The Abuse of Nuns in the Catholic Church

Anna Callahan, Reporter

Disclaimer: The following article contains some graphic material, including vivid descriptions of sexual assault.

For years, nuns have been abused by priests and have never spoken a word of it. Now, because of the growing support of the #MeToo movement, they have begun to speak up about the traumas inflicted on them.

Nuns not speaking up about the issue is not only because it is covered up or they are forced into silence, but also because they are made to feel as though the sexual assault they experience is their fault. According to the article by NPR Lucetta Scaraffia — a history professor says, “‘These nuns believe they’re the guilty ones for having seduced that holy man into committing sin, because that’s what they’ve always been taught.”

Some nuns will speak out and talk to the church about what happened to them to have action taken against the other person. However, in some cases the nun will be kicked out of the church and forced to live on the street.

In other cases, the nun will become pregnant after the priest rapes her, then one of two things can happen to her if she becomes pregnant afterward: either the priest will force them into an abortion, in secret, that the priest will pay for because they have no money, or they will be kicked out of their order and live alone raising their child with no help.

The first extensive report on abuse of women in the church was made in 1994 by an Irish nun, Sister Maura O’Donohue, whose report covered more than 20 countries.

In Sister O’Donohue’s report, she cites a case from 1988 in Malawi, where a bishop dismissed the leaders of a women’s religious order because they complained about 29 nuns who had been made pregnant by local priests. The report also stated that a priest arranged for a nun to have an abortion, the nun died during the abortion and the priest later officiated at her funeral.

According to an article by The New York Times there was a case in Malawi where priests impregnated 30 sisters in the congregation.

While there are possible awful consequences for nuns that do speak out on the issue, they still do it in hopes of eliminating the issue. Last fall, Indian nuns in the state of Kerala marched with placards, demanding action against a bishop they say raped a nun between 2014 and 2016.

In another part of India, Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar currently faces charges for repeatedly raping a former mother superior of a congregation. While he has denied the charges, more than 80 nuns signed a July letter urging that he be removed from pastoral work.

The nuns have joined in on the #MeToo movement and have now started their own #NunsToo and are urging for support so they will not be dismissed any longer.