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Women On Vatican Magazine Editorial Board Quit En Masse


The founder and the all-female staff of the Vatican women's magazine have resigned abruptly citing a climate of distrust. Their publication has gotten attention for their recent work to expose the sexual abuse of nuns by priests. Those stories led to the rise of the hashtag #NunsToo. In a letter of resignation to the pope, the editorial board wrote that they believe there is a Vatican campaign to discredit them and put them under the control of men. And we have NPR's Sylvia Poggioli on the line from Rome.

Hi, Sylvia.


GREENE: They are accusing the Vatican of some very serious things there, it sounds like. Tell me more about what prompted this.

POGGIOLI: Well, the Women Church World is the monthly supplement to the official Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano. Lucetta Scaraffia created it seven years ago. In her final editorial, she said the new editor of the main Vatican daily who arrived in December had published articles in the main paper that were in contrast with the supplement's editorial line. And then she wrote an open letter to Pope Francis, saying, we are throwing in the towel because we feel surrounded by a climate of distrust and progressive delegitimization. She added, it seems there's a return to the antiquated and arid custom of choosing women considered trustworthy from on-high, under the direct control of men. But the new editor of the L'Osservatore Romano, Andrea Monda, denied the charges that he'd tried to interfere in the women's supplement.

GREENE: What more should we know about the founder of this magazine who's speaking out here?

POGGIOLI: She's a history professor at Rome University, a mother, and calls herself a feminist, although she follows the official line. She opposes, for example, the idea of women priests. But, you know, the supplement has shaken the male-dominated world of the Vatican by introducing a women's perspective and dealing with what were always taboo topics. Last year, they published an article denouncing the servitude of nuns to clergy. It said they worked for close to nothing to cook and clean for bishops and cardinals. And recently, she was asked about the pope's description of the church as a woman. She said - Scaraffia said, we don't want to be turned into metaphors, but be recognized and listened to.

GREENE: You've talked to her, right, as part of your reporting?

POGGIOLI: Yeah. We talked about her article last month that created an uproar. It denounced the sexual abuse of nuns by priests and the fact - the added trauma of raped nuns who were forced to have abortions or become outcasts when they gave birth to a child. She told me she had spoken to hundreds of nuns from all over the world. And the article sparked the hashtag #NunsToo discussion and prompted Pope Francis to acknowledge that abuse of nuns by clergy is a problem, and he vowed to do something about it.

GREENE: What happens now? I mean, to this magazine and this whole issue with these resignations?

POGGIOLI: Well, the new editor pledged that the magazine would continue. But in the #MeToo era, this is another embarrassment, the resignation is another embarrassment for the Vatican and a blow to Pope Francis' efforts to give more women more decision-making positions inside the Vatican.

GREENE: NPR's Sylvia Poggioli in Rome. Sylvia, thanks.

POGGIOLI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Sylvia Poggioli
Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and how immigration has transformed European societies.