The all-female editorial team behind the Vatican's women's magazine have resigned over what they describe as attempts to stifle their reporting and bring in more "obedient" journalists, its founder said Tuesday. "We are throwing in the towel because we feel surrounded by a climate of distrust and progressive de-legitimisation," Woman Church World founder Lucetta Scaraffia wrote in an editorial published by Italian religious news blog Il Sismografo.
The magazine -- which has not shied away from tackling hard-hitting issues such as the sexual abuse of nuns by priests -- began life seven years ago as an insert and is published along with the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano newspaper. Scaraffia said the new editor of L'Osservatore, Andrea Monda, was attempting to "weaken" the monthly by bringing in external collaborators in a bid to control the editorial line.
"They are returning to the practice of selecting women who ensure obedience... (and) giving up that 'parresia' (freedom to speak freely) that Pope Francis so often seeks," she said. Monda released a statement denying that he had selected any collaborators, female or male, based on their obedience, and saying Woman Church World would continue.
In an open letter to the pope, Scaraffia defended the monthly, saying stories that may have raised hackles in the Vatican had only been covered after the story had already broken and the facts were in the public domain. "Now it seems a vital initiative has been reduced to silence, and we return to the antiquated and barren custom of selecting, under direct male control, those women considered trustworthy," she added.
Last month, Pope Francis had opened a landmark sex abuse prevention summit by offering senior Catholic leaders 21 proposals to punish predators and keep children safe, warning that the faithful are demanding concrete action and not just words. The tone for the high stakes, four-day summit was set at the start, with victims from five continents --- Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and North America --- telling the bishops of the trauma of their abuse and the additional pain the church’s indifference caused them.
Francis, the first Latin American pope, called the summit after he himself botched a well-known sex abuse cover-up case in Chile last year and the scandal reignited in the US.
With his own papacy and the Catholic hierarchy at large facing a credibility crisis, Francis has now vowed to chart a new course and is bringing the rest of the church leadership along with him. The summit was meant as a tutorial for church leaders around the globe to learn the importance of preventing sex abuse in their churches, tending to victims and investigating the crimes when they occur.