conference leaders to discuss the protection of minors and vulnerable adults. Though likely helpful to countries without policies to curb sexual abuse of minors, this meeting is largely irrelevant to US concerns, as the 2002 Dallas Charter radically reduced the incidence of clergy sexual abuse of minors.
- The Vatican meeting will not solve our current crisis unless it addresses the broader problem identified by several courageous bishops: the sexual misconduct (largely homosexual) by priests and bishops and the resulting corruption and cover-ups.
What can we do?
- Pray. Be holy. At heart, this is a spiritual crisis. Reform starts at home, with each of us. When the Church, as the body of Christ, is wounded we are all wounded. Pray especially for abuse victims and for priestly and episcopal fidelity. Seek God in prayer, and drink deeply of his grace in the Eucharist and the Sacraments. Recommit to love Jesus more and to seek holiness.
- Be more faithful to the Church, not less. Encourage others to persevere too. Remember that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church and the Church is holy because He is holy. The rest of us are sinners needing God’s grace, which comes to us principally through the Church. “Lord, to whom shall we go?” (John 6:68-69).
- Contact your bishop (respectfully!)
- Encourage your bishop to support calls for an apostolic visitor. (The Pope has changed his mind before, in a similar situation in Chile, so we pray for he for him to approve a US investigation.)
- Support Cardinal DiNardo and the USCCB proposal to address the crisis. Ask your bishop to support them too.
- Ask your bishop to open diocesan files to an independent forensic audit. Every diocese needs to be transparent, to get out in front of any issues, and invite laity to help in this effort.
- Offer to help. Discern how you can help reform efforts, whether through prayer and sacrifice, victim support, administrative assistance, expert advice, investigative efforts, practical support for priests, disseminating information, or simply being a “squeaky wheel” insisting on real results.
- Urge your priests to intensify their priestly ministry by offering more opportunities for adoration, confession, and Mass.
- As a young mom, my vocation to motherhood grew as I was stretched by my children’s needs. I had to give more and depend on God in the face of my own limitations. A wise priest recently suggested that priests need the same—the more they exercise their priestly vocation, the more they are strengthened in it. We need the sacraments, which only our priests can offer, in order to become holy. And we need our priests to be holy too. It all works together.
- Many lay initiatives are in the formative stages—More info to come in coming weeks! For starters, I will host a Catholic Women’s Forum event on “The Future of the Church” on November 29th in Washington, DC.
Please feel free to reach out to me directly – I welcome your thoughts.
In all things, let us love God with greater humility and fidelity, and pray together for the Holy Father, our bishops, priests, and all the Church.
Thank you again for your faith and witness!
Mary Rice Hasson
Director, Catholic Women’s Forum