March 26, 2019; Associated Press
At a time when the Catholic Church is reeling and responding to claims of abuse worldwide, another blow to the male-dominated faith hit home this week. Founder and editor Lucetta Scaraffia and her entire female editorial board quit a monthly Vatican women’s magazine, Donne Chiesa Mondo (Women Church World), that has drawn international attention for exposing the abuse of nuns within the church.
In a letter of resignation to Pope Francis, Lucetta Scaraffia, the founder and editor of Women Church World, wrote that the editorial board members, all women, felt in the last few months, that a hierarchy dominated by men was marginalizing them and did not value their work.
“It seems to us that a vital initiative is being reduced to silence, to return to the antiquated and arid method of the top-down selection, under direct male control, of women who are perceived as being reliable,” Ms. Scaraffia wrote in the letter, dated March 21, which was provided to the New York Times. Instead of promoting fruitful discussion, the Vatican preferred to return to a “clerical self-referential” mode, she wrote.
Begun as an independent monthly insert in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano under Pope Benedict XVI and continued under Pope Francis, Women Church World covered everything from theological essays to stories about food and cooking. But it captured broad attention with its recent stories about clerical abuse of nuns. Scaraffia said that the church had “never accepted responsibility” and tried to keep the problem hidden.
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Here now enters new leadership for L’Osservatore Romano. With the appointment of Andrea Monda as its new director in December 2018, Scaraffia points to changes, including his joining her editorial meetings and publishing articles in L’Osservatore Romano that were focused on women’s issues, but with a different editorial perspective. Scaraffia claims she was being pressured. Monda denies anything but making suggestions.
But the Vatican remains a male-dominated world, even as its communications arm has gone through a year of staffing changes and personnel upheaval.
In a statement Tuesday, Monda, who was named last year as the top editor of L’Osservatore Romano, said Scaraffia’s decision had been “free and autonomous.” He did not mention the other resignations. He said that the monthly women’s magazine, which is published as an insert with L’Osservatore Romano, was not being “disempowered.”
“In no way have I selected anyone, be it male or female, based on the criterion of obedience,” Monda said. “It is the opposite, avoiding any interference with the monthly magazine, I have supported truly free dialogue, not based on the mechanism of pitting one against the other, or of closed groups.”
What lies ahead for this groundbreaking publication? Based on press coming from the Vatican, it is unlikely that a fully woman-led, independent press corps for this magazine will reemerge any time soon.—Carole Levine