SOME nuns are being used as sex slaves by Catholic priests and bishops, Pope Francis said as he vowed to do more to tackle abuse in the church.
‘It’s not that everyone does this, but there have been priests and bishops who have,’ he told reporters.
‘And I think that it’s continuing because it’s not like once you realise it that it stops. Should we do something more? Yes. Is there the will? Yes. But it’s a path that we have already begun.’
His comments in Rome, on his return from a historic visit to the United Arab Emirates, were his first public acknowledgment of the scandal of priests and bishops sexually abusing nuns.
He noted how his predecessor Benedict XVI took action against a French order where the nuns had been reduced to ‘sexual slavery’ at the hands of its founder, the Rev Marie-Dominique Philippe, and other priests.
The Community of St Jean admitted in 2013 that Philippe, who died in 2006, had behaved ‘in ways that went against chastity’ with several women in the order, according to the French Catholic newspaper La Croix.
Francis said Benedict acted ‘because a certain slavery of women had crept in, slavery to the point of sexual slavery on the part of clergy or the founder’. The pope’s comments come two weeks before he hosts a gathering of bishops to craft a global response to the long-running scandal of paedophile priests who have targeted children and the church superiors who have covered up their crimes.
He is also about to decide the fate of the disgraced US ex-cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, who is accused of abusing children as well as adults who were studying to be priests.
That case cast a spotlight on whether the church ought to consider nuns and seminarians as ‘vulnerable adults’ at risk from predatory priests and bishops with the power to control all aspects of their lives, including careers and salaries.