An all-female editorial team behind the Vatican's women's magazine resigned on Tuesday over what they describe as a “climate of distrust” after they lifted the lid on the widespread abuse of nuns within the Catholic institution.
"We are throwing in the towel because we feel surrounded by a climate of distrust and progressive de-legitimisation," Woman Church World founder Lucetta Scaraffia wrote in an editorial.
Mrs Scaraffia, a history professor, journalist and avowed feminist, was perhaps the most high-profile woman at the Vatican. Mrs Scaraffia launched the monthly insert in 2012 and oversaw its growth into a stand-alone Vatican magazine as a voice for women, by women and about issues of interest to the entire Catholic Church.
In a final editorial, Mrs Scaraffia accused the editorial board of "returning to the practice of selecting women who ensure obedience".
"They are returning to clerical self-reference and are giving up that [freedom to speak freely] that Pope Francis so often seeks," she wrote.
The resignation follows a string of revelations that stoked uproar over the treatment of women and children on the part of the male-dominated clergy. In February, Mrs Scaraffia published an investigation into the sexual abuse of nuns by clergy, bringing to light the scandal of religious sisters having abortions or giving birth to children disavowed by their fathers.
The article prompted Pope Francis to acknowledge the problem for the first time and commit to doing something about it.
He said in that case his predecessor, Pope Benedict, was forced to shut down an entire congregation of nuns who were being abused by priests. Last November, the Catholic Church's global organisation for nuns denounced the "culture of silence and secrecy" that prevented them from speaking out.
The scandal broke out amid renewed attention for the long-running plight of child sexual abuse. Pope Francis convened a sexual abuse summit in February, where he asked for concrete actions, not just words, to protect minors. He was later criticised for defending a Chilean bishop from charges of sexual abuse, stating that accusations without evidence was simply slander.