On Thursday, the Vatican is hosting a summit on preventing clergy sexual abuse. Presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the globe will meet for four days, to listen to survivors and discuss the Church’s response. The main themes of the meeting are responsibility, accountability and transparency.
It is absolutely essential that women’s voices are represented at this meeting. Horrific atrocities perpetrated by Catholic priests have torn apart the wellbeing of families, of religious orders, of schools, and of parish communities. Women are not only members but leaders of these spaces. We have authoritative insight into the causes and effects of clerical sex abuse, as well as possible solutions. The Vatican must listen and respond to these insights if the Church is to begin the process of healing and restoration.
CWF Submissions to the Summit
Toward this end, the Catholic Women’s Forum (CWF) has submitted a set of documents to the summit. CWF strives to amplify the voices of Catholic women within the Church and the culture, in support of the Catholic faith.
The Forum’s submissions represent women’s voices in three ways:
A letter from Letitia Peyton, the wife of a deacon and mother of a 16-year-old boy molested three years ago by his parish priest in Louisiana (USA). Her letter is a moving reminder that the Church’s abuse crisis is not past history, but a present, terrible reality.
The responses of 5,038 U.S. Catholic women who participated in a recent survey regarding the clergy sexual abuse crisis. Our report, “Giving Voice to Catholic Women: A Survey of U.S. Catholic Women on the Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis,” offers a window into the hearts of Catholic women strongly committed to the faith and generous to the Church.
The recommendations of experienced seminary professors (all women), whose document, “Sharing a Spirit of Discernment: Recommendations from U.S. Women Seminary Professors,” offers insights on strengthening seminary culture and formation, reducing clericalism, and fostering chaste celibacy.
These three submissions were shared with the organizers of the summit, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, and Pope Francis. Additionally, they were shared with bishops from the U.S. and more than 40 countries.
I highly recommend that you read all three of them, for they contain unparalleled insight and wisdom.
CWF director Mary Rice Hasson writes:
While these submissions do not claim to speak for all women, they offer the hierarchy a realistic, though painful, view of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, as seen through the eyes of Catholic women.
Let’s pray for an honest, courageous, and fruitful meeting at the Vatican. And in the mean time, consider supporting the work of CWF.