Pope Francis has acknowledged the suffering of innumerable nuns who were sadistically abused by Catholic priests.
Speaking to the press while on tour in the United Arab Emirates, Pope Francis admitted that the sexual abuse of nuns was likely “still going on” in certain corners of the Church. He highlighted the case of the Community of St. Jean, where women were kept in “sexual slavery” at the hands of the priests, noting the “courage” of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, in shutting down the facility.
“Pope Benedict had the courage to dissolve a female congregation which was at a certain level, because this slavery of women had entered it – slavery, even to the point of sexual slavery — on the part of clerics or the founder,” the pope said, as reported by the BBC. St Jean was permanently closed down in 2005 after it was revealed that many of the resident priests had behaved “in ways that went against chastity.”
Pope Francis said sexual abuse of nuns was likely to be an ongoing problem in “new” congregations.
“It’s not that everyone does this, but there have been priests and bishops who have,” he explained, adding, “it’s not as though the moment you become aware of something it goes away.”
In terms of the response of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis insisted that this had “already begun.”
“Should we do something more?” he asked. “Yes. Is there the will? Yes. But it’s a path that we have already begun.”
Last year, the French website La Parisien reported the case of a former nun who was abused and raped by her parish priest between 2010 and 2011.
“His gestures became more and more inappropriate,” she said. “But he kept going… until the day he raped me.”
She added: “He was unable to control himself… he had a split personality.”
Did the pope mean to say “sexual slavery”?
Following the Pope’s headline-making remarks, the Vatican rushed to clarify his comments.
“When the Holy Father, referring to the dissolution of a Congregation, spoke of ‘sexual slavery,’ he meant ‘manipulation,’ a form of abuse of power which is reflected also in sexual abuse,” said Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti, according to CNN.
The Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, last week added that the abuse of nuns by priests and bishops at times is “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.”
Many are hoping that Pope Francis will do more to clearly outline the Church’s plans to tackle the abuse at a conference in Rome, scheduled for later this month.
The editor of the Vatican’s news outlet, Lucetta Scaraffia, said that if Church leadership “continues to close its eyes to the scandal,” then “the condition of oppression of women in the church will never change.”