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Pope Francis acknowledged this week that Roman Catholic Church nuns have been victims of sexual abuse, and even were subjected to sexual slavery by priests and bishops in some instances.
The Pope admitted there was a problem with clergy sexually abusing nuns during a news conference on Tuesday, which comes following years of nuns reporting abuse around the world, including Latin America, Africa, India and Italy. Pope Francis said some priests have been suspended as a result of the problem, and that the church had been quietly addressing it for years, dating back to his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.
The comments come after the publication of an article in the February issue of “Women Church World”, which warned that priests wield too much power, resulting in the sexual abuse of both nuns and young children. The article warned that the plight of many nuns was unknown, due to fear of retaliation against both the nuns and the orders they serve.
Pope Francis said that nuns have been victimized by both priests and bishops, and that he believed the problem continues.
In July 2018, the Associated Press brought the problem to light in an investigative report that interviewed nuns around the world who suffered abuse. However, this week was the first time the pope publicly addressed the issue.
The acknowledgement comes amid increased attention on clergy sexual abuse allegations involving children that have been brought against priests in the Catholic Church worldwide. For decades the church has been accused of attempting to cover up such activities and protect priests from law enforcement officials. There is now mounting pressure on the church to become more transparent and accountable for the behavior of priests and others placed in a position of trust and authority.
In August 2018, a grand jury report highlighted cases involving at least 90 Catholic priests accused of sex abuse in the Pittsburgh area, involving allegations and cover-ups that spanned decades.
That report indicated that the Catholic Church of Pennsylvania covered up abuse involving priests who abused more than 1,000 victims, mostly children, over the course of 70 years. After 90 of those priests were identified, it sparked investigations by the Justice Department and states’ attorneys general nationwide.
The spotlight on the issue has renewed some efforts to level sex abuse litigation against the Church. Last month, an attorney representing a number of victims announced that the Catholic Church had agreed to settle at least five sexual abuse lawsuits brought against a former priest in New Jersey.