Pope Acknowledges Abuse of Nuns

The press corps on the papal plane recently reported that Pope Francis described abuse of nuns by priests as “sexual slavery.” The pontiff’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, had dissolved the Contemplative Sisters of Saint-Jean after learning of the abuse that Francis characterized as “slavery to the point of sexual slavery on the part of clergy or the founder.” The Vatican acted quickly to correct these comments, releasing a statement that relabeled “sexual slavery” as “manipulation.” However, the problem extends far beyond a single religious order, with reports of rape and forced abortion rampant in Africa, for example, where nuns are viewed by priests as “safe” because they are unlikely to be infected with HIV. Further reports of harassment, abuse and rape have come from South America, India, Europe and even the Vatican itself, where an officer of the doctrinal office resigned after a former nun lodged allegations against him. Francis seemed to convey doubt that a solution is imminent, speaking of revelations and investigations as “part of a process.” Survivors groups found the ope’s remarks unsatisfactory. Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability.org described the problem as an “epidemic” and joined the chorus of voices that chided the Vatican for speaking “as if they’re identifying a problem for the first time,” a posture that strikes Doyle as “disingenuous.” These reservations were bolstered when the New York Times revealed that the Vatican maintains a secret “internal” protocol for priests who father children.

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