Global Violence Against Women

Pope Admits Reports of Clerics Sexually Abusing Nuns

During a trip to the Middle East, Pope Francis admitted that some clerics were sexually abusing nuns, stating that the sexual abuse of nuns has been an ongoing problem that the church is working on and that many clerics have been suspended. In two weeks, Pope Francis will be hosting a gathering of bishops and cardinals to discuss the ongoing sexual misconduct allegations.

The Vatican’s women’s magazine, Women’s Church World, reported yesterday that some women, including nuns, were forced to abort fetuses that were conceived with priests. The editor of the magazine, Lucetta Scaraffia, is calling for an official commission to investigate these allegations, stating that the Vatican has never followed up on many of the complaints. She stated that nuns are not viewed as equals in the Church, hence why their complaints are never taken seriously.

Reports of sexual abuse date back to 2005, when Pope Benedict dissolve a female congregation in France after it was discovered that clerics forced the nuns into sex slavery. However, the Vatican has released a statement clarifying Pope Francis’s statement about the sex slavery, saying that it was more of an “abuse of power” rather than actual sex slavery.

In India last year, a bishop was arrested for raping a nun 13 times from 2014-2016. The woman’s lawyer, Indulekha Joseph, told Washington Post that nuns rarely report their abuse because “once a nun speaks, she is thrown out of the convent and may find herself on the street, because often her family is not willing to accommodate her. A campaign of character assassination starts. The nun will be portrayed as a prostitute.” When women came forward in Chile recently about the sexual abuse they suffered from they were later let go from the order.

While sexual abuse against nuns is just now surfacing, the Catholic Church has been grappling with child sex abuse scandals for decades now. Reports of child molestation date back to the 1950s, but it was not until the 1980s and 1990s that these stories gained mass media attention. A Church-commissioned report from 2004 found that more than 4,000 Catholic priests faced sexual assault allegations in cases with more than 10,000 children, mainly boys. Recently, countless priests and bishops have been resigning due to child sexual assault allegations.


Media Resources: BBC 1/6/19; USA Today 1/6/19; BBC 9/21/18; Washington Post 2/6/19; Daily Mail 2/6/19; BBC 8/20/18

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