In a first, Pope Francis acknowledges bishops sexually abused nuns
Amid widespread allegations that the Vatican emboldened sexual predators by turning a blind eye to survivor stories, Pope Francis on Tuesday acknowledged that nuns were sexually abused by priests and bishops and that he was committed to solving this problem. While returning to Rome from UAE, the Pope spoke on the grievous issue for the first time ever, giving hope to millions. Here's more.
Bishops and priests have abused nuns: Pope finally speaks up
Responding to a reporter's question, the pontiff said he didn't feel the church was devoid of this 'problem'. "There have been priests and also bishops who have done that (abuse). And I believe that it may still be being done," the Pope said. While accepting it was high time to act, the Pope said the abuse took place in "certain congregations, predominantly new ones".
"We have been working on this for a long time"
"It's not a thing that from the moment in which you realize it, it's over. The thing goes forward like this. We've been working on this for a long time. Must something more be done? Yes. Do we have the will? Yes," the Pope added.
The Pope commented after magazine wrote about nuns' plight
The Pope's comments come after 'Women Church World', a supplement of Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, wrote about sexual abuse of nuns in its February 1 issue. The thought-provoking article underlined victim nuns didn't report abuse as they feared retaliation from the clergy. It claimed several nuns got pregnant and were forced to undergo abortions. Ironically, the Roman Catholic Church considers abortion a sin.
If Church stays silent, abuse will continue, said the article
"If the church continues to close its eyes to the scandal — made even worse by the fact that abuse of women brings about procreation and is therefore at the origin of forced abortions and children who aren't recognized by priests — the condition of oppression of women in the church will never change," wrote Editor Lucetta Scaraffia.
Earlier, organization of nuns denounced the 'culture of silence'
With the #MeToo movement going strong, the abuse of nuns has fortunately got the attention it deserves. The International Union of Superiors General, the global organization of nuns, denounced the culture of silence, last year. In a statement, the organization said unequal power relations led to abuse. It said it was demeaning that the victim had to stay silent to 'protect the institution'.
Closer home, a nun was allegedly raped by Bishop
In India, the abuse of a nun, a case which grabbed global headlines, highlighted the problem was deeply ingrained. The victim nun was allegedly raped by a Bishop at least 13 times in two years. Let down by the church, the nun approached the police. Subsequently, the accused Bishop, Franco Mulakkal was arrested on September 21, 2018, a day after Pope Francis suspended him.
The abuse is a cultural problem, feels the Pope
But the abuse is not limited to India. In recent years, nuns in Africa, Latin America, and Italy have accused clerics of sexually violating them. And according to the Pope, the abuse stemmed from the way women are treated. He said in many places, women are seen as 'second-class citizens'. "It's a cultural problem," he said. "I dare say that humanity hasn't matured."
Stories will be heard: Pope Francis statements give hope
But the Vatican is serious about the problem, the Pope's statement tells. He revealed his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI took action against a France-based order after a priest reduced nuns to 'sexual slaves'. The Pope said the problem will be dealt on a case-to-case basis while adding that some accused clergy have been suspended too. "Pray that this goes forward," he said.