Sometimes priests and bishops manipulated novices and humiliated them, and also demanded an abortion after rape.

Documentary

Documentary film about nuns, victims of priests of the Catholic Church

In the 1990s, a group of novices told the leadership of the Vatican that confessors in Africa harass and rape nuns, considering contact with them as the most “safe” against the backdrop of the HIV epidemic. This information was hushed up.

In 2001, it became known that a group of African priests of the Catholic Church raped about 30 nuns in one community. All of them became pregnant, and after complaints to the archbishop they were simply replacedby other novices.

 

Such tactics are still common in different parts of the world, human rights activists say. If, after having sex with a priest, the nun becomes pregnant, he requires her to have an abortion and give money for the operation. The novices often do not have enough money to pay for clinic services. Moreover, they perceive abortion as a great sin, and often remain suppressed after that.

Novices were afraid to speak to the public because of fear that they would not be believed. In 2013, a Catholic priest from the Ugandan capital, Kampala, in an open letter, told about cases of sexual relations between priests and nuns. He called for an understanding of the problem, but the confessor was removed from work and restored only after he made a public apology to the leadership of the local church.

Nuns in a catholic church Photo by Reuters
Nuns in a catholic church Photo by Reuters

In the years 2017-2018, against the background of the MeToo movement in support of victims of harassment, nuns were more likely to publicly talk about sexual harassment inside the church. According to the AP, in the summer of 2018, about six novices of a small monastic congregation in Chile spoke on a federal television channel, accusing local authorities of silencing cases of sexual harassment and violence. It was around this time that a nun in the Catholic Church in India filed a police complaint, accusing the local bishop of rape.

I am very sorry that it took so much time for this information to become known, because rumors had been circulating for a long time about the abuse of nuns in the Catholic Church .

Karlin Demasur
Church specialist on sexual abuse and abuse of power by the clergy ( quotedby AP)

Despite public statements by church novices in the era of MeToo, the Vatican never commented on cases of sexual violence against nuns. An AP source associated with the Catholic Church explained that the leadership focused on protecting children from harassment, while adult ministers paid much less attention

New promises of the Pope

On February 2, the Vatican women’s magazine, Women Church World, releasedmaterial revealing new cases of sexual abuse of nuns in the Catholic Church. As the newspaper wrote, over the years priests and bishops used their position over novices for manipulation and sexual satisfaction.

Priests and bishops have enormous power not only over one nun, but over the whole community. So if a nun who has been the victim of violence turns to the senior management and tells about what happened, they will say to her: “Keep quiet, because otherwise this bishop will avenge”.

Luchetta Scaraffia
Editor of Women Church World

Three days after the publication of Women Church World, Pope Francis first acknowledged cases of sexual abuse of nuns by priests and bishops. “I think these cases are still going on, because these things do not stop just because you learn about them.” He added that the Vatican had long worked on this problem, and recently removed several priests because of suspicions of sexual abuse.

In January, the head of the Vatican apparatus, Hermann Geissler, who studies allegations of sexual harassment in the church, resigned. This happened against the background of a statement by a former nun who accused him of harassing her in the past. Confessor denied the connection of his departure with this statement. The Pope did not comment on this story.

Pope’s statement

In his speech, Francis promised that the Vatican would devote more time to combating sexual violence against nuns. The conditions of life of some novices who fell under the aggressive influence of senior confessors, the Pope described as “sexual slavery.” However, later the representative of the Vatican explained that by this phrase Francis meant “manipulations” in relation to the nuns.

Some human rights activists took the Pope’s statement in doubt, pointing out that the Vatican had not commented on the subject of sexual harassment against nuns before.

“We feel slightly disappointed that a comment on this topic appeared only after media pressure on the church and the Pope,” said the head of the Italian human rights organization Voices of Faith, Suzanne Flisowska.

The former nun of the Catholic Church and human rights activist Mary Dispenza (Mary Dispenza) said The New York Times, which is unhappy with the words of the Pope. She pointed out that he touched upon the topic of sexual violence against nuns only in passing. In addition, she and other human rights defenders were disappointed that Francis did not disclose a plan for solving the problem, although the Vatican allegedly tried to solve it for a long time.

From February 21 to February 24, 2019, a conference of bishops on sexual harassment and violence in the church will be held in Rome. This is the first such meeting in the history of the Catholic Church. It is not known what role in the discussion will occupy the topic of sexual violence against nuns. According to The New York Times, the conference is primarily devoted to the problem of the seduction of minors in the church.