Through her seven years as editor of Donne Chiesa Mondo, Scaraffia has gained considerable recognition and influence. The magazine itself has also garnered praise. She and her hand-picked all-female editorial board have operated autonomously from the rest of the publication. Until last December she also served as an editorial consultant on L’Osservatore Romano. She has been a sought-after subject for interviews and widely quoted in the secular press.
Scaraffia’s views are not easily pigeon-holed. She is in favor of legalized abortion, but against artificial birth control. She opposes gay marriage and women’s ordination, but favors women cardinals. In one recent interview she railed against Pope Francis’s abuse summit for planning to issue guidelines for bishops to handle the abuse crisis. (What do they need guidelines for? They ought to know that abuse is wrong.) When Marie Collins resigned in protest from the Vatican commission to protect minors, Scaraffia, surprisingly, did not come to her defense. Instead, she penned an article denouncing the press for covering sex abuse in the church while neglecting it in civic institutions. Most of her tenure has occurred under Pope Francis, but she reports that she is more frequently in touch with Pope Emeritus Benedict.
So, what are we to make of these dramatic resignations? How should we read the conflict that precipitated them? The notion that women at the publication are now being marginalized seems to me quite out of place. They aren’t. There are more women than ever writing, and more women’s issues being written about than ever before. Funding for Donne Chiesa Mondo has not been cut, even as cuts have been made in the budget of the daily paper.
What seems to have happened is that Scaraffia ran up against a new general editor who did not regard her as the unique arbiter and reference point for all things pertaining to women. She preferred to resign rather than to cooperate with him within a larger framework of collegiality.
This is her right and privilege. To cast the question as a titanic struggle against “male control” and for all-female “independence,” however, seems to me wrong. There are independent-minded women on both sides of this story. The goal—or so I thought—was the robust inclusion of women in this venerable if rather stuffy Vatican newspaper. It seems to me that this goal is being pursued by the current editor. Ironically, the complaint about “male control” seems to be focused on protecting a separate fiefdom for women, rather than promoting women as equals across the board.
Which brings me back to the idea of a “women’s supplement.” Monda has said that it will continue, and this may work out fine. But I wonder if a segregated initiative is really such a good idea over the long run. I would rather see the concerns, expertise, and thoughtfulness that go into the supplement poured into the main publication, and have women’s issues established as an integral part of its usual reporting rather than sequestered in a separate publication. Is having a women’s issue “on the side” not just another way of saying that men need not pay attention?