Reports highlight abuse of nuns by priests in Third World
Several reports written by senior members of women's religious orders and by an American priest assert that sexual abuse of nuns by priests, including rape, is a serious problem, especially in Africa and other parts of the developing world.
Reports obtained by the National Catholic Reporter in the USA allege that some Catholic clergy exploit their financial and spiritual authority to gain sexual favours from religious women, many of whom, in developing countries, are culturally conditioned to be subservient to men.
The reports say priests at times demand sex in exchange for favours, such as permission or certification to work in a given diocese. The reports, five in all, indicate that in Africa particularly, a continent ravaged by HIV and AIDS, young nuns are sometimes seen as safe targets of sexual activity. In a few extreme instances, according to the documentation, priests have impregnated nuns and then encouraged them to have abortions.
In some cases, according to one of the reports, nuns, through naiveté or social conditioning to obey authority figures, may readily comply with sexual demands. Although the problem has not been aired in public, the reports have been discussed in councils of religious women and men and in the Vatican.
In November 1998, a four-page paper titled "The Problem of the Sexual Abuse of African Religious in Africa and Rome" was presented by Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa Sr. Marie McDonald, the report's author, to the Council of 16, a group that meets three times a year.
Though statistics related to sexual abuse of religious women are unavailable, most religious leaders interviewed by NCR say the frequency and consistency of the reports of sexual abuse point to a problem that needs to be addressed.