This article is from 2001. In the decade that has passed since then, did you ever hear about it? I didn’t. I’ve heard stories about Priests raping nuns – there are lots of them – but this specific thing, reported in the mainstream news, didn’t seem to make much of a splash. You’d think it would be an international outrage. You’d think it would have had people railing in large numbers against the Catholic church years before this started to happen in earnest.
If this happened today, would it receive as much attention as does the issue of paedophilic priests? I doubt it.
Let me bullet point it for you, since I’m so anxious to get on with filling in my census form:
- In 2001, the Catholic church admitted, after much stalling, that priests in at least 23 countries had been routinely raping nuns
- In most cases, the priests seemed to have chosen to rape nuns instead of other women or instead of employing prostitutes because they were worried about contracting AIDS
- Members of the Catholic clergy abused their self-appointed authority to coerce sexual acts from nuns. For example, sex seems to have been the price to allow nuns to work in their diocese or to help them find accommodation and other things the nuns should rightly have felt entitled to by default
- Nuns have become pregnant because of this. According to the article, 29 nuns from one congregation became pregnant by priests.
- Pregnant nuns have been ‘encouraged’ to have abortions
- Nuns have been ‘encouraged’ to take birth control pills
- When nuns complained, they were often blamed
- The accused men were sent off to prey on other people, while the women were drummed out of the church
Forced to acknowledge the problem, the Vatican has tried to play down its gravity. In a statement issued yesterday the Pope's official spokesman, Joaquin Navarro Valls, said: "The problem is known and involves a restricted geographical area. Certain negative situations must not overshadow the often heroic faith of the overwhelming majority of religious, nuns and priests".
Of all the things wrong with this statement, the wrongest and the most descriptive of the Catholic church is the part about nuns. NONE of this story called the integrity and faith of nuns into question, especially since they were, you know, the victims. But this charming man blithely lumps in the victims as equally sinful as their rapists. And the church backs him up with enthusiasm.
Otherwise, of course, it might have attempted to do something about it. Which as far as I can tell, it hasn’t. I think the best these women can hope for is an official notpology in 200 years or so.