Earlier this week, Pope Francis revealed that priests in various parts of the world have been sexually abusing nuns. Priests have been keeping nuns as sex slaves. If you are shocked by this, you are not alone. I was stunned when I read the alarming headlines of the articles, which have been published on prominent news sites like msn.com and bbc.com. If you were not aware, here is a link to one of the articles.
Now, sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is nothing new, unfortunately. Such disgusting and criminal conduct has been perpetrated by certain priests for decades. The victims of such abuse have often been children. But now these predators have widened their feeding grounds to prey on nuns. Nuns. Young women attempting to serve the Lord and His people. Have these priests no limits? Have they no respect for members of their own clergy? What is wrong with these frocked men?
According to the articles, the extent of the abuse of nuns was first revealed by a Vatican magazine called “Women Church World”. Apparently this scandal was long known by the Catholic Church but – unsurprisingly – was covered up and silenced. The scale of the abuse became so widespread and deplorable that the previous Pope Benedict dissolved an order of nuns called the Community of St. Jean in France, in 2005. These unfortunate young women had been forced into sexual slavery.
Regardless of your religious affiliation, this news is disturbing. Very much so for me. I read a related article on bbc.com in which two former nuns described the instances of sexual abuse that they suffered at the hands of their parish priests. The details made me feel sick to my stomach. One had been raped over a period of years and both, like many others, had been made to feel as if they themselves were the guilty parties. Their youth, naivety, and religious conditioning/brainwashing had led them to believe that if they had reported their abuse, they would have been the ones responsible for the shame on the Church. The typical predator styled victim blaming and guilt-tripping.
When will this stop? An optimist may say “soon” and be grateful that these horrifying tales are finally coming to light. I am certainly glad that the truth of these cover-ups and lies are being revealed. I only wish there was nothing to reveal. But we are where we are and we must deal with this terrible reality.
What these priests and other abusers need to realize is that nuns are women too. They are women first and foremost. And women have rights. Women – like men – have the right to personal autonomy including the freedom from sexual abuse and rape. Such rights do not diminish according to dress code. A nun’s habit does not preclude her from the protection of the law or from the respect of her male peers. We must protect our women.
The Pope’s admission of these crimes committed by these priests is a step in the right direction. But much more needs to be done to address this ongoing rape culture in the Catholic Church. A strong example needs to be set. These vile predators need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, defrocked and not simply demoted. Their names and images should be placed on a special sex offenders registry so that all can know of their crimes.
But what about here in the Caribbean? Reports of nuns being sexually abused in India and Latin America have previously surfaced. But is such abuse prevalent in convents in the Caribbean region? I pray not, but I would not put my head on a block.
To all the abusive priests and predators, I say, “Your time is up.” More nuns will come forward. More women will reveal the truth of their abuse at the hands of the ‘fathers of the Church’. What you have done in the dark will come to the light. Be sure your sins will find you out.