And There’s More: Nuns Denounce Their Sexual Abuse by Priests

And There’s More: Nuns Denounce Their Sexual Abuse by Priests July 30, 2018
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons, by Andrea Missinato.


America Magazine recently published an article about the sexual abuse of nuns by priests. In a way that’s similar to the McCarrick scandal, this story has been rattling around for quite some time. There are also stories bishops abusing nuns and cover-ups.

I’m going to write more about the scope of this scandal tomorrow. But for now, here’s an excerpt of the America article:

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The nun no longer goes to confession regularly, after an Italian priest forced himself on her while she was at her most vulnerable: recounting her sins to him in a university classroom nearly 20 years ago.

At the time, the sister only told her provincial superior and her spiritual director, silenced by the Catholic Church’s culture of secrecy, her vows of obedience and her own fear, repulsion and shame.

“It opened a great wound inside of me,” she told the Associated Press. “I pretended it didn’t happen.”

After decades of silence, the nun is one of a handful worldwide to come forward recently on an issue that the Catholic Church has yet to come to terms with: The sexual abuse of religious sisters by priests and bishops. An AP examination has found that cases have emerged in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia, demonstrating that the problem is global and pervasive, thanks to the tradition of sisters’ second-class status in the Catholic Church and their ingrained subservience to the men who run it


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18 responses to “And There’s More: Nuns Denounce Their Sexual Abuse by Priests”

  1. Rebecca, I so wish that I could be surprised by this—but I’m not. Saddened, yes, surprised? No. If priests and those higher were mistreating children and others, it makes unfortunate sense they would do so to the women in religious orders too. If I understand correctly, those orders were controlled by men—-the priests or a Bishop etc. Is that correct? I know there was a woman in charge (Mother Superior?) but she too had to answer to a male! The nuns/sisters were taught total obedience and as mentioned in the article, afraid to say anything.

  2. I’m not an expert on how the governance of nuns works, but I think what you said is accurate.

  3. I am not sure what makes me more sad…the fact that this happened or the fact that it doesn’t surprise me. While I am wrestling with God over some things in my life, I hope I can find it within me to strengthen my faith and not let the evil men that are in the Catholic Church (there are good ones, but lately they seem few and far between) kill my faith.

  4. This goes to show that the problem of sexual abuse within the Church is not a “homosexuality problem” as many claim. Its all about power, opportunity and a lack of accountability.

  5. “recounting her sins to him in a university classroom nearly 20 years ago”

    This is a great argument for bringing back the confessional. Complete with soundproofing and perhaps electronic communication so that one priest can service more than two people waiting.

    If there is physical separation, the chance of sexual abuse is greatly reduced.

  6. The best female Saints were Mother Superiors who made sure that the Bishop and visiting priests knew who was boss. My own parish is named after St. Clare of Assisi- the woman who forced St. Francis to open his order to women and who, armed only with a monstrance, turned back an Islamic invasion (two things I’d consider miraculous from her life that are so well historically documented that they cannot be disputed).

  7. Mr. Seeber, your comment about confessional solving the problem of nuns being raped during confession, is offensive. They’ll be attacked in the confessional as well. Don’t be so short-sighted.

  8. I acknowledge that these allegations may be true and I certainly pray for all of the people, both victims and perpetrators, who might be involved.

    In acknowledging all of our failings as “Church” to these poor victims we must, however, try to keep in mind how heartbreaking this must be for the other 400,000 priests and 750,000 nuns who devote every moment of their lives to the service of Jesus Christ and to his church here on earth.

  9. Hello again. I found the “turn back an Islamic invasion” claim interesting, so I tried looking it up. I found references to her turning back some Saracen mercenaries from a monastery, but only from Catholic sources. Can you suggest any links to this story?

  10. Years ago I knew a woman who was a Catholic nun and who left after 18 years because she was so disillusioned and disgusted by what she saw happening around her. I am not even remotely shocked by this revelation. As a Catholic from birth, I also witnessed priests who openly had relationships with women in the parish, and some had children with these women. In one case, the husband knew about it and was actually “proud” that the priest, a “holy man”, had impregnated his wife! As though God himself had inseminated her! Not to mention, all the friends I had who in later life had confessed being molested when they were altar boys, or when they were in Catholic schools.

    We must never forget that no matter the church or organization, it is made up of human beings, in all their weaknesses, ugliness, and brutishness, as well as in their good qualities. My solution continues to be simple, and no, it’s not to let priests marry. Married men have affairs as well, and abuse women they consider beneath them or second class citizens. Women they feel they have power over. My solution is to castrate anyone taking vows to become a priest, as obviously, men cannot be trusted from here to the confessional, nor anywhere else either. Or, if that isn’t acceptable, lock them in cages, like they do to little children in the US. Seem outrageous? Not as outrageous as this non-stop assault on innocent women wanting only to go about their lives in peace! It’s been centuries now. When is enough, enough?!

  11. A closed confessional is hardly an answer to the crime. The abuse can start verbally by asking inappropriate questions in the guise of extracting a “good confession” and it can progress from there. A sexual predator will always find a way to force themselves on a victim, but anyone who take advantage of a child or a nun is below low.

  12. In India too we have some serious cases of abuse by priests. Latest is the complaint of a nun for 13 times rape by a bishop, the bishop of Jalandhar, Punjab, India. We can’t imagine these aberrations by the clergy. How theses bishops and cardinals .reject Jesus in private and show their fake faith in Jesus and Church in public.
    The moment allegations are raised, investigation must be done by a committee consisting of priests and bishop from other diocese and honest and dedicated Catholic lay persons. This must be done quickly and judgement passed within a couple of months.

  13. Of course there are some good priests out there BUT the fact is:
    It’s not just about the priests who abused nuns/children/seminarians/women in their congregations, etc.
    It’s about priests who didn’t report on the predators! Priests who looked the other way.
    It’s about priests COVERING UP the crimes of these men who were doing vile things to members of their flocks. Men who were abusing the love and trust of their communities..
    Reminder: In the Catholic Church, a parish priest is also known as a pastor. The word “pastor” derives from the Latin noun pastor which means “shepherd.”
    What do shepherds do? Well, they herd sheep AND a good shepherd will stop at nothing to help a lost lamb and protect his flock from predators.
    We had a massive amount of “shepherds” who were nothing but wolves and coyotes out to abuse the innocent, the young and the disempowered.
    And then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, we had a whole LOT MORE shepherds who actually helped cover up the crimes of the wolves and coyotes in their midst!
    AND this kind of horrible behavior was going on ALL the way to Rome!
    We have documents from the Vatican with instructions telling priests to discourage victims from reporting to the police and worse to actually THREATEN the victims!
    Lead story from The Daily Mail Sept 2006 reads: Pope ‘led cover-up of child abuse by priests’
    And I quote: The Pope (Benedict aka Cardinal Ratzinger) played a leading role in a systematic cover-up of child sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests, according to a shocking documentary to be screened by the BBC tonight. In 2001, while he was a cardinal, he issued a secret Vatican edict to Catholic bishops all over the world, instructing them to put the Church’s interests ahead of child safety.
    The document recommended that rather than reporting sexual abuse to the relevant legal authorities, bishops should encourage the victim, witnesses and perpetrator not to talk about it. And, to keep victims quiet, it threatened that if they repeat the allegations they would be excommunicated.”
    I would also suggest you go and read the Newyorker story: What Pope Benedict Knew About Abuse in the Catholic Church (January 14, 2016)
    The article is too long for me to pull quotes out to illustrate my point but suffice to say, the Roman Church has a lot to answer for.
    Repeated requests by children, parents, women (religious and otherwise), men (religious and otherwise) begging for help only to find themselves REVICTIMIZED by the very church who SHOULD have been helping them.
    My point is only this: Right about now it is the HEALING of the VICTIMS that should be our focus.
    My two cents worth.

  14. I agree. I guess I wrote a confusing column about an inflamed topic. My bad. What I’m trying to do is address the scapegoating. Also, to point past the priesthood and to the fact that rape, sexual assault and child molesting are not confined to the priesthood, they are everywhere in our society. Maybe that was too much for the time we are in right now. If I gave ANY hint that I think what the bishops have done is ok, I can tell you that this was absolutely not my intent.

  15. Not sure why you’d think that. I’m replying to Theodore Seeber, who said St. Clare turned back an Islamic invasion. I found a much less impressive story (though brave enough), one with rather less grounding than I’d require to think it either miraculous or historically undisputable, as he describes it.

    Although, as you might guess, we have interacted a bit in the past… not always amicably.