More than 1,000 Catholic women in the laity signed a letter Thursday to Pope Francis demanding his response to allegations that he protected disgraced former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, keeping him in his title while knowing about accusations of sexual assault and abuse.
The letter was published by the Catholic Women’s Forum, an international organization based in Washington, D.C., that advocates for women to play a larger role in the ethics and public policy of the church.
The 1,071 signatures included members of The Catholic Association, teachers, academics, journalists and individuals, among others.
The letter addresses the pope’s refusal on Sunday to address accusations raised by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, in a bombshell letter, that the pontiff sheltered a culture of sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church. In particular, that in 2013 Archbishop Vigano told the pope about sexual assault allegations against Mr. McCarrick.
“I will not say a single word about this,” the pope told reporters aboard the papal plane on Sunday, en route from his visit in Dublin back to Rome. “I believe the statement speaks for itself. And you have the sufficient journalistic ability to make your conclusions. It’s an act of trust.”
Mr. McCarrick, the former cardinal of the archdiocese in D.C., resigned in July and was later stripped of his title after allegations detailing decades of sexual abuse.
In the letter released by the Catholic Women, they implore the pope to answer directly to the allegations.
“Several crucial questions raised by Archbishop Vigano’s statement, however, require neither lengthy investigations nor physical evidence. They require only your direct response, Holy Father,” they wrote. “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.”
The questions included:
• Is this true? What did Archbishop Vigano 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?
The letter follows increased calls for accountability in the church following the release of an almost 900-page Pennsylvania Grand Jury investigation into sexual abuse by priests within the six archdioceses of that state and complicity and coverup of leaders.
The report raises questions of how much leaders in the Vatican knew of the ongoing abuse. Since the publication of the report, prominent Catholics have called for Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, to step down.
Cardinal Wuerl is the former archbishop of the Pittsburgh Dioceses and dealt with at least 25 of the 99 accused priests identified in the report.
In a statement following publication of the report, Cardinal Wuerl said he acted “with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse.”
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