The all-female staff of the Vatican newspaper’s monthly magazine on women’s issues have resigned en masse, saying a new male editor was trying limit their autonomy and put them “under direct male control”.
Women Church World, which is published alongside the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, has run a series of controversial stories, including on the sexual abuse of nuns by priests.
And Lucia Scaraffia, who started the magazine seven years ago, has called for a Vatican commission to investigate the sexual abuse of women in the Catholic Church.
In an open letter to Pope Francis, she said the 11 women who resigned felt they were being “reduced to silence”, and she denounced an attempt to “return to the antiquated and arid custom of decisions from above, under direct male control”.
“We are throwing in the towel because we feel surrounded by a climate of distrust and progressive de-legitimisation,” Scaraffia wrote.
The women will also explain their decision to quit in an editorial next month.
Copies of it and the letter were made available to Reuters by one of the staff members on Tuesday (local time).
In the editorial, Scaraffia lamented what she said was an attempt to return to the selection of women “who assure obedience, renouncing any possibility of opening a true, free and courageous dialogue”.
The decision is a blow to Pope Francis’s 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.
It also follows the recent conviction one of the Church’s most senior clerics, Australian Cardinal George Pell, for the sexual abuse of two choir boys.
In a statement, Andrea Monda, who became editor of newspaper L’Osservatore Romano three months ago, denied Scaraffia’s accusations.
He said he had guaranteed the women “the same total autonomy and same total freedom” the magazine had previously enjoyed and had only made some suggestions about story ideas and people to involve in them.
Monda, a layman, said he had confirmed the magazine’s budget despite cost cutting elsewhere in the Vatican’s media operations.
He rejected accusations he was seeking a return to “self-referential clericalism”, and said Women Church World would continue to be published.
The resignations were the latest in more than a year of upheavals in the Vatican’s communications department.
The previous editor of the Vatican newspaper, Giovanni Maria Vian, a close friend of Scaraffia, was abruptly replaced by Monda in mid-December.
The same reshuffle of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications saw Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, a friend of Pope Francis, named editorial director of all Vatican communications.
On December 31, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke, an American, and his Spanish deputy, Paloma Garcia Ovejero, resigned over disagreements on overall communications strategy.
Monsignor Dario Vigano resigned as overall head of Vatican communications in March after a scandal over a doctored letter he distributed to journalists.