Editors of Vatican women’s magazine quit after exposing abuse of nuns and allege male campaign to silence them
The entire board of a Vatican women’s magazine that blew the whistle on the sexual abuse of nuns by Catholic priests resigned en masse on Tuesday, citing editorial interference.
The magazine, Women Church World, said last month that the abuse of nuns around the world had led to many having to have abortions or giving birth to children who were not recognised by the priests who fathered them.
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It prompted a startling admission a few days later from Pope Francis, who said that the sexual abuse of nuns by priests was a problem and recounted one case in which nuns had been kept as “sex slaves” in a religious order in France.
The all-female editorial team of the magazine, which is linked to L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s official newspaper, stepped down over what they said were efforts to stifle their reporting and discredit their work.
"We are throwing in the towel because we feel surrounded by a climate of distrust and progressive de-legitimisation," wrote Lucetta Scaraffia, the founder of the magazine and a professor of history at La Sapienza University in Rome.
She accused Andrea Monda, the editor of the Vatican daily, of trying to bring in more “obedient” writers prepared to bow to the Holy See’s male-dominated agenda.
The effect was to “pit women against each other.”
"They are returning to the practice of selecting women who ensure obedience," she said.
"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.”
The Vatican put out a long statement in which Mr Monda denied the accusations made against him.
He said he had given the editorial team “total autonomy and total freedom” and denied interfering “in any way” in decisions taken by the journalists.
“I did not, in any way, select anybody, be they a man or a woman, with the criteria of requesting obedience,” he said.
The magazine, which was founded seven years ago and is published in Italian, French, Spanish and English, would continue to be published, he said.
The February issue of the magazine said that nuns who are sexually preyed on by priests often do not report their treatment because they are afraid of retaliation.
Reports of nuns being raped or abused by priests in Africa had been sent to the Vatican as far back as the 1990s, but nothing had been done, the magazine said.
“If the Church continues to close its eyes to the scandal — made even worse by the fact that abuse of women brings about procreation and is therefore at the origin of forced abortions and children who aren’t recognised by priests — the condition of oppression of women in the Church will never change," Prof Scaraffia wrote.
The magazine first came to mainstream attention with an edition last year in which it denounced the way in which nuns in the Catholic Church are often treated as domestic servants by bishops and cardinals.
Nuns cook, clean and wash for their male counterparts for next to no pay and with little appreciation, the magazine said. Such treatment was common knowledge within the Church but nuns did not have the confidence or courage to denounce it. Many come from poor backgrounds and have a in-built deference to male clergy.
Priests were “everything” in the Church while sisters amounted to “nothing”, one nun was quoted as saying.