What was known for decades has finally exploded into the open: sexual abuse of nuns by priests in the Catholic Church. Pope Francis admitted last month that priests have been sexually abusing nuns, and in one case they were kept as “sex slaves.” Some nuns have had to abort fetuses, a practice the Catholic Church expressly forbids for women. The problem is not confined to any particular region: it is worldwide. Sexual abuse cases have occurred in North America, Europe, India, and Africa.
The current pontiff admitted that his predecessor, Pope Benedict, in 2005 was forced to shut down an entire congregation of nuns in France who were being sexually abused by priests. He said the Church was attempting to address the problem but admitted it was “still going on.”
Expressing frustration at the lack of action, last November the Catholic Church’s global organization for nuns denounced the “culture of silence and secrecy.” The organization said it was preventing nuns from speaking out. Sexual abuse of nuns has come amid similar long-running allegations of abuse of children and young men by priests.
The Vatican called for a meeting of some 200 bishops from around the world to address the problem. Observers, however, are skeptical that any practical steps would be taken since the Church has in the past merely transferred offending priests to other parishes. The Pope’s comment that it was a problem “confined to new congregations” also dampened hopes.