ROME – The former editor of the Vatican’s monthly magazine on women has said her decision earlier this month to resign along with the other members of the editorial board signals the loss of autonomy and free thought, which she expects will be replaced by yay-saying in support of the system.
Speaking to Crux, Lucetta Scaraffia, the former Editor-in-Chief of the “Women Church World” supplement to the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said her resignation and that of the editorial board means “the loss of the free voice of women…women who for seven years enjoyed total freedom and autonomy, with the consent of Pope Benedict and Pope Francis.”
Earlier this month Scaraffia resigned along with the 10 other women who sat on the editorial board of the supplement, saying in an open letter to Pope Francis that “We are throwing in the towel because we feel surrounded by a climate of distrust and progressive de-legitimization” created by the new editor of L’Osservatore Romano, Andrea Monda, who was appointed to head the paper in December.
In an editorial, she said the “conditions no longer exist” for the editorial board to continue working with L’Osservatore, saying new collaborations and initiatives have weakened the publication, “pitting women against each other instead of inviting open comparisons.”
“They are returning to the practice of selecting women who ensure obedience,” the editorial read, adding that “they are returning to clerical self-reference and are giving up that ‘parresia’ (freedom to speak freely) that Pope Francis so often seeks.”
All members of the editorial board have resigned and will be substituted with other women chosen by Monda, she said, including herself. However, the two L’Osservatore Romano journalists who wrote for the monthly, Giulia Galeotti and Silvina Perez, have not resigned.
April’s edition of “Women Church World” will be the last one vetted by the Scaraffia and her editorial board.
In a response to Scaraffia’s editorial, Monda insisted that he never sought to interfere with the publication, stressing that he has maintained their budget and has ensured them “the same complete autonomy and the same total freedom” with which they have always operated.
“In no way have I chosen anyone, man or woman, with the criterion of obedience,” he said, adding, “If anything, on the contrary, forbearing to intervene in the monthly supplement, in creating the daily edition I sought comparisons that were truly free, not built on the mechanism of one against the others, or of closed groups. And I did so precisely in the sign of the openness and parrhesia requested by Pope Francis, with whose words and with whose Magisterium we all identify.”
Scaraffia said she does not believe there is resistance to women in the Vatican, but to women who challenge the status quo.
Despite the fact that several other women have been tapped for leading roles in Vatican departments in recent years, all of whom have issued positive reviews of their tenure so far, Scaraffia said the women selected for these leading positions are typically not “free and autonomous,” but are women chosen “from on high,” and who “enjoy the favor of the hierarchy.”
Scaraffia, widely considered to be one of the most influential women when it comes to Vatican affairs, launched the “Women Church World” monthly in 2012 and is known to have pushed the envelope, advocating for a greater inclusion of women in leadership roles in the Catholic Church, and at times breaching uncomfortable subjects, such as the sexual abuse of women religious by clergy.
She has previously argued for women to be consultants in the reform of the Roman Curia and to speak during pre-conclave meetings, and earlier this year she urged Pope Francis to face tough questions on women and sex abuse.
The February edition of the supplement made waves when it not only denounced the sexual abuse of women religious by clergy, but also asserted that at times they have been forced into having abortions or have given birth to children who are not recognized by their fathers.
As a result, Francis vocally acknowledged the problem on his flight back from the United Arab Emirates, saying he was committed to doing something about it.
Pope Francis has also often advocated for a more incisive presence of women in the Church, including in leadership positions.
In Scaraffia’s view, she believes Francis to be sincere in his push for a greater inclusion of women, saying “he understands well how necessary freedom is and appreciates ‘parresia.’”
Referring to the changes that prompted her and the editorial board to resign, she said she does not believe the changes came from Francis himself, adding that “perhaps he was misinformed.”
“In the Vatican, as he himself has said multiple times, slander is widely practiced.”
Scaraffia’s departure and that of her editorial board are the latest shakeup in the Vatican’s communications department, following the abrupt resignations of the Vatican spokesman, Greg Burke, and his deputy, Paloma Garcia Ovejero, in December.
Though the editorial team is not yet sure what they will do going forward, since their decision to resign was “sudden,” Scaraffia said that on her part, she plans to finish a book she has been writing on the history of the sexual revolution.
She said she will continue to write for various papers and will pursue other book ideas, but the most important task she will focus on is her 4-month-old grandson, because “above all, I am a grandma.”