Nuns break silence on abuse

Buoyed by #MeToo movement, sisters start to open up

VATICAN CITY — Revelations that a prominent U.S. cardinal sexually abused and harassed his adult seminarians have exposed an egregious abuse of power that has shocked Catholics on both sides of the Atlantic.

But the Vatican has long been aware of its heterosexual equivalent — the sexual abuse of nuns by priests and bishops — and has done little to stop it, an Associated Press analysis has found.

An examination by the AP shows that cases of abused nuns have emerged in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia, demonstrating that the problem is global and pervasive, thanks to the sisters’ second-class status in the church and their ingrained subservience to the men who run it.

Yet some nuns are now finding their voices, buoyed by the #MeToo movement and the growing recognition that even adults can be victims of sexual abuse when there is an imbalance of power in a relationship.

The sisters are going public in part to denounce years of inaction by church leaders, even after major studies on the problem in Africa were reported to the Vatican in the 1990s.

“It opened a great wound inside of me,” one nun told the AP. “I pretended it didn’t happen.”