Days after Pope Francis acknowledged abuse of nuns and sisters by priests and bishops, the largest US organisation of women religious called for measures to address the issue. Source: The Tablet.
“We hope that Pope Francis’ acknowledgement is a motivating force for all of us in the Catholic Church to rectify the issue of sexual abuse by clergy thoroughly and swiftly,” said the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in a statement.
It acknowledged that “the sexual harassment and rape of Catholic sisters by priests and bishops has been discussed in meetings of leaders of orders of Catholic sisters from around the world for almost 20 years”. But while the abuse had been discussed, the group said, the information hadn’t always been acted on.
LCWR, an association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in US, has about 1,350 members and represents about 80 percent of women religious in the United States.
“We acknowledge that, as sisters, we did not always provide environments that encouraged our members to come forward and report their experiences to proper authorities,” the statement said. “We regret that when we did know of instances of abuse, we did not speak out more forcefully for an end to the culture of secrecy and cover-ups within the Catholic Church that have discouraged victims from coming forward.
“Communities of Catholic sisters have worked hard in recent years to have in place what is needed to deal responsibly and compassionately with survivors and will continue to make the protection from abuse of all persons a priority,” it said.
Though most of the incidents appear to have taken place in developing countries, “harassment and rape of sisters have been noted in other countries as well, including in the United States,” the statement said.
The organisation expressed hope that the Pope’s upcoming February 21-24 summit on sexual abuse would propose actions to create “mechanisms for the reporting of abuse in an atmosphere where victims are met with compassion and are offered safety” and also “refashion the leadership structures of the church to address the issue of clericalism and ensure that power and authority are shared with members of the laity”.