Women making waves for real change in the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis.

Voices of Faith Press Conference: 19th February 2019, 5:30 PM, Foreign Press Association (Stampa Estera, Via dell'Umiltà 83, Roma).

Meet the heroines leading change and standing up for victims of clergy abuse by breaking the culture of silence and uncovering the causes that allowed the Catholic Church to inflict so much suffering to vulnerable children, women and men for decades.

Just over one week remains until the gathering of the President of Bishops Conferences in Rome, a historic never-been-called meeting by the Pope regarding the global sexual abuse crisis that has plagued the Catholic Church for decades. To the surprise and disappointment of many individuals and organisations waiting with hope for a credible Church response to this seemingly never-ending crisis, faithful around the world were explicitly invited to lower their expectations. With only a few days left, we still do not know who exactly has been invited, especially from among the survivors of abuse. There is still no response to questions posed by Voices of Faith that simply ask for understanding, transparency and what outcomes plan to be achieved at this historic gathering.  

Every day this crisis reveals more and more stories and victims – confirming that cover-ups and systematic silence destroyed the lives of so many faithful from every continent and social group. Studies on abuses against religious women were published years ago, with no noticeable change from the hierarchy. The consequences are obvious. Abuses continue and religious women reporting these crimes were left to feel alone – sometimes excluded from their communities and shunned by their own societies. Catholic women and men all over the world are asking: How long do we have to wait to stop these crimes? How long do we have to wait till the hierarchy sees that these victims are members of the Church we have to protect, not the perpetrators? How long do we need to wait till facts and stories lead to action for a safer Catholic Church?

“What the Church as an institution could give to the survivors is this message: You are the Church and you are here at home, tell us what you need and we will give it to you. I believe there is a future for the Church only if the Church at all its levels, in teaching, legally, institutionally, structurally are committed to this logic,” said Doris Wagner, a former religious sister from Germany who reported abuse by clergy in her own congregation (interview with cardinal Christoph Schönborn, 06.02.2019, BR Fernsehen). Last week Pope Francis admitted that the problem of sexual abuses against religious women exists and must be acknowledged.  

On the 19th February, two days before the start of the Presidents of Bishops Conferences meeting, Voices of Faith will be holding a press conference in Rome, bringing journalists and four extraordinary women who have been leading change on the ground in various countries and communities. These women will share their stories and most importantly their solutions that can transform our Church. They will not stop speaking out on this issue until there is real and tangible change that will see victims and survivors form part of the dialogue, reform, and decision-making of this global Church, that will ensure a safer future for Catholic children and vulnerable people. 

Speakers include:

Barbara Dorris (USA), a survivor of abuse and former Executive Director at SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), will be speaking about gender unbalanced testimony of abuses and the cultural and religious factors that make speaking up as a female survivor more difficult.

Doris Wagner (Germany), a survivor, theologian and author, former member of The Spiritual Family The Work. She will be speaking about spiritual abuse and will present statistics concerning sexual violence against women religious.

Virginia Saldanha (India), a leader and activist, Secretary of the Indian Women Theologians Forum & Ecclesia of Women in Asia, will be speaking about cultural discourses that enable abuses in the religious context; deified image of the priest, victims blaming, mechanisms of silencing.

Regina Franken-Wendelstorf, a researcher, lecturer, women rights expert and former member of the Third Order of the Dominicans, will be speaking about the legal context of abuses against women in the Church.

About Voices of Faith

Voices of Faith works towards a prophetic Catholic Church where women's voices count, through participation and leadership on equal footing with men. They initiate campaigns extensively to promote women’s leadership in the Church. To find out more, go to www.voicesoffaith.org

For our latest digital campaign, please visit www.overcomingsilence.com 

For media inquiries for Voices of Faith, please contact:

Zuzanna Flisowska

General Manager, Rome

E: zuzanna.flisowska@voicesoffaith.org

M: +39 351 523 4217