Magazine report is aimed at silencing nuns on sex abuse, says Vatican critic

Religion News Service

August 5, 2020

By Claire Giangravé

Vatican City – An article in a Jesuit magazine describing alleged exploitation of nuns in Catholic convents has been criticized as an attempt to silence members of women’s religious orders who have begun to speak out against sexual abuse by priests.

“I think there is a possibility of a revolt of religious sisters,” said Lucetta Scaraffia, the former head of the Vatican magazine Donne, Chiesa, Mondo (Women, Church, World), adding that many nuns she has heard from “are furious.”

Published Aug. 1 in La Civiltà Cattolica (Catholic Society), the article raised concerns about the “lack of attention that abuse within female congregations has garnered,” particularly overreach by some orders’ mothers superior.

Superiors were said to enjoy better health care services and opportunities for vacations, while rank-and-file nuns are denied access to eye doctors or dentists, some sisters told the magazine. Other nuns reported not even being able to enjoy a walk outside without asking for permission.

The article, by the Rev. Giovanni Cucci, also detailed the practice of “importing vocations” — bringing young nuns from other countries who don’t speak Italian and are therefore more easily exploited. Their communities, he wrote, “are experienced more as a prison.” He also called attention to cases of sexual abuse of nuns by superiors.

The accusations “may appear puzzling and hard to believe for those who live in male congregations,” wrote Cucci, “in the face of which one can simply smile.”

Scaraffia, who left Donne, Chiesa, Mondo in March 2019 after denouncing a climate of “cover-up and censorship” created by Vatican higher-ups, said the Civiltà Cattolica article represents an effort to undermine the newfound voice of nuns in the church.

“It’s a way to tell sisters that if they have press conferences, make their voices heard and denounce sexual abuse, (church authorities) will air all their dirty laundry,” she told Religion News Service.

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