Abused nuns reveal stories of rape, forced abortions. Another scandal is engulfing the Catholic Church. At a time when the Vatican has taken its most concrete steps to address a long ordeal with sex abuse and coverups, a growing chorus of nuns is speaking out about the suffering they have endured at the hands of the priesthood, including rape, forced abortion, emotional abuse and labor exploitation. Special correspondent Christopher Livesay reports.
This week, Catholic bishops are meeting in Baltimore to discuss the priest sex abuse crisis in the American church and will vote on measures to hold themselves accountable.
Throughout the church, the Vatican has put in place new rules on reporting abuse, the most concrete steps the Vatican has taken to counter the crisis.
Most of the attention has focused on child victims, but as special correspondent Christopher Livesay reports from the Vatican, now, in the MeToo era, there’s a growing chorus of nuns speaking out as survivors of abuse as well.
They’re known as brides of Christ, revered for their quiet service, not for speaking out. But that’s beginning to change.
Well, I joined the convent in 2003, and I was raped in 2008.
Raped, she says, by a priest. A devout Catholic from Germany, Doris Wagner was 24 years old, living and working at this religious community just outside the Vatican.
And he came into the room, closed the door behind him, was sitting on my right hand on the sofa. And he just started to undress me.
When she told her superiors, she says the priest went unpunished, allowing him to rape her again and again.
But this whole time, the perpetrator was still living in the same…
So you had to actually see your rapist.
He was preaching at the chapel. He was giving me holy communion. He was sitting at breakfast, at lunch, at dinner on the same — at the same table. I was ironing his shirts.
Story after story like Wagner’s is reaching a crescendo. In India, a bishop currently faces charges for repeatedly raping a former mother superior.
And a recent investigation by the Associated Press found cases of abuse across four continents. Now the Vatican can no longer ignore the scandal. This year, Pope Francis made a shocking admission and acknowledged what had been a longstanding dirty secret of the Roman Catholic Church, that some priests had been sexually abusing nuns.
It was a stain they could keep under wraps, that is, until the MeToo era. Now religious women are beginning to speak out, and a NunsToo era has been born.
Helping break down that wall of silence was, of all things, a Vatican magazine, “Donne Chiesa Mondo,” or “Women Church World.” Its all-women staff included former editor Lucetta Scaraffia. She listened to hundreds of stories from nuns, and, in February, published an article accusing the all-powerful priesthood of not only exploiting them for sex, but, first and foremost, for their labor.
Lucetta Scaraffia (through translator):
It happens as high as the Vatican ministries, where women carry out secretarial work and translations, but they can never be promoted, and the men get all the credit.
They also exploit nuns as Housekeepers. They do all of the cleaning, prepare all the food, without fixed hours, all day, every day. Priests see this almost as their right to take advantage of women.
They’re not paid for their work. There’s no chance of advancement. Some people have likened this mistreatment to slavery. Is that accurate?
Lucetta Scaraffia (through translator):
That’s accurate. Given this habit of servitude, it’s easy to understand how it can morph into sexual exploitation.
Doris Wagner says that’s what happened to her in Rome.
I was only working in the kitchen, chopping vegetables, cleaning. Anybody who wants to become a nun wants to serve and wants to give herself to God. And that’s why it’s so easy to abuse nuns, because they are so ready to listen to others who tell them how they are supposed to be.
Again and again, I was reproached for not walking right, not looking right, not sitting right, not talking right, because some men in the house had a problem with me.
#MeToo #NunsToo # MeTooMovement #nuns me too movement
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