On Tuesday, Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, has confirmed reports that nuns have suffered and are still suffering sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests and bishops, and even being held as sexual slaves.
The issue of sexual abuse of women first came into limelight when the monthly Vatican magazine ‘Women Church World’ included Pope Francis’ take on the reports of sexual abuse and nuns being held as sexual slaves. The pontiff further urged that the unchecked power wielded by Catholic priests and higher clergy across the Catholic Church are the main reason behind such crimes. The Catholic head priest further stated that the Church is going to hold a summit soon on this issue.
The announcement comes in the backdrop of several high profile rape and sexual harassment cases (including one from India as well) involving the clergy. Earlier, in the high profile nun rape case the bishop of the Syro-Malabar church had cropped up. The nun who was the mother superior of a convent had accused the bishop of raping her 13 times over a period of two years. The accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal is the bishop in Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar.
According to the nun, the bishop had first raped her at a guesthouse in 2014 after calling her under the pretext of some work related to the church. She was further blackmailed and forced to have sex with the bishop countless times. The bishop in question too lodged a complaint with the police. The bishop alleged that the nun had blackmailed him and threatened to frame him in a sexual misconduct case if he failed to meet her demands.
Since then there had been a ton of twists and turns occurred in the case. First the death of senior priest Father Kuriakose Kattuthara who had testified against Bishop Franco Mulakkal in the case and later the nun, who protested against the rape-accused pastor, receiving a letter of warning from her superiors clearly points out the fact that all is not well the church.
But this is not the lone case, just a week prior to the nun rape case, five Catholic priests were accused of blackmailing and sexually abusing a woman, and later a complaint was put on the Orthodox Church by the husband of the woman. The Church so far has turned a blind eye towards the endemic problem of sexual abuse and even at times had tried to shield the accused.
However, there is no doubt that there is a power game which goes on at all times inside the churches. The church has time and again tried to drown the voices of the nuns demanding justice, but with the Pope finally acknowledging that sexual abuse problem is real, the church might at least do something about it, though their past record indicates otherwise.