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Vatican 'knew of widespread abuse'

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Vatican 'knew of widespread abuse'



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The report highlights nuns' 'disturbing testimonies'
By the BBC's religious affairs correspondent Jane Little

A day after the emergence of a reporton the rape of nuns by priests, the Roman Catholic Aid Agency, Cafod,has confirmed that it showed the Vatican the report seven years ago.

The leaked report said that priests and missionaries across several continents were forcing nuns to have sex with them.

On Tuesday, the Vatican confirmed that such abuse had been taking place, but denied that it was so widespread.

St Peters Basilica, Rome
The vatican says it will investigate internally
Among the abuses detailed is the caseof a nun being forced to have an abortion by the priest who impregnatedher. She later died and he officiated at her requiem mass.

Also cited is the case of a mothersuperior who repeatedly complained to her local bishop that priests inthe diocese had made 29 of her nuns pregnant

The bishop, according to the report, subsequently relieved her of her duties.

'Disturbing testimonies'

In particular, the report singles outAfrica where priests and missionaries, wary of catching HIV, havetargetted nuns in a bid for safe sex.

The report, which was leaked torespected American Journal, the National Catholic Reporter, was writtenseven years ago by a nun and physician, Maura O'Donohue, who was thenAids coordinator for the Catholic Relief Charity, Cafod.

The Vatican was keen to emphasise the "often heroic faith" expressed by the large majority of clergy

The charity says ithelped Sister O'Donohue take what it described as the "disturbingtestimonies" from nuns across the world to the relevant authorities,including the Vatican.

But it says neither Cafod nor theauthor, who still works for the charity in London, leaked it and it wasnever intended to be made public.

As such, it reinforces other reports of sexual abuse and the rape of nuns on the continent by their male colleagues.

In 1998, Marie MacDonald, head of theMissionaries of Our Lady of Africa, presented a similar study on"sexual abuse and rape committed by priests" to the Vatican.

Her order has declined to comment on it.

Vatican denial

Sister O'Donohue's report covers a much wider area.

According to the National CatholicReporter, she cites cases in 23 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe andNorth and South America.

The Vatican response has so far hasbeen one of denial that the problem is so widespread, and promises toinvestigate the issue internally.

Instead the Vatican was keen toemphasise the "often heroic faith" expressed by the large majority ofclergy and those in religious orders.

This sentiment was echoed by theMissionary News Agency, Misna, which while condemning the abuse,recalled that missionaries often work "in situations of extremepsychological and physical hardship."

That, however, will be cold comfort to those who have complained of a conspiracy of silence over the issue for several years.

They argue that the church hierarchy should have taken direct responsibility for the abuse, and stopped it.


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