Pontifical University tackles sexual abuse by priests of nuns

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ROME (AP) – Togolese nun has successfully defended a first thesis at a Vatican-sanctioned university on the sexual abuse of nuns by priests in the latest evidence of a problem the Catholic Church faces in the era #MeToo.

Sister Makamatine Lembo received the summa cum laude during her defense on Thursday at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and was congratulated by her examiners for her courage in addressing such a taboo subject.

Lembo’s thesis explores the relational dynamics behind the sexual abuse of nuns by priests, focusing on nine victims in five sub-Saharan countries. He revealed that the abuse involved entrenched power imbalances that made consent impossible, a multi-year preparation process, and often money given to poor sisters in return for sex.

Sister Examiner Brenda Dolphin thanked Lembo “on behalf of consecrated women around the world”, especially for addressing issues of consent and the often complicit role played by religious superiors who do not help sisters when they report abuse.

Noting the culture of silence in the church surrounding the issue, she said, “It was not an easy thing to do.”

The Vatican was forced to deal with abuse of nuns after its own women’s magazine denounced the issue and nuns, emboldened by #MeToo believing adults can be sexually abused, began to speak out and to seek justice.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis himself publicly pledged to do more to tackle the problem, although Examiner Karlijn Demasure noted during Lembo’s defense that the Vatican has had two major reports in its hands since. the 1990s and yet “very little” was done to address it. the problem.

Demasure, who is leaving the Gregorian to launch a new center for the protection of minors and vulnerable people at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, said Lembo’s research was innovative in that it represented a “bottom-up” approach. top ”which was“ an important step for prevention. “


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