The Roman Catholic Church is facing yet another clergy sexual abuse scandal, after Pope Francis admitted that nuns have long been victimized by predatory priests and bishops.
The Pope acknowledged the problem earlier this week, during a news conference in the United Arab Emirates.
“It’s not that everyone does this, but there have been priests and bishops who have,” Francis said. “And I think that it’s continuing because it’s not like once you realize it that it stops. It continues. And for some time we’ve been working on it.”
“Should we do something more? Yes. Is there the will? Yes. But it’s a path that we have already begun,” he continued.
The exchange marked the first time Pope Francis has ever acknowledged what the Associated Press characterized as a “global and pervasive” problem that has plagued the Church for years.
Nuns and other religious sisters form the the backbone of the Roman Catholic Church.
These women teach at its schools, care for the sick, and administer social services in dioceses around the world. Yet Catholic sisters hold second class status in the Church and are subservient to the men who run it.
Just last week, Women Church World reported that Church authorities had long ignored allegations raised by nuns in Africa, Asia, and South America.
Among other things, the Vatican magazine noted that order superiors sometimes forced abused nuns to undergo abortions. Other sisters raised the children born of their abuse, even as priests refused to acknowledge their offspring.
“The priests and even more, the Bishops, have a huge power, not just over a single nun but over a whole congregation,” editor Lucetta Scaraffiaold told the Associated Press. “So, if an abused nun goes to her superior general and says that she has been abused, she will be told ‘Keep quiet because if you don’t this bishop will turn against us.'”
Sadly, this is not the first time a clergy sexual abuse scandal has rocked the Roman Catholic Church.
Over the past 16 years, dioceses and religious orders throughout the United States have paid out more than $3 billion to settle priest abuse lawsuits. At least 19 have been forced to seek bankruptcy protection.
Most recently, a Pennsylvania Grand Jury investigation found that Bishops and other high-ranking Church officials throughout the state had for decades protected hundreds of priests credibly accused of molesting children in their care.
The findings have already triggered similar investigations in nearly a dozen other states.
Pennsylvania’s clergy sexual abuse scandal may have also increased support for New York’s Child Victims Act, which finally passed both houses of the state legislature last week.
Introduced in 2006, the Child Victims Act easily passed the New York State Assembly year after year. But opposition from the Catholic Church and other powerful interests had prevented passage in the Senate.
Once the Act is signed into law, adult survivors of sexual abuse will have until their 55th birthday to file civil lawsuits against their abusers, as well as the public and private institutions that harbored them.
The Child Victims Act also open a one-year window to allow adult survivors older than 55 to revive otherwise time-barred claims.