The Catholic Church, which has yet to meaningfully address cases of child sexual abuse throughout its parishes for years, must now face a new class of people speaking out about sexual abuse within the church: nuns emboldened by the #MeToo movement.
The Associated Press reports that nuns from around the world are coming forward with stories of sexual abuse committed by priests and criticizing senior leadership within the Catholic Church for not doing anything to prevent it from happening.
In Chile, the AP writes, a small group of nuns went on national TV and revealed that they had been abused by priests and other nuns. And last month, a nun accused of a bishop of rape, filing a complaint with the police.
Like in many powerful industries and landscapes, nuns are likely afraid of reporting abuses by their superiors because of their own subordinate status within the church, which itself makes the sister vulnerable to abuse. When they do come forward, there is not a system in place to handle their claims swiftly or justly. Professor Karlijn Demasure, who has studied clergical sexual abuse and formerly the executive director of the Center for Child Protection from the Pontifical Gregorian University, told the AP:
“They (the priests) can always say ‘she wanted it,’” Demasure said. “It is also difficult to get rid of the opinion that it is always the woman who seduces the man, and not vice versa.”
The nuns in Chile are speaking out against priests just as all of the bishops in Chile were allowed to resign in May after another major sexual abuse scandal. And the AP’s report comes weeks after the New York Times reported that cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was removed from the ministry in June after the Archdiocese of New York examined a claim that McCarrick sexually abused a minor and deemed it credible, was accused of sexually abusing young adult men in the church for years.