DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Women, crushed by the crisis in the Church, beg Pope Francis to tell what he personally knew about ex-Cdl. Theodore McCarrick.
Last week, an open letter to Pope Francis appeared on Catholic Women's Forum as a "personal initiative of individual Catholic women." This letter appeared three days after the Pope refused to answer Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò's accusation that he personally knew of allegations that McCarrick preyed on young seminarians.
Archbishop Viganò alleges Pope Francis and other cardinals "turned a blind eye" to McCarrick's sexual misconduct, overturning Pope Benedict XVI's restrictions and promoting him.
Church Militant spoke with Mary Rice Hasson, director of Catholic Women's Forum, who said she wrote the letter with help from a group of friends to "reflect what many women think and feel about this." She and many others had been hearing from Catholic women, who the letter describes as "the backbone of parish work."
"Our hearts are broken, our faith tested," the letter reads. As each day passes, new scandals are revealed that touch the highest authority of the Church, leaving them "angry, betrayed and disillusioned."
"We love the Church and we love and respect the Holy Father," Hasson said. "We relate to the Holy Father as a father — we need to be able to trust that he is caring for the people of God."
In the letter, the women say they are committed to the Catholic faith and are "profoundly" grateful for the Church's teachings, sacraments and work of good bishops and priests.
Hasson said Abp. Viganò's statement and Pope Francis' refusal to answer were the "immediate motivations" to write the letter. The letter is asking for a personal response from the Pope, saying, "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."
Pope Francis' response to reporters was, "I will not say a single word on this." He noted we should "read the statement carefully and make your own judgment."
In the letter, Hasson describes the reaction Pope Francis elicited:
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. [empahsis in original]
They are imploring Pope Francis to answer questions about his personal knowledge of McCarrick. They note that these questions don't require investigations or physical evidence, "They require only your direct response, Holy Father" [empahsis in original].
First, they want to know if it is true that Pope Benedict XVI ordered McCarrick to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance. They also ask to know what Abp. Viganò told him about McCarrick.
They want to know what Pope Francis personally knew about sexual misconduct allegations against McCarrick.
Lastly, they want to know when he learned of Pope Benedict's restrictions and "did you release then-Cardinal McCarrick from any of Pope Benedict's restrictions?" [empahsis in original]
They are expecting honest answers, noting in Pope Francis' own words that an awareness of sin allows us to be committed in the journey of conversion. Hasson explained, "Just as in a family, being honest about what happened and about what needs to change is how healing begins."
"Families, who will be the source of the Church's renewal, need to know we can trust you, and thus trust the Church," the letter states.
"That trust has been sorely damaged, and as a Church, we need the truth in order to begin to repair the damage and bring healing to all who have been wounded," Hasson said.
The letter says women are the mothers of the next generation and are needed to rebuild the Church.
"We are not second-class Catholics to be brushed off while bishops and cardinals handle matters privately," it reads. "In short, we are the Church, every bit as much as the cardinals and bishops around you."
Hasson said she and the other signatories had no idea of the type of response they would get.
"We just knew that the letter expressed what we'd been hearing from women," she said. "Our prayerful hope is that they will be heard and the Holy Father will respond."
As of press time, over 31,000 people have signed the letter.