With all the sex abuse scandals among Catholic hierarchy that have been in the news since June, there’s been a quiet wondering as to how bad the situation really is outside the West. Have Catholics in Asia and Africa been spared these horrors?
Now there is a story out this week from the Associated Press about nuns in India, it appears the problem has been bad over there as well — but with a twist. In this story, the victims are nuns.
My first trip to India in 1994 landed me in Kerala, where much of the AP story was based and where the first Catholic diocese was established in 1329. About one-fifth of the population in this southern state is Catholic and churches are visible everywhere.
The major city in Kerala is Cochi and the story opens in a small town just southeast of there.
KURAVILANGAD, India (AP) — The stories spill out in the sitting rooms of Catholic convents, where portraits of Jesus keep watch and fans spin quietly overhead. They spill out in church meeting halls bathed in fluorescent lights, and over cups of cheap instant coffee in convent kitchens. Always, the stories come haltingly, quietly. Sometimes, the nuns speak at little more than a whisper.
Across India, the nuns talk of priests who pushed into their bedrooms and of priests who pressured them to turn close friendships into sex. They talk about being groped and kissed, of hands pressed against them by men they were raised to believe were representatives of Jesus Christ.
“He was drunk,” said one nun, beginning her story. “You don’t know how to say no,” said another.
At its most grim, the nuns speak of repeated rapes, and of a Catholic hierarchy that did little to protect them.
Depressingly, the story begins to sound like ones we’ve already heard.
The Vatican has long been aware of nuns sexually abused by priests and bishops in Asia, Europe, South America and Africa, but it has done very little to stop it. …