(Feb. 5, 2019) As if the Catholic Church and its Pope were not busy enough apologizing for the sexual abuse of minors by predatory priests, it now has a terrible new problem on its busy hands: the sexual exploitation of nuns stuns faithful Catholics all over again. A Reuters story broke today regarding the sexual abuse of nuns by priests and bishops. Some of those trusted men had used the women as sex slaves.
Empowered by the worldwide #MeToo movement which began with the outing of Hollywood-power players like Hurricane Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, several nuns have stepped forward to relate their tales of woe at the hands of men who took advantage of their positions in the Catholic church hierarchy to abuse the women who had been taught to respect them.
Pope Francis told Reuters yesterday that he was committed to stopping the abuse of nuns by said priests and bishops. The pope made his comments on a plane returning from Abu Dhabi after a reporter questioned him over a Vatican monthly magazine story published last week about nuns being abused in the Catholic Church.
Union Urges Nuns to Come Forward
More and more nuns are now coming forward to describe sexual abuse by priests and bishops. The International Union of Superiors General, which represents more than 500,000 Catholic nuns, last year urged their members to report abuse.
Pope Francis told Reuters: “It is true … There have been priests and even bishops who have done this. I think it is still going on because something does not stop just because you have become aware of it.”
The pope acknowledged the church has been working on the sexual abuse of nuns problem “for a long time” and had suspended several priests because of it. He added that the Vatican was in the process of shutting down a (still unnamed) female religious order because of sexual abuse and corruption.
“I can’t say, ‘This does not happen in my house.’ It is true. Do we have to do more? Yes. Are we willing? Yes,” he said.
Nuns in Sexual Slavery
Former Pope Benedict dissolved a religious order of women shortly after his election as pontiff in 2005, Pope Francis told Reuters: “[B]ecause slavery had become part of it [the religious order], even sexual slavery on the part of priests and the founder.” Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said that sad situation had occurred in France.
Church Politics Delays Justice
As with the recent cases of sexual abuse by priests recently uncovered in Pennsylvania, New York (where victims recently received a legal reprieve), and elsewhere, internal church politics allowed some abusive priests to continue their duplicitous deceptions against nuns in the church.
Before becoming the pope, Benedict was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican department that investigates sexual abuse. The pope at that time was John Paul. Then-cardinal Ratzinger wanted to investigate the religious order where women were being abused, but he was blocked, Francis said, by someone or some people he would not identify. Francis told Reuters that after Ratzinger became the pope, he reopened the investigation and then dissolved the order.
Pope Summons Bishops for Sex Abuse Summit
Pope Francis has summoned key bishops from around the world to a February summit at the Vatican over the Catholic church’s problem of clergy members committing sexual abuse. The pope is seeking a unified response to this ages-old, worldwide problem.
Reporters asked the pope if he would also propose a similar action to confront abuse of nuns in the Church. “I want to move forward,” Pope Francis replied. “We are working on it.”