Pope Francis Admits Priests, Bishops Have Sexually Abused Nuns46:50

Pope Francis sits in front of the altar as he celebrates a mass at the Sheikh Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (Andrew Medichini/AP)
Pope Francis sits in front of the altar as he celebrates a mass at the Sheikh Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (Andrew Medichini/AP)
This article is more than 3 years old.

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Pope Francis publicly acknowledges the sexual abuse of nuns by priests and bishops. Worldwide, nuns are speaking out. We’ll shed light on the newest scandal for the Catholic Church.


Nicole Winfield, Vatican correspondent for The Associated Press. (@nwinfield)

Sister Kathleen Bryant, Catholic nun with the Religious Sisters Charity. Activist with the organization the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking.

Susan Reynolds, professor of Catholic studies at Emory University's Candler School of Theology. (@SusanBReynolds1)

From The Reading List

NPR: "Pope Francis Acknowledges, For First Time, Sexual Abuse Of Nuns By Priests" — "Pope Francis, for the first time, acknowledged the sexual abuse of nuns by priests and bishops, including a case in which some clergy used women as sex slaves. He said on Tuesday that he is committed to ending the problem in the Roman Catholic Church.

"His comments came in response to a reporter's question on his flight returning to Rome from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The reporter asked the pope about a Vatican magazine article published last week detailing reports of sexual abuse by clerics resulting in nuns having abortions or giving birth to children fathered by priests.

"'It is true ... there have been priests and even bishops who have done this,' said Francis as quoted by Reuters. 'I think it is still going on because something does not stop just because you have become aware of it,' he added."

Associated Press: "After decades of silence, nuns talk about abuse by priests" — "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 universal tradition of sisters’ second-class status in the Catholic Church and their ingrained subservience to the men who run it."

New York Times: "Pope Acknowledges Nuns Were Sexually Abused by Priests and Bishops" — "Pope Francis said on Tuesday that the Roman Catholic Church had faced a persistent problem of sexual abuse of nuns by priests and even bishops, the first time he has publicly acknowledged the issue.

"Catholic nuns have accused clerics of sexual abuse in recent years in India, Africa, Latin America and in Italy, and a Vatican magazine last week mentioned nuns having abortions or giving birth to the children of priests. But Francis has never raised the issue until he was asked to comment during a news conference aboard the papal plane returning to Rome from his trip to the United Arab Emirates.

"'It’s true,' Francis said. 'There are priests and bishops who have done that.'

"The pope’s admission opens a new front in the long-running scandal of sexual abuse by priests, recognizing nuns who have tried for years to call attention to their plight. With the #MeToo movement going strong, and Francis under pressure for neglecting the victims of child abuse, the nuns’ pleas have gained traction."

Anna Bauman produced this hour for broadcast.

This program aired on February 7, 2019.





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