Founder, board of Vatican women’s magazine quit

Lucetta Scaraffia, editor in chief of "Women Church World" a monthly magazine distributed alongside the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, poses in her house in Rome. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis, File)Lucetta Scaraffia, editor in chief of "Women Church World" a monthly magazine distributed alongside the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, poses in her house in Rome. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis, File)

Editor's note: A few weeks ago before this latest development, Inside the Vatican host Colleen Dulle interviewed the founder of the Vatican's women's magazine. You can listen to the interview below: 

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — The founder and all-female editorial board of the Vatican’s women’s magazine have quit after what they say was a Vatican campaign to discredit them and put them “under the direct control of men,” that only increased after they denounced the sexual abuse of nuns by clergy.

The editorial committee of “Women Church World,” a monthly glossy published alongside the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, made the announcement in the planned April 1 editorial and in an open letter to Pope Francis that was provided Tuesday to The Associated Press.

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“We are throwing in the towel because we feel surrounded by a climate of distrust and progressive de-legitimization,” founder Lucetta Scaraffia wrote in the open letter.

In the editorial, she wrote: “We believe there are no longer the conditions to continue our collaboration with L’Osservatore Romano.”

The decision is a blow to Francis’ efforts to give greater decision-making roles to women at the Vatican, a pledge that has in some ways fallen flat despite increased pressures in the #MeToo era. Scaraffia had become perhaps the most prominent woman at the Holy See, even though she never drew a salary for her 7-year leadership of the magazine she founded, “Women Church World.”

Scaraffia told the AP that the decision to leave was taken after L’Osservatore’s new editor, Andrea Monda, earlier this year planned to take over as the magazine’s editor. She said he backed off after the editorial board threatened to resign and the Catholic weeklies that distribute translations of “Women Church World” in France, Spain and Latin America, told her they would stop distributing if she weren’t in charge.

“After the attempts to put us under control, came the indirect attempts to delegitimize us,” she told AP in a statement, citing other women brought in to write for L’Osservatore “with an editorial line opposed to ours.”

The effect, she said, was to “obscure our words, delegitimizing us as a part of the Holy See’s communications.”

In a statement, Monda denied having tried to weaken “Women Church World” and said that he merely tried to bolster other female voices and viewpoints on the pages of L’Osservatore. He said he always guaranteed the magazine’s autonomy, and limited himself to suggesting ideas or possible contributors.

“Seeking to avoid interference with the monthly insert, I asked for a truly free confrontation in the daily paper, not built on the mechanism of one against the other or of closed groups,” he said. “And I did so as a sign of openness and of the ‘paressia’ (freedom to speak truth) requested by Pope Francis.”

He said he took note of Scaraffia’s “free and autonomous” decision to leave, offered his thanks for her work, and pledged that the magazine would continue on “without clericalism of any sort.”

Scaraffia launched the monthly insert in 2012 and oversaw its growth into a stand-alone Vatican magazine as a voice for women, by women and about issues of interest to the entire Catholic Church. “Women Church World” had enjoyed editorial independence from L’Osservatore, even while being published under its auspices.

In the final editorial, which was sent to the printers last week but hasn’t been published, the editorial board cited L’Osservatore’s initiatives with other women contributors that they said constituted competing points of view “with the effect of pitting women against one another,” with the magazine’s editorial staff considered no longer trustworthy.

“Now it seems that a vital initiative has been reduced to silence and that there’s a return to the antiquated and arid custom of choosing women considered trustworthy from on-high, under the direct control of men,” read the open letter, signed by Scaraffia.

The departures are the latest upheaval in the Vatican’s communications operations, following the abrupt Dec. 31 resignations of the Vatican spokesman and his deputy over strategic differences with Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the dicastery for communications.

Scaraffia, a history professor and journalist, was perhaps the most high-profile woman at the Vatican, an avowed feminist who nevertheless toed the line on official doctrine. She frequently ruffled feather, though, with her lament that half of humanity — and the half most responsible for transmitting the faith to future generations — simply is invisible to the men in charge of the Catholic Church.

She stoked uproar in February when, on the pages of the magazine, she denounced the sexual abuse of nuns by clergy and the resulting scandal of religious sisters having abortions or giving birth to children who are not recognized by their fathers.

The article prompted Francis to subsequently acknowledge, for the first time , that it was a problem and that he was committed to doing something about it.

Prior to that issue, the March 2018 issue was perhaps its boldest, denouncing the servitude of religious sisters who work for next to nothing to cook and clean for bishops and cardinals. The issue raised eyebrows for sure, but Francis himself had raised the very same issue only a few months before.

The articles on the religious sisters struck a chord globally, giving voice to suffering that has long been silenced because of nuns’ vows of obedience, their ingrained deference to clergy, second-class status in the church and fear of shame, scandal and reprisal.

It remains unclear what the future will bring for the magazine internationally. The Spanish editions are published and distributed in Spain and parts of Latin America by the Catholic publication Vida Nueva; the French edition is published as an insert to La Vie, a Catholic weekly.

Circulation of the Italian magazine is estimated at around 12,000, plus its online viewership.

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This version corrects the lead quote involving “throwing in the towel” to note that it is from the open letter to the pope, not the editorial.

Listen to America Media's interview with Lucetta Scaraffia on Inside the Vatican.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
jason kohl
6 months 3 weeks ago

I think what you are seeing is the effects of the OVER feminization of American society as a whole. The whole me too movement has gone too far. What I mean, is that women have an amazing array of talents to be able to do anything, but to only get the job or to be recognized simply because you are a women, I think is degrading and bad for women. I think everyone is getting tired of the “special” treatment and we are seeing the early effects of it. Treat women for who they are, created in the image and likeness of God, who are amazing people with wonderful gifts and talents and do not polarize them.

Ellen B
6 months 3 weeks ago

I would love to ignore your comment, but it's so over the top I can't. How is this the "over feminization of American society"? What does that even mean in relation to this article?

Nora Bolcon
6 months 3 weeks ago

Yeah! So when a women points out that nuns should not have been raped by priests and bishops and forced to abort their unborn children she is really just being a me too feminist. How dare she expect that her newspaper not be intentionally manipulated so as to lose all of it's integrity by men who should have no say over its content in the first place.

With Catholics like you, there will certainly be no decrease to child, seminarian, and nuns being sexually raped and assaulted in our future! And maybe you can inspire more bishops to have their nun rape victims abort as often as possible.

Sometimes I read these comments by certain people and I just want to throw up.

Valerie Finnigan
6 months 3 weeks ago

The Me Too movement is made of women and, yes, some men detailing their experiences and vocally opposing their sexual exploitation. Nobody's asking for "special" treatment.

Elena Di Benedetto
6 months 3 weeks ago

Sad. So so sad.

Crystal Watson
6 months 3 weeks ago

So much for increasing women's role at the Vatican and in the church. Can't imagine why women are leaving this church in droves :(

Nora Bolcon
6 months 3 weeks ago

Time for revolution people! Either do something real or stop complaining! I am ready to fight for change how many of you are willing to give your personal time to really protest in front of and inside of our parish halls and churches. How many are willing to put our names to petitions to have real change like lay people being trained to run our priestless parishes instead of deacons which only creates more misogyny. How many are willing to do what even this women would not do and Demand Same Treatment and Same Sacraments as men in our church now! This is what Christ commanded in the Gospels - and it is half the greatest commandment to treat all the same. This leaves no room for sexism, racism, ethnic or wealth disparity. None - Time to get real!

Crystal Watson
6 months 3 weeks ago

Catholics have no power in their church. People have protested for decades but nothing changes. I can only think of 2 things that might work .... a large enough group pf Catholics withholding all money, or a large enough group of priests striking, until there is actual change. Those things won't happen. Most Catholics don't care enough about the church treating women and gay people like poop to protest. My God, most don't even care enough about children being raped to protest. And most priests care more about keeping their jobs than they do about changing what's wrong - the ones who have sttod up for us have been marginalized like Fr. Tom Doyle or excommunicated and fired like Fr. Roy Bourgeois.

Michael Cardinale
6 months 3 weeks ago

Roy Bourgeois automatically excommunicated himself by attending a woman's "ordination" to the priesthood and then refused to recant. The rest followed. Fr. Doyle did risk his vocation by standing up for sex abuse victims, but I don't feel overly sorry for him, as he also aligned himself with slanderers like SNAP, whose main agenda was to destroy the Church. As a PS, I understand the occurrence of inadvertent verbal profanity by a Catholic; however, while written may be forgivable, it is not excusable.

Crystal Watson
6 months 3 weeks ago

Right, the good old auto-anathema. Interesting that you can get excommunicated for recognizing women have a right to be priests, but not for raping children.

Michael Cardinale
6 months 3 weeks ago

It's a technicality for his actions, not for what he said. His failure to recant is what did him in, as has unrepentance led to laicization of pedophiles.

Nora Bolcon
6 months 2 weeks ago

Actually, I have met quite a few women and men who do care and seem willing to protest but too many are afraid to go it alone or with only a few people. They also can't see a place of leverage or vulnerability in the current misogyny to fight constructively against it and make a quick difference.

The deaconate is currently being used to try to normalize married priests, and they intend, in many diocese, to shove them at parishes that are priestless or will be priestless soon. However, since there are no laws currently forbidding trained lay women from baptizing, officiating at weddings and funerals, leading and preaching at Eucharistic Celebrations with previously consecrated hosts, and even reflecting (preaching) at masses just like deacons do, this is an optimum time to demand, parish by parish, an end to the permanent deaconate in Catholicism, or to at least demand, of individual bishops, by their various parishes, that the parishioners be allowed to vote on who should be trained to lead. We can demand the right to vote on whether our parishes are led, and the allowable sacramental ministries of baptism, etc. be given to lay women and men instead of deacons.

Many parishes not only do not grow when deacons are pushed on them but they often decrease as deacons, due to the clericalism innate within needless ordination, inspire anger when lay people are pushed aside, often from liturgical ministries they have enjoyed for years, to make room for a new deacon.

However, if parishes could choose to have lay women and men trained instead (and this has been going on in South American parishes due to their not being able to afford deacons, for decades, already, and with the knowledge and the blessing of their bishops) then the people who train can take on different roles that deacons used to do and they would likely be people who are from the parish that they are serving. Some people could be baptizers, others reflectors, others leaders of Eucharistic Celebrations with previously consecrated hosts, others could preside at weddings or funerals. South American parishes that have had lay people do these ministries have often been more active because of this set up, and this makes stronger parishes. Meanwhile we place, at least in some of these parishes, a view of women in sacramental robes and roles, and normalize that view, the view of justice, rather than increase the view of greater misogyny which comes with continually allowing married male deacons these ministries. If these protest and demands were to become common then that would be a strong message to our leaders that we may not be willing to accept married male priests unless women are being ordained priests equally.

It is much easier to protest what bishops can change here and now and work on real equality and demands of equal sacraments and priesthood rather than push and waste time on trying to get female deacons ordained from a pope who dangles this no authority position in front of women like a carrot, knowing it will only be a new cage with a new name.

Barbara Knorr
6 months 3 weeks ago

I agree with your position, but the flesh is old and weak. I fear the Church will continue to weaken and use any guise to keep males in power. When the last celibate priest, married priest, divorced priest leaves this planet, perhaps, the voice of the Spirit will finally prevail.

Jacqueline Baligian
6 months 3 weeks ago

Right on, Nora!

Ellen B
6 months 3 weeks ago

It's a shame that once again a large swath of the people in power in the Catholic church hierarchy are using their positions to silence any criticism. With child abuse, they used NDA's, payoffs & shame. With abuse of women, they use their traditional powers over them. That the anti-abortion crowd isn't up in arms about nuns being forced to have abortions & support the institutions that exposed this is sadly, not as shocking as it should be.

Nora Bolcon
6 months 3 weeks ago

Yeah I know . . Where are all those pro lifers? I guess bishop's embryos aren't really human. Just like bishops raping nuns isn't really rape.

Michael Cardinale
6 months 3 weeks ago

It strikes me as being unseemly to be up in arms against abortion before being up in arms against the rapes. (In any case, being anti-abortion is focused mainly on fighting legalization and funding, and on helping the mothers, who need protection, comfort, assurance, aid, etc. In the cases above, this would play out as protecting the nuns from coerced abortions. )

Mister Mckee
6 months 3 weeks ago

"Scaraffia, a history professor and journalist, was perhaps the most high-profile woman at the Vatican, an avowed feminist who NEVERTHELESS toed the line on official doctrine."
And this is amazing, because....?
She should have stayed on to show the men indresses that her cojones are bigger than theirs - and as a permanent thorn in their sides until they fired her!
Link to the actual magazine here:
http://www.osservatoreromano.va/en/section/women-church-world
And the March 2018 edition referenced in this article:
http://www.osservatoreromano.va/en/supplement/women-and-work

Phillip Stone
6 months 2 weeks ago

A bunch of women trying to get power in the government and bureaucracy of the Roman church fail and resign. Tant pis.
We need more people lusting for power? Nup.
There will be improvement when less power is concentrated in what they like to think of as the leadership of the church.

The whole inheritance of the European historical process of governance is an abomination - implementing imperial or regal or aristocratic or dictatorial rule is inappropriate and that said, does not imply that I want democracy, just another tyranny, tyranny of the majority. Needless to say, I hold no brief for matriarchy and will not be fooled by the mantra of Mother Church.

Christ is our King and we are led by the Holy Spirit to do the will of the Father. Virgin Mary, mother of God, is our Queen.
Long past time that the people of God developed a method of organisation superior to the way of all flesh but much more like clerks and secretaries within departments like a civil service with very low status, servants of the Gospel not rulers of God's people..

The top apostolic successor is not our father, and neither are the men annointed as ministers of the sacraments, so I advocate new titles as well.

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