An Open Letter to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin from Voices of Faith
July 20th, 2018
Dear Archbishop Martin,
I have been in touch with you last year regarding the urgent need to address the situation of women in the Catholic Church. Thank you for your kind reply and the offer to meet personally (letter dated 25th August, 2017). I hope that we will be able to arrange a personal meeting soon.
I also want to point out your honest acknowledgement of the important challenge posed to the Catholic Church by the former Irish President Mary McAleese during the Voices of Faith International Women ́s Day event in Rome earlier this year (cited for example in Irish Times, March 9th, 2018). Just like her, I, too, agree wholeheartedly with your assessment from earlier this year that "the low standing of women in the Catholic Church is the most significant reason for the feeling of alienation towards it in Ireland today."
With all this background in mind, I have followed, with growing concern, the preparations for the World Meeting of Families, which you preside. I was alarmed by the hurtful changes made to the brochures and preparatory materials, apparently excluding LGBTQ families. Yet, I was still hopeful when I saw panels on the program of the WMOF addressing the leadership of women in business or in international development, including a panel moderated by the Voices of Faith alumna Carolyn Woo.
Finally, a recent report of an additional event called “Voices of Impact” forces me to write to you. I have now seen a letter sent as “private and confidential” with your signature to invitees. This letter was shared, as, understandably, some women are confused about whether there are links between the event that you organize and the established and legally branded Voices of Faith initiative and event.
I have noted similarities not just in the name of the event but also in the text of the invitation letter and the stated goals of the event. I would gladly see these similarities as a compliment to the efforts of Voices of Faith over the past years and as a confirmation of the importance of raising women ́s voices and using the format of story-telling to start important conversations.
However, Voices of Faith has been built up over the years on important values of inclusiveness, honesty, respect, being unapologetic, innovative and faithful. We cannot afford to be confused with any event that does not maintain these high standards.
To prevent further alienation of women in Ireland and everywhere around the world, we ask you to clarify publicly the following three questions:
1. Why was the “Voices of Impact” event initiated so late in the preparations of the WMOF and entrusted to a major PR agency in the United States?
2. How will it be guaranteed that a wide spectrum of voices will be present at this event, including faithful Catholic women leaders who may question some positions of the Church?
3. How will the full range of issues important to women be included in the conversation, including women ́s roles within the church itself?
I believe that this is an important moment in the history of the Catholic Church in which women finally attain the equality modelled by Jesus during his earthly ministry and lived by the early Church (Gal. 3:28). Now is the time to show true leadership, rather than fall into the trap of window-dressing inequality with the help of public relations experts. I rely on you, dear Archbishop Martin, to do the right thing and either make the planned women ́s symposium a truly inclusive, transparent and honest event or abandon the project altogether.
I await eagerly your response and wish you the guidance and the courage of our Lord Jesus Christ as you preside over the upcoming World Meeting of Families.
Managing Director Voices of Faith