The stories just get worse and worse. The Catholic priesthood hasn’t just been abusing children in various places, but also has a history of abuse of women, especially in Africa and India.
The crisis of religious abuse in Africa and India was brought to Rome’s attention in 1998 when a four-page paper titled “The Problem of the Sexual Abuse of African Religious in Africa and Rome” was presented by Sister Marie McDonald, mother superior of the Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa. A March 2001 National Catholic Reporter article detailed McDonald’s claims, which included accounts of sexual abuse by priests and bishops.
McDonald quoted a vicar general in one African diocese who talked “quite openly” in Rome in 1996 about celibacy in Africa, saying, “Celibacy in the African context means a priest does not get married, but does not mean he does not have children.”
The AIDS pandemic in Africa and India is said to have made nuns “safer” sex partners and, also for that reason, targets of priests seeking sex. (Some nuns also reported sexual abuse by mothers superior.) The women, culturally brainwashed not to challenge men or female figures of authority, felt they had no choice, and the priests took further advantage by arguing that Catholic rules for priests required them to have sex “only with virgins.”
More allegations came from Sister Jesme, an ex-nun from the Indian state of Kerala, who told of sexual abuse and forced homosexual relationships in a 2009 autobiography. But when the book was released, a spokesman for the Syro-Malabar order of the Catholic Church in India dismissed it as a “book of trivialities.”
“It’s her experiences,” he said, “but these are things that might creep into a society of communal living.” He added that the church would not be shocked by the allegations, concluding, “The church knows about these things.”
I’m pretty sure Catholic dogma does not say priests are allowed to have sex with virgins, so on the one hand, this is clearly a bunch of exploiters in clerical collars going well off the reservation; on the other hand, these abuses were plainly spelled out to the Vatican, which seems to have responded with its well-practiced negligence.
Of course, another factor might be that, just as is the case in remote Inuit villages, running a diocese in Africa or India is probably a high-profit-margin affair. The Vatican patriarchy might see little to gain in helping women.