How Women Are Making Their Voices Heard Amidst the Abuse Crisis

The Vatican’s ‘Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church’ concluded on Sunday, and during that time there were many voices heard – the voices of victims, bishops, consecrated religious, and journalists. But in a summit where the majority in attendance were men, many American Catholics wondered how women could make their voices heard during this important gathering.

Mary Rice Hasson, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and director of the Catholic Women’s Forum stopped by A Closer Look™ this week to discuss how women have been making their voices heard amidst the abuse crisis.

In August, following a summer of scandal and particularly the letter from Archbishop Vigano, the Catholic Women’s Forum drafted a letter asking Pope Francis a series of questions, and communicating to him that “Our hearts are broken, our faith tested, by the escalating crisis engulfing our beloved Church. We are angry, betrayed and disillusioned.”

That letter was signed by about 48,000 women, and Mary shared with A Closer Look host Sheila Liaugminas that she did receive word that the Holy Father has seen the letter and took note of all the signatures. Following on the Letter to Pope Francis from Catholic Women, the Catholic Women’s Forum also wanted the voice of Catholic women to be heard going into the Vatican abuse summit. Mary explained that they sent a packet of materials to the Vatican organizing committee, to every U.S. bishop, and to a number of heads of bishop’s conferences around the world.

“We sent them a packet that had a victim statement, some recommendations from a seminary, a group of seminary professors, and then the results of a huge survey we did of 5,000 Catholic women,” she explained. “Just trying to get the voice of Catholic women out there, to communicate what women are thinking about this abuse crisis.”

Of the survey, Giving Voice to Catholic Women: A Survey of U.S. Catholic Women on the Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis, Sheila said it “offered a window into the concerns of Catholic women in the pews. Faithful Catholic women who generously give of their time and their overall commitment.”

In addition to her work with the Catholic Women’s Forum, Mary also offered her commentary on the Vatican abuse summit in First Things magazine. Her commentary was part of a series of letters during the summit, and offered a woman’s perspective on the problem of clergy abuse in the U.S.

“The piece that I wrote in First Things makes the point that a solution is only as good as your diagnosis of the problem,” she said. “Particularly here in the U.S., we’ve looked at the problem of abuse of minors, and we’ve put in place all of these reporting mechanisms, transparency. And that will improve, because over the past years we’ve identified big holes in that, particularly pertaining to the reporting of the allegations against bishops.”

“But that’s one limited problem,” she continued. “And so if you focus on that you haven’t begun to address the problems that feed into that. The clergy who, while they may abuse minors, maybe they’re also abusing seminarians. And that really is the McCarrick case. He was not being faithful to his promises. He was consistently being unfaithful and people were just looking the other way. So that’s the bigger problem that I think is yet to be addressed by the Church. That is where we’re going to have one crisis after another, if you really don’t have, from the top, this recommitment to live with sexual integrity, to live with fidelity to the Church’s sexual teachings, to be honest, to be truthful, to be faithful to the promises you make.”

Listen to the full conversation with Mary Rice Hasson below:

A Closer Look airs weekdays at 6:00 p.m. Eastern/3:00 p.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio® and the Relevant Radio App.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.