Abuse of authority in the Church: Problems and challenges of female religious life

La Civiltà Cattolica

August 1, 2020

By Giovanni Cucci

A mostly unexplored theme

[Google translation of Abusi di autorità nella Chiesa: Problemi e sfide della vita religiosa femminile]

The Church has dealt with the issue of abuses on several occasions, even in recent times, both at the level of reflection and operational measures and protocols . However, the relevance of the theme mostly concerned the sexual and psychological abuse of minors by ministers of the Church, especially presbyters. These are undoubtedly preponderant aspects, but certainly not exhaustive.

An issue that has not received enough attention so far is abuse within women’s congregations. It mostly does not take the form of sexual violence and does not concern minors; however, this does not mean that it is less important and has significant consequences. From pastoral experience and from the talks held on this subject, it is mostly about abuses of power and conscience.

Being superior seems to guarantee other exclusive privileges, such as taking advantage of the best medical care, while who is a simple nun cannot even go to the ophthalmologist or the dentist, because “you have to save money”. The examples unfortunately concern every aspect of ordinary life: from clothing to the possibility of taking a holiday, having a rest day or, more simply, being able to go out for a walk, everything must pass by the decision (or whim) of the same person. If a heavy garment is requested, the Council resolution must be awaited, or the request will be refused “for reasons of poverty”. Eventually some nuns turned to family members.

These are examples that may seem disconcerting and hardly credible for those who live in male Congregations, and in front of which one can simply smile. Unfortunately for some nuns this is everyday reality: a reality that for the most part they cannot make known, because they do not know where to turn, or for fear of retaliation.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.