How silence hid the scandalous abuse of African nuns by priests since the 1990s

Nduta Waweru July 28, 2018

Nuns have made revelations of ongoing sexual abuse in and out of the Vatican by nuns and bishops, a report has revealed.

An examination by the Associated Press has revealed that there have been cases of abuse in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia, showing that it is a global problem.

After decades of silence, the nuns, spurred by the #metoo movement, have raised their voices to show that they are victims of power imbalances in the Church and that the church has been silent over their plight as victims and survivors of sexual abuse.

In Africa cases of rape and sexual abuse of nuns by priests have come up periodically, all with the knowledge of the church.

The AP points out a case by a Ugandan priest who had complained of “priests romantically involved with religious sisters”. Instead of addressing the issue, the church suspended him until he apologised.

According to Karlijn Demasure, one of the church’s leading experts on clergy sexual abuse and abuse of power, the priests in Africa have difficulties with celibacy because of the “traditional and cultural beliefs in the importance of having children.”

It is indicated further that the most of the nuns who get pregnant would get abortions, usually paid for by the priests.

“Mainly she has an abortion. Even more than once. And he pays for that. A religious sister has no money. A priest, yes,” Demasure said.

The AP report further said that the sexual abuses have been going on as far back as the 1990s as indicated by a report focusing on Africa and HIV.

The 1998 report, The Problem of the Sexual Abuse of African Religious in Africa and Rome by Sister Marie McDonald, mother superior of the Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa, indicated that African nuns would be punished when they report sexual abuse cases and the priests would go scot free.

The report further stated that nuns became financially dependent on priests, who then ask them for sexual favours. The same was the case when it came to a nun seeking ‘spiritual direction and of the sacrament or Reconciliation.’

A 1994 report by the late Sr. Maura O’Donohue also indicated that 29 nuns who had been impregnated in a single congregation in Malawi.  In the report, covering 18 African countries, she said that nuns were considered “safe” sexual partners in a continent suffering from HIV, virus priests were scared of contracting from prostitutes or other women.

The two reports were not made public until it was put online by U.S. National Catholic Reporter in 2001.  There is no indication that the Vatican addressed the content of these reports.

These revelations add to the Vatican’s sexual abuse cases. Pope Francis admitted that the church had made ‘grave errors’ in dealing with these cases.

It is yet to be seen how the church will handle the new revelations.

Last Edited by:Nduta Waweru Updated: July 28, 2018


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