CNWE’s Summary Report to the Vatican Synod on Synodality

Clicking on the link above will connect you to CNWE’s Summary Report to the Vatican Synod on Synodality. It is based on conversations that CNWE members engaged in during the the spring 2022. It was gratefully received by the Vatican Synod Office and the office of Synod Undersecretary Sr. Nathalie Becquart.

CNWE Calls for Lay/Expert Oversight Throughout Vatican Investigations of Allegations of Clergy Sexual Abuse

The Catholic Network for Women’s Equality (CNWE) is dismayed to learn that the Vatican will not be conducting a thorough investigation into the allegation that Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec engaged in unwanted sexual touching, kissing and sexual harassment at public events (2008-2010) with a then 23-year-old woman who was working as a pastoral intern for the archdiocese during Ouellet’s tenure as archbishop. 

The Vatican’s investigation has been dropped based on a claim of “insufficient evidence” of sexual assault according to a spokesperson for Pope Francis (August 18, 2022). The complainant, named “F”, is part of a class-action civil suit against the Archdiocese of Quebec involving 101 allegations of sexual abuse by 88 Catholic clergy and staff that date back to the 1940s. Under Canadian law, the alleged actions of Cardinal Ouellet constitute ‘sexual assault’ and are a criminal offense.

CNWE commends “F” for her courage in coming forward with these allegations. “F” alleges that she realized the actions of Cardinal Ouellet constituted sexual abuse after attending a workshop on sexual abuse in 2020. When she complained to the archdiocese of Quebec (without naming Ouellet initially), they recommended that she write directly to the Pope. 

There are several troubling aspects about the way the Vatican has since handled this complaint.  

Most troubling is the fact that Pope Francis appointed Fr. Jacques Servais, SJ, to conduct a preliminary investigation in 2021, even though Fr. Servais and Cardinal Ouellet have worked together on several publications and events in Rome as members of the Lubac-Balthasar-Speyr Association. According to Canon law, such an association should have disqualified Fr. Servais from conducting the investigation. Furthermore, Fr. Servais has no expertise in adjudicating sexual abuse allegations. 

Pope Francis also has a ‘conflict of interest’ in this case because Cardinal Ouellet is one of his most trusted advisors. Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Ouellet to be Prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, tasked with overseeing the selection and conduct of bishops (including in cases where they are accused of sexual abuse of adults). As such, Cardinal Ouellet must be held to the highest standard and the Vatican should welcome a thorough investigation to be accountable. 

The delay in the Vatican’s decision contravenes recent changes to Church law requiring allegations of sexual abuse against adults be dealt with promptly. It is concerning that only after Cardinal Ouellet was publicly named in the class-action suit, that the Vatican declared their decision not to investigate the case. 

As has been made abundantly clear, ‘clergy policing clergy’ is not a credible process regarding allegations of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Until there is a mandatory process that from the outset includes gender-equal committees with lay Catholic review and oversight as well as consultation with experts in clergy sexual abuse, the credibility of the Vatican’s process of investigating allegations of clergy sexual abuse lacks credibility. 

Furthermore, the Vatican’s response in this case highlights the issue of the rights of church workers and interns. Most pastoral associates in the church are women who have few labour rights and little recourse to impartial appeal if they are wrongfully dismissed or come forward with allegations of clergy abuse. It is long past time that the Catholic church be fundamentally restructured at every level to end systemic sexism and a culture of clericalism, and cover-up of sexual abuse that it has permitted. With any allegation of clergy sexual abuse, the Church must be held to the most stringent standards of moral accountability and transparency. Canadian Catholics should expect nothing less and should let their views be known. 


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Catholic Network for Women’s Equality (CNWE), Canada, Calls Catholic Bishops of Canada to Facilitate the Request of Indigenous Leaders for Pope Francis to Formally Apologize on Canadian Soil for the Legacy of Catholic-run Residential Schools


Together with Canadians across the country and people around the world, we grieve and stand in solidarity with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, as the remains of 215 children buried in unmarked sites have been located on the grounds of the former Catholic-run Kamloops Indian Residential School.  

As settlers on this land, we have been slow to learn the history of the devastating impact of colonization, religious coercion, and ongoing systemic racism on First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, despite overwhelming evidence. As Catholics, we have been slow to acknowledge the depth of generational trauma resulting from the ongoing legacy of residential schools run by our own Church.  As individuals, we have been slow to face, and work to dismantle, our own inherited prejudices. 

From a place of listening, mutual respect and humility, members of CNWE are committed to being allies with Indigenous peoples. In recent days, we have listened as First Nations leaders have asked Pope Francis to “issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.” This request, from the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Report Calls to Action (#58) remains unmet. We call on Canadian bishops and cardinals to facilitate Pope Francis coming to Canada when it is safe to do so.

We call on all Catholic entities and dioceses to cooperate fully with the requests of Indigenous peoples to provide all documents related to residential school investigations. We also urge all the bishops of Canada to re-commit to meeting the terms of the Settlement Agreement regarding ongoing education and support (TRC Calls to Action #59-61) and to justly meeting all financial compensation obligations.

Survivors have been telling us for decades of the abuse that occurred in residential ‘schools’ and our hearts break for generations of Indigenous families whose children were not only taken away to these schools, but never returned home. We all have a moral and spiritual responsibility to be allies with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in Canada, cooperating in the urgent work of truth, reconciliation, and justice. 

CNWE Responds to Ban on Catholic Church Blessing of Same-Sex Unions


It is with profound disappointment that the Catholic Network for Women’s Equality (CNWE) has read the Responsum of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to the Dubium regarding Blessings of the Unions of Persons of the Same Sex. We  find unacceptable the conclusion of the Congregation that same-sex blessings are not possible, and that this is because “God does not bless sin.”

To equate love with sin distorts both the meaning of love and the meaning of sin.  We encourage the Church and in particular the Vatican to reflect more deeply on the biblical passage on love from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13:1-13), the passage so often read at weddings.  In particular, we point to the opening line: “If I speak in the tongues of persons or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” 

The question is not whether people of the same sex love each other.  Couples the world over have testified to this truth for decades. The question is whether leaders in the Vatican can understand their love, whether they can embrace this manifestation of love, and whether they can perceive the suffering they are causing to LGBTQ+ persons with this decree.  This decree opens the door further to bigotry and discrimination because of the Catholic Church’s influence in the world.With this response, the Catholic hierarchy fails to offer LGBTQ+ persons their blessing, protection, and love.

Again, we hear the words of St Paul: “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” How well are our church leaders exemplifying the love St. Paul is calling for when he says, “Love is kind… it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”? 

If we cannot respect the God-given gift of love in same-sex relationships among Catholics who are our friends, family, siblings, children – if we cannot bless this love, what then are we as Church?  We cannot make exceptions to love, based on a limited and judgmental understanding of diverse identities, and still claim to be following in the footsteps of Christ. We are called above all, to be a Church of welcome, belonging, and especially love.  

Let us be the church we are called to be and rejoice as the people of God in blessing genuine love in all its graced expressions. 

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