I was raised in a religious household. I used to consider myself a devout Christian but honestly, I now have a complicated relationship with my faith. I still believe in some of the teachings, but growing up and getting exposed to different social issues, I’ve accepted that my religion is not perfect and not everything I’ve been taught was necessarily right or true. I’ve become aware of how some people within the institution use it as a platform to do evil instead of good.
It’s no secret: The Catholic church has always been riddled with several controversies. Just last year, an Indian nun accused a bishop of repeatedly raping her between 2014 and 2016, which triggered a rare protest from other nuns and supporters. Although Bishop Franco Mulakkal denied the allegations, he was eventually arrested on rape charges as the public’s outcry over the case became too strong for authorities to ignore. Pope Francis suspended Franco the day before his arrest, and appointed another bishop in his place.
More recently, the latest issue of Women Church World, a magazine distributed in Vatican, cited that the Vatican received reports of priests abusing nuns in Africa in the 1990s, adding that nuns have been silent over abuse for decades for fear of retaliation. “If the Church continues to close its eyes to the scandal – made even worse by the fact that abuse of women brings about procreation and is therefore at the origin of forced abortions and children who aren’t recognised by priests – the oppression of women in the Church will never change,” editor Lucetta Scaraffia wrote.
This isn’t the first time the institution has been blasted for turning a blind eye on these cases. But for the first time in history, the Pope acknowledged the cases of sexual abuse against nuns.
Speaking to reporters on his way home from the United Arab Emirates, Pope Francis confirmed that “It’s true.” He said, “It’s not that everyone does this, but there are some priests and also bishops who have done it.” He added, “And I think that it’s continuing because it’s not like once you realize it that it stops. It continues. And for some time we’ve been working on it.”
Pope Francis further revealed that the former Pope, Benedict XVI, had actually taken action against a French congregation “because a certain slavery of women had crept in, slavery to the point of sexual slavery on the part of clergy or the founder,” he said.
Pope Francis’ admission holds a great significance. For the longest time, after I got to know the Church’s dark secrets, I was so furious. I felt like the institution was nothing more than an all-powerful fraternity who only cares about protecting their members and its name, without any regard to the people they’re hurting. In the Philippines, it’s no different. In fact one of the biggest critics of the Church is our president, who even blatantly calls it out for its “hypocrisy.”
Church is heading in right direction .Let the guilty and morally corrupt be removed and cleansing within church begin .
— Isaac Anand (@IsaacAnand1) February 6, 2019
What Pope Francis did as the head of the Church was surprising. In that single move, he could destroy the centuries-old institution. But also, he could make it so much more better. Which is I’m sure what he wants to do now. Al Jazeera reports that the pope has “summoned the heads of some 110 national Catholic bishops’ conferences and dozens of experts and leaders of religious orders to the Vatican on Feb. 21 to 24 for an extraordinary meeting on the sexual abuse crisis.”
The Pope also reportedly admitted that he thinks mistreatment of women is a societal problem beyond just religion, because women are still considered “second-class citizens.” He said, “It’s a cultural problem. I dare say that humanity hasn’t matured.” It’s a sad truth but hopefully these types of development, in the church and other institutions, will push us all to “mature.”
I think Pope Francis’ sense of awareness and head-on approach to the serious issue, which the church have been trying to skirt around for years, is a sign that they want to get back the people’s trust. While it’s admirable, in the end, acknowledgement of course isn’t enough. Accountability should follow.
Art by Marian Hukom
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