The pronouncements by Pope Francis two days ago are capable of making a departure in the debates about sexual abuse allegations raised against the Catholic church for long. During his chat with pressmen on his return flight after his visit to the UAE, he admitted that some priests in the Church have sexually abused nuns.
Earlier, the official women's publication of the Vatican 'Women Church World' had written candidly about the sexual abuse and the sufferings of nuns under bishops and priests. The detailed article written under the byline of the journal's editor Lucetta Scaraffia, had revealed shocking facts. The article mentioned that in times when AIDS disease was spreading in Africa, priests had approached nuns for having safe six. She also mentioned babies born to nuns through illegal pregnancy becoming orphans and nuns being subjected to compulsory abortion. The article also states that as early as 1990s many nuns had complained to the Vatican authorities about such issues. It also mentions a case in which in Malawi, Africa, 30 nuns of a convent were made pregnant, and those who lodged a complaint were simply transferred. There is also mention of a similar incident in Chile, and a reference to Jalandhar bishop Franco Mulakkal.
Although criticisms had arisen from several quarters about such immoral trends within the Church, it was for the first time that a Vatican journal itself published a critical story about it. A group exists named 'Survivors' Network' which works for the protection and legal struggle of nuns who were victim to abuses by prirests and bishops. In the backdrop of the 'MeToo' movement, they had also launched a Twitter campaign with the hashtag 'NunsToo'. It was right in the middle of the global protests against the pedophilia indulged in by priests that such debates came to be heard about exploitation of nuns.
The Pope was asked the questions in the background of the article in 'Women Church World'. It is a good sign that instead of dismissing or underplaying the content of the article, the Pope was prepared to recognize and frankly admit the faults. In response to the mediapersons' queries he said, “It is true ... there have been priests and even bishops who have done this. I think it is still going on because something does not stop just because you have become aware of it….. We have been working on this for a long time. We have suspended some priests because of this.”
It is a travesty of fate that a section of human beings living in the realm of spirituality, get engangled in issues linked to immorality. Complaints about sexual atrocities in to the church has been going on for long. To be fair to the church, it does not stop shy of admitting to the fault and asking for foriveness. At the same time, the church is not only unable to end this virus, but more serious complaints are getting more rampant. This gives the message that the church has to be prepared to make some more fundamental, and effective introspections.
There is a viewpoint from within the church establishment itself that the oath of celibacy as practised now is better abandoned. Sexuality is one of the basic instincts of man. And it is natural that suppressing it will lead to using it in a wrong direction. For that very reason, there is a widespread call for ending the rule of denying marriage to priests. In other words, the argument is that there is no substitute for introducing structural and substantive reforms in the Catholic church. And the article in the Vatican's women's journal, and the Pope's response to that, only lend strength to such arguments.