By Joseph Hammond and Tim Nerozzi
Accusations that nuns were sexually abused over long periods of time in countries around the world marks a new chapter in the Catholic abuse sex scandal.
The controversy took on wide significance last week when Pope Francis revealed for the first time that his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, had dissolved a female congregation in 2005 “because this slavery of women had entered it — slavery, even to the point of sexual slavery — on the part of clerics or the founder.”
Francis was reportedly referring to the late founder of a splinter group in France, The Community of St. Jean, who acted “in ways that went against chastity.”
The Pope’s remark came after a journalist asked if the Church intended to address the abuse of nuns in convents and other Church institutions around the world. The pontiff assured the press that the Vatican had been looking into the matter and acting when appropriate.
The Vatican later expanded on the pope’s statement, clarifying that the pontiff had meant “manipulation” as a form of sexual abuse as opposed to physical violence or actual sex slavery.
The extent of the scandal remains unclear. Though a recent Vatican magazine article reported on incidents in Chile, India and in Africa where some priests turned to nuns for sex due to Africa’s ongoing AIDS crisis.
The Church has spent decades dealing with revelations regarding the abuse of children by priests. Revelations concerning the treatment of nuns have emerged with force only recently. In November, a canonically recognized group representing female Catholic religious orders, the International Union of Superiors General, condemned what it called the “culture of silence and secrecy” that prevents nuns from telling the truth.
“Many in the church are convinced that the greater good of the church requires secrecy,” says Michael Kelsey, a former seminarian, “I guarantee that many such nuns never complained. Many that did complain were probably convinced that the bishop was taking care of things and that it would be better if things were kept quiet. Multiply that by numerous cases and you can create a massive culture of complacency and complicity.”
Kelsey resigned his post last year with the Washingotn D.C. dioceses. He told AMI Newswire that it is a common “belief by bishops and the managerial class of the church that they have specialized knowledge and that they should not have to be public about internal issues.”
The “managerial class” of the Catholic Church refers to both clergy and laity “working in chanceries with the bishops such as lawyers and priests destined for management.”
The definition of “clericalism” is often debated but, often refers to deference to church leadership at all times — even in administrative matters. Clericalism has often been cited as one of the key problems in the global abuse crisis.
“While men firmly control the hierarchy or the church, women normally occupy a very great portion of the support and administrative positions in the church;” he said.
“Nuns in particular often care for sick and old priests and help [staff] schools. So women are often in a position to know a lot about the personal foibles and secrets of priests and yet are rarely in a position to do anything about it.”
The former seminarian cited alcoholism as one example of such a foible.
On his flight back from last week, Pope Francis was asked about a resolution to the ongoing scandal. The pontiff predicted that “the problem of abuse will continue” in some capacity because it is “a human problem” that is found throughout modern society.
“By resolving the problem in the church, we will help to resolve it in society and in families,” said Pope Francis.
The crisis surrounding the church led this aspirational priest to leave. However, he still has hopes for one day receiving Holy Orders and being ordained. However, he feels he must wait until the global scandal has been addressed before he can confidently re-enter religious life.
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