One of the most powerful messages that the #MeToo movement sends is that there is no way to predict sexual harassment and assault. There is no specific age range that is more susceptible or types of clothing that can prevent it from happening. Most importantly, anyone can fall victim regardless of the individual’s sense of morality, including nuns.
Several cases of abused nuns across Europe, Africa, South America, and Asia have come to light in an examination by the Associated Press (AP), highlighting the pervasive problem across the globe.
Sexual abuse of religious sisters by priests and bishops is something Catholic Church has yet to come to terms with, and the church’s culture of secrecy has kept the nuns silent for years. However, some nuns have recently found their voice through the #MeToo movement despite the ingrained subservience.
One nun opened up to the AP with her story. The nun had been at confession recounting her sins to an Italian priest when he forced himself on her mid-sacrament. “It opened a great wound inside of me,” the nun told the AP. “I pretended it didn’t happen.” The assault — and a subsequent attack by a different priest a year later — led the nun to stop going to confession with any other priest than her spiritual father.
Outside the Vatican the extent of the abuse of nuns is unclear. Victims are reluctant to report abuse due to the fear of not being believed, experts told the AP.
The Vatican declined to comment on what measures, if any, it has taken to address the problem globally. A Vatican official said it is up to the church leaders to address the issues, but that such crimes often go unpunished both in civil and canonical courts.
With more and more sisters speaking out, the Vatican will have to acknowledge the issue sooner or later.
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