The Catholic Church’s worldwide organization of nuns called on nuns who had been sexually abused to report their abuse to law enforcement and church officials.
The International Union of Superiors General encouraged nuns to report abuse Friday, condemning the church’s culture of silence and secrecy, and vowing to help nuns who had been abused to find justice and healing.
The IUSG, which represents 500,000 nuns across the world, made the statement two days before the U.N.’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
“We condemn those who support the culture of silence and secrecy, often under the guise of ‘protection’ of an institution’s reputation or naming it ‘part of one’s culture,’” the statement said.
“We advocate for transparent civil and criminal reporting of abuse whether within religious congregations, at the parish or diocesan levels, or in any public arena,” it added.
Catholic nuns urge sisters around the world to report sexual abuse to policehttps://t.co/oSWwxfzxrB
— TIME (@TIME) November 24, 2018
Vatican officials have known about the problem of male clergy and others sexually preying on nuns, but have yet to fully acknowledge it or take action to address it, according to The Associated Press.
Cases of clerical sex abuse against nuns have reportedly occurred in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.
A series of studies commissioned in the 1990s reportedly revealed that priests in Africa targeted nuns in particular to avoid HIV transmission from prostitutes.
In one recent case in India, a nun accused a bishop of repeatedly raping her. The bishop now faces trial without the financial aid of his diocese for his legal defense.
The nun who made the accusations said that she sent several letters to Vatican officials to alert them concerning local priests’ maltreatment of nuns.
She, like many other nuns who have suffered abuse, was reluctant to report her abuse due to the fear that she would not be believed and that church officials would smear her as sexually promiscuous.
Her fears were merited to a degree, as the bishop she accused claimed that she had an incestuous affair.
Clerical abuse case experts say that nuns who report abuse are often defamed with such accusations, or are punished for their reports by being expelled from their orders, according to the AP.
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