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Pope Francis publicly acknowledges clergy’s sexual abuse of nuns

Jeremy Lazarus | 2/8/2019, 6 a.m.
Pope Francis publicly acknowledged the scandal of priests and bishops sexually abusing nuns and vowed to do more to fight ...
Pope Francis

The Community of St. Jean admitted in 2013 that Rev. Philippe had behaved “in ways that went against chastity” with several women in the order, according to the French Catholic newspaper La Croix. Pope Francis’ comments about “sexual slavery” suggested that the relations were not consensual and could have involved abuse of conscience and power as well.

Rev. Phillipe died in 2006. Three years later, the local bishop imposed a new superior on the order’s contemplative branch of nuns. Some rejected the new leader and followed their old female superior to found a new institute in Spain. Pope Benedict eventually dissolved that, a decision Pope Francis held up Tuesday as evidence of Pope Benedict’s hard line in the case.

He said Pope 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,” he said.

“Sometimes the founder takes away, or empties the freedom of the sisters. It can come to this,” Pope Francis said.

Asked if any universal norms might be in the works to tackle the problem — as has been done to handle cases of clergy sexual abuse of minors — Pope Francis implied that the priestly abuse of nuns was still being dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

“There are cases, usually in new congregations and in some regions more than others,” he said. “We’re working on it.”

“Pray that this goes forward,” he said of the Vatican efforts to fight it. “I want it to go forward.”