La violenza sessuale alle suore sollevata al Sinodo dei Vescovi

(in inglese)

National Catholic Reporter
October 26, 2001
Issue of sexual abuse of nuns by priests raised at synod

Though charges of sexual abuse of religious women by priests, reported in
NCR 's March 16 issue, made global headlines, so far there have been only
two references to the issue in the Synod of Bishops.

Both came Oct. 6 in speeches by members of women's religious communities who
are serving as auditors in the synod.

Sr. Mary Sujita Kallupurakkathu, superior general of the Sisters of Notre
Dame in India, dedicated her talk to empowerment of women in the church.
"Women religious need to be seen and accepted as more than just the work
force in the church," she told the bishops.

In the context of these remarks, Kallupurakkathu called for a mechanism to
deal with the problem of abuse.

"Under the guidance of the bishops, can there be a redressal forum to deal
firmly and fairly with the increasing experiences of exploitation and abuses
of women in general and women religious in particular?" she asked.

To date, no other speaker has picked up the theme. The synod is now entering
the phase of small group meetings, where it is possible that one or another
group might discuss Kallupurakkathu's proposal.

The other reference, even more indirect, came in the intervention of Sacred
Heart Sr. Rita Burley, president of the International Union of Superiors
General, the largest umbrella group for women religious.

Burley spoke about diocesan religious institutes, which are common in many
parts of the world. In the documentation reported in NCR, the problem of
sexual abuse
appeared to be especially acute for these communities.

Burley did not mention the sexual abuse issue, but called for greater
protection for these diocesan communities.

"Many of these institutes experience serious difficulties," she said. "They
often lack appropriate opportunities for an all-round human, spiritual,
religious and pastoral
formation. Frequently the sisters do not have the necessary professional
training to become autonomous in the management of their works and sources
of income. They may not have contracts which respect their religious duties
nor even receive an adequate remuneration for their pastoral ministry."

She recommended the creation of a new structure to monitor diocesan

"Perhaps thought could be given to the development of a supra-diocesan
structure, which, while respecting the rights of the local bishop, could
give practical advice on these initiatives," she said.

Both Burley and Kallupurakkathu were unavailable for comment. At an Oct. 12
news conference, however, NCR asked for responses to Kallupurakkathu's
from a panel of bishops assembled to comment on the synod at its halfway

"As far as I know, this problem [of sexual abuse of religious women] hasn't
come out in India, though the reports listed it as one of the countries
where it happened," said Cardinal Ivan Dias of Bombay, India. "It is a
problem perhaps in certain countries, though I don't have facts and

Dias said, however, that where sexual abuse occurs it should be addressed.

"It's a question of the human rights of the women," he said. "There should
be preventive measures and also remedial action."

Archbishop Telesphore Placidus Toppo of Ranchi, India, said that in his
experience he was not aware of sexual abuse of religious women by priests,
but he did know of cases in which nuns have been raped by Hindu

Cardinal Bernard Agré of the Ivory Coast complained about an over-emphasis
on sexuality in modern culture, saying that the church's problems with
sexual behavior are not necessarily widespread or uniform.

"In the United States and Canada there are some priests who cannot
catechize children because people think they are homosexual or pedophiles,"
he said. "This is
not fair. Religious men and women should have a positive image, not a
negative one."

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