A petition, started by the US-based Catholic Women's Forum, said the Pope's response so far had been 'inadequate'

A Catholic women’s group has called for Pope Francis to issue a “direct response” to Archbishop Viganò’s claims, condemning his response to date as “inadequate”.

The 750-word letter, published on August 30 by the Washington DC-based Catholic Women’s Forum (CWF), has gained 14,000 signatures so far.

“Our hearts are broken, our faith tested, by the escalating crisis engulfing our beloved Church,” the letter said, referring to the controversy surrounding Archbishop Viganò’s written testimony, released last weekend.

Referring to the “devastating allegations” contained within it, the letter called for a “direct response”.

After Viganò’s letter was distributed, Pope Francis said on Sunday: “I read the statement this morning, and I must tell you sincerely that, I must say this, to you and all those who are interested: Read the statement carefully and make your own judgment.”

“To your hurting flock, Pope Francis, your words are inadequate,” the letter said.

It implored the Pope to answer specific questions, occasioned by Archbishop Viganò’s letter, concerning his knowledge of sexual misconduct allegations surrounding McCarrick.

“Please do not turn from us. You’ve committed yourself to changing clerical ways in the Church. That a cardinal would prey on seminarians is abhorrent. We need to know we can trust you to be honest with us about what happened. The victims who have suffered so greatly need to know they can trust you.”

The CWF is an international network established by the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank, in 2014. It aimed to respond to Pope Francis’s call for women to be a “more effective presence” in the Church. The address to Francis is signed by its director, Mary Rice Hasson.

Viganò’s letter has provoked wildly differing responses from laity as well as bishops. Jim Towey, president of Ave Maria University, said on Wednesday that Viganò’s action was emblematic of “the rift between Pope Francis and some conservative members of the Church hierarchy”.

“The release of the archbishop’s manifesto seemed timed to inflict the maximum damage possible to the Pope’s credibility,” Jim Towey said in a statement published on the university website.

“Calls for [the Pope’s] resignation are wildly divisive and patently wrong,” Towey wrote.