Special Series: Priests, Rape, and AIDS – Part III
Priests Impregnate Nuns, Some Advise Abortion
Reports from 23 countries, mostly concentrated in Africa, reveal the widespread sexual exploitation of nuns by priests, many of whom are targeting nuns for sex because they see nuns as “safe” from HIV and AIDS. This sexist treatment includes not only rape and the extortion of sexual favors in exchange for financial security or spiritual guidance, but also impregnation and, in some cases, abortion, according to an article in the March 16 issue of the National Catholic Reporter. The Catholic Church is denying these allegations.
Sr. Maura O’Donohue, physician and former AIDS coordinator for the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development, gave examples of “situations where priests were bringing sisters (and other young women) to Catholic health institutions for abortion,” despite strict Catholic doctrine and Catholic hospital policy forbidding abortion. Sr. O’Donohue knew of “a priest who had brought a sister for an abortion. She died during the procedure and the priest officiated at the Requiem Mass” for her death.
The nuns are also reporting that in such scandals priests are allowed to continue functioning as a spiritual and community leader, while church policy requires impregnated nuns to leave religious life. In developing countries, where much of this despicable behavior is concentrated, women thrown out of religious life for becoming pregnant have few options. O’Donohue notes that many nuns who become pregnant are “forced into becoming a second or third wife in a family because of lost status in the local culture.”
In addition to rape, sexual exploitation, impregnation, forced abortions, and stigmatization, the reports indicate that some priests are coercing nuns into taking contraceptive pills with the lie that any sexual activity undertaken while on the pill will be free from the risk of HIV infection.
Sources: National Catholic Reporter March 16, 2001, Vol. 37 No. 20; Personal Memo from Sr. Maura O’Donohue MMM: Meeting at SRC, Rome. February 18, 1995; “The Problem of the Sexual Abuse of African Religious in Africa and in Rome” Marie McDonald, MSOLA, Paper for the Council of ‘16’ November 20, 1998
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SisterReach, a grassroots organization focused on "empowering, organizing, and mobilizing women and girls in the community around their reproductive and sexual health to make informed decisions about themselves," organized the press conference "to call attention to the unique concerns Black and poor communities throughout Shelby County and across the state of Tennessee face on a daily basis" and to emphasize how the upcoming election "could further limit [black women's] reproductive, economic, political, and social autonomy."
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