The Vatican has been at the center of controversy for the last few years for allegations of sexual assault perpetrated by priests and high ranking officials. The Vatican has been dismissing these allegations by saying that they will be conducting investigations to validate these claims.
For the first time today, the head of Vatican, Pope Francis, has publicly acknowledged that sexual assault and rape are happening inside the Catholic Church. This is the first time that the Vatican has positively recognize these claims.
Speaking to reporters aboard the papal plane as he departs from his historic visit to the birthplace of Islam for an interreligious conference, he told reporters that the there are allegations of sexual assault within the ranks of the Church. (READ: Pope Francis led the first Vatican visit to Arab Gulf)
“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,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
“We have been working on this for a long time. We have suspended some priests because of this.”
This comment was made after a news outlet in Vatican, Women-Church World, published a story about the alleged sexual assaults committed by priests. The article also claimed that nuns were kept as sex slaves and were forced to abort their babies because priests do not recognize them as their children.
“Should more be done? Yes,” the Pope said. “Do we have the will? Yes. But it is a path that we have already begun.”
In recent months, more and more nuns and women are coming forward to expose the abuse that is happening in the Catholic Church. This is widely attributed to the encouragement by the #MeToo movement that has exposed the sexual assaults committed by substantial political and entertainment names since October 2017.
The news agency reports that in 2008, the International Union of Supreme Generals, the organization that represents more than 500,000 nuns, urged their members to report cases of abuse and to step forward.
Pope Francis said that his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, dissolved a religious order because of the rampant sexual abuse that is happening inside the organization. Pope Benedict said that he terminated the order after being elected in 2005 “because slavery had become part of it (the religious order), even sexual slavery on the part of priests and the founder.”
Back when he was a cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) wanted to investigate the said French religious order where women are being abused, but he was blocked. Pope Francis did not mention who prevented the probe.
“I want to move forward. We are working on it.” the Pope said.