UP TO 30% OF CATHOLIC SISTERS HAD BEEN SEXUALLY ABUSED AND MANY MORE ARE AT
RISK OF CLERICAL SEXUAL ABUSE
(THE CONVERSATION AUSTRALIA, 2019)
THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN WERE SEXUALLY ABUSED BY CLERICS OVER THE PAST 70 YEARS
THE ROYAL COMMISSION OF AUSTRALIA FOUND MORE THAN 4,400 SEPARATE ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE AGAINST CATHOLIC INSTITUTIONS IN AUSTRALIA
ESTIMATED 3.8 MILLION VICTIMS AROUND THE WORLD
In January 2017, a nun from Kerala, India, approached church authorities to report Bishop Franco Mulakkal, whom she accused of raping her more than a dozen times from 2014-2016. However, she received little support, and eventually decided to report him to the police in June 2018. While he was recently charged with raping the nun nine times over a two year period, the significant amount of resistance and time taken to prosecute him is a disheartening sign that the issue is not given the attention it deserves, and this sentiment is echoed by nuns around the world.
WHAT IS GOING ON?
Before 2018, the primary focus of the Catholic Church has been handling the sexual abuse by priests and other church members against minors. However, after different scandals came to light, Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, admitted for the first time in February 2019 to BBC News that there are indeed bishops and priests who are sexually abusing nuns in the church. Catholic women across the world are now sharing their stories under the hashtag #NunsToo, leading to what is now seen as a global sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?
Sexual abuse of nuns is not new. In 1994, an Irish nun published a report to the Vatican with evidence of nuns being sexually harassed and abused in over twenty countries by their male clerics. However, the Vatican stayed silent and concealed it. In the February 2019 issue of Women Church World, editor Lucetta Scaraffia shared hundreds of stories from nuns that showed sexual abuse happens due to the abuse of power from a male-dominated leadership and the hierarchy and patriarchy of the Catholic Church. What was discovered in an investigation of the Chilean Catholic Church — a culture of abuse, inaction and concealment — seems to be an alarming pattern that is also happening in churches across the world.
WHY IS THIS THE FIRST TIME WE ARE HEARING ABOUT THIS?
For many nuns who have been raped, it is difficult for them to report that they have been raped by a priest, because the prevailing belief is that women can say no to sex. Also, many believe they are the ones who are at fault, as they must have done something to seduce these holy men.
Just as it has been difficult for many child victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic church to report the abuse, nuns find themselves powerless to seek justice. When some of them have gotten pregnant, they have even been forced to get abortions or thrown out of the order. Overwhelmingly, it is the difference in power between the nuns and the priests that has made this issue one shrouded in secrecy until now.