Pope Francis acknowledged for the first time on Tuesday that priests and bishops have sexually abused nuns and several of those clergy have been suspended.
Some clergy have abused nuns to the point of “sexual slavery,” the pope said, adding that the Church is addressing the problem and “for some time we’ve been working on it.”
“It’s not that everyone does this, but there have been priests and bishops who have,” the pope said. “And I think that it’s continuing because it’s not like once you realize it that it stops. It continues.”
Pope Benedict XVI shut down a congregation of nuns in France “because a certain slavery of women had crept in, slavery to the point of sexual slavery on the part of clergy or the founder,” Francis revealed, adding that some priests have been suspended for their abuse of religious sisters.
“There are cases, usually in new congregations and in some regions more than others,” he said, explaining that the Church still deals with the issue on a case-by-case basis.
“Should we do something more? Yes. Is there the will? Yes. But it’s a path that we have already begun,” Francis told reporters.
Francis added that it is also a general “cultural problem” that women are treated like “second-class citizens.”
“I dare say that humanity hasn’t matured,” the pope said.
“We condemn those who support the culture of silence and secrecy, often under the guise of ‘protection’ of an institution’s reputation or naming it ‘part of one’s culture,'” the International Union of Superiors General, which represents all superiors general of institutes of Catholic women religious, said in a November statement. “We advocate for transparent civil and criminal reporting of abuse.”
The women’s magazine of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Women Church World, reported that nuns have kept silent about their abuse by priests for years in fear of retaliation and have even been forced to abort the babies they conceived by priests.
Abuse of nuns by clergy has been reported in Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, and India. Since the #MeToo movement, more sisters have felt empowered to report their experiences.
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