More than 44,000 Catholic women have signed a letter pressing Pope Francis to explain exactly when and how he found out about sexual abuse and misconduct allegations against a high-ranking former cardinal.
“Our hearts are broken, our faith tested, by the escalating crisis engulfing our beloved Church,” states the passionately worded letter organized by the Catholic Women’s Forum. “We are angry, betrayed and disillusioned.”
“We, your flock, deserve your answers now.”
For the past two weeks, Francis’ papacy has been thrown into crisis by claims that U.S. cardinals and Vatican officials covered up for then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Even though the Vatican has known about his allegedly abusive behavior with seminarians since at least 2000, McCarrick received clerical promotions and continued publicly representing the church, The Associated Press reports.
The accusations against Francis himself were brought up by the Vatican’s former U.S. ambassador, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. The archbishop, who has long been a critic of the Argentine pontiff, claims Francis rehabilitated McCarrick, lifting canonical sanctions imposed by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.
Francis officially removed McCarrick from ministry in June after a church investigation determined that he had sexually abused an altar boy in 1971. McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals the following month.
Soon after Vigano’s allegations came to light, Francis told reporters that he would “not say a single word” on the subject and suggested that journalists read Vigano’s claims and make up their own minds.
The archbishop’s accusations and Francis’ silence have roiled the U.S. Catholic Church, with some in the hierarchy coming to the pope’s defense while others demand a thorough investigation. On Tuesday, the Vatican said Francis will meet with a delegation of U.S. cardinals and bishops about the issue on Thursday.