Nuns, Priests and Sex: Who takes the blame? Part 1 By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu

Sister Veronica Openibo at Vatican

NUNS: Haemorrhage! Have you heard educated ladies speaking in this tongue? They are just referring to bleeding mostly after mifepristone abortion! Hundreds of abortion are done daily surprisingly by both the educated, illiterate and religious groups.

These Religious groups especially the Roman Catholic Churches pretend there are never ills that can come from their priests, yet discuss their shortcomings in low tones in their gatherings. Any other Religious group may discuss it in the open, even go on the social media to write about their Religious Leaders misdemeanour, but not Roman Catholics. Their priests are infallible. They are celibates!

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I read Pope’s confirmation of Nuns abuse and later Vatican’s clarification but the one that puts me off was the report in Malawi mail newspaper, where 30 nuns were said to have been impregnated by priests. That news trended in the e-world as if such is not seen among us in Nigeria. I personally had cases like that. Pregnancies from priests have been recorded in Benue, Abuja, Lagos, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Oko, Ugwuoba, Nise, Onitsha, Nkpor , Obosi,  Abia, Imo to mention, but a few.

Some amoral relationship of some priests and their girlfriends ended in court rooms like that of a priest in a popular Catholic Church in the heart of Awka. Anglican priests too have been a disgrace in some situations even when they marry like witnessed in Mgbakwu and Amawbia. Misdeeds of Pastors of the Pentecostals are uncountable sequel to many mushroom Churches springing up everywhere.

Victims are known but not for media consumption. Even when it is hidden, congregation knows and discusses it. Strangely, the highest punishment before now was transfer or posting depending on denominational terminology to a new Church/station.  And infidelity of priests have been recorded virtually in all the states, if not communities in Nigeria. Minors have been either raped or abused daily. Rape is the worst case scenario and it occurs daily in different disguise particularly in Pentecostal Churches that are now in every Warehouse in town. Men are promiscuous but the distinction remained that these men are ordained.

A visit to most of the prime hospitals in town across Nigeria will reveal to you the number of Nuns, Ladies and Girls that visit for one stage of abortion or the other in this hospitals. Some in company of mufti wearing clergymen or their partners in sex, while others go alone. It is no longer a shameful act. It’s now common. Some others resort to drugs from Pharmaceutical stores, or Patent Medicine Dealers to flush away the unwanted pregnancies and only visit the hospital if the foetus proves stubborn. Some as well have died in the effort to self-medicate but got wrong prescriptions.

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On Thursday, 25th April, 2019, news came in that a Catholic clergyman identified as Rev. Father Richard Bilé of Saint Francis of Assisi D ‘Affiénou (Maferé) parish in  Ivory Coast hanged himself on Wednesday over the case of paedophilia on an underage girl, according to Presse Cote d’ivoire.

The news of his death came after the church council met and notified the priest of their decision to temporarily suspend him over the sexual molestation case.

He also left a suicide note, where he wrote that “Near God, I will have peace. God’s world is too harsh and does things elusive … “

The diocese of South-West Cote d’Ivoire through its communication officer, Father Lambert Lath Yedo confirmed the death of Rev.Father Richard Bilé. Aside underage girls’ even boys, nuns are the biggest casualties.

Who is a Nun? One may ask? A nun is a member of a religious community of women, living under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the enclosure of a monastery.

Nuns are sometimes mistaken as Sisters in the Roman Catholic Church though can be interchangeably used by outsiders but true Roman Catholic members know there is a difference between the two. A Nun professes the perpetual solemn vows living a life of celibacy etc; but a Catholic sister is a woman who lives, ministers, and prays within the world or so I think.

There are thousands of reports of abuse of children, women particularly Religious Groups across the globe that have been covered up by Bishops and Church leaders.

In the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania, Bishops and Leaders covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years. They persuaded victims not to report the abuse and law enforcement not to investigate it. There are over 1,000 identifiable victims of these molestation by Catholic priests. A government agency in the United States carried out the investigation on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio , USA released a list of 16 priests accused of sexual abuse including Father Christopher Foxhoven, whose parishioners at Holy Cross Church said they were stunned by allegations that Foxhoven, 45 was in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old altar girl who is now pregnant.

Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said “Foxhoven started engaging in sexual relationship with her over the past several months. He has now alleged to have impregnated her and she is underage of 18.”

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“The fact that we trust our clergy, especially in the Catholic Church, we trust our priests. We believe they are going to be celibate and that there is no way they would harm a child and that is what he is accused of doing here,” Blackburn said.

Members of ending Clergy abuse

Investigators found eight used condoms and a pregnancy test at the church residence where Foxhoven lived.

There is a funny angle to it that some priests abuse Nuns sexually because of the fear of contracting HIV/AIDS from none nuns. The Nuns are allegedly free of diseases. Therefore there are many casualties to the extent some are pregnant for priests and others abort. This, some school of thought said increased the existence of Motherless Babies Homes or Community Children’s Homes as it is called today.

These priests it is believed Church leaders have never punished them even when Cases of sexual abuse against nuns have been reported in at least 23 countries. In one report, Sister Maura O’Donohue, a physician and a member of the Medical Missionaries of Mary, wrote that women were “forced” by priests into sexual liaisons in order to obtain certificates or recommendations needed for work in a diocese. She accused priests of recommending contraception to Nuns after forcefully molesting them sexually. She said some personally take the pregnant Nuns to Catholic Health Institutions for abortion.

Does it mean that priests all over the world have other interpretations of the word ‘’celibacy”. Some viewed it as banning from marriage but they can enjoy sex, and have children while others view it differently?

Some priests allegedly use “false theological arguments to persuade Nuns to have sex with them as sex between two celibate religious people is not sin and does not violate their vows of celibacy. Strange but that was the view of Sister Marie McDonald, Superior General of the Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa.

Priests normally get mild reprimands while Nuns get compulsory exit from convent or monastery and if it comes from their Superior General, she gets replacement.

Rev. Robert Vitillo, Executive Director of the United States Bishops Campaign for Human Development, wrote in a 1994 report, “I myself have heard the tragic stories of religious women who were forced to have sex with the local priest or with a spiritual counsellor who insisted that this activity was ‘good’ for the both of them’’.

Vatican spokesperson Joaquin Navarro-Valls had said on the scandals, “Work is being done both on the training of people and the resolution of individual cases”, though pointing out that few negative cases should not be focused on against ‘’heroic faith expressed by the large majority of those men and women in religious orders and of the clergy”.

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But another Nun, now a Nigerian, Sister Veronica Openibo, at an unprecedented Vatican summit on clergy sexual abuse emphatically blamed priests for the shortcomings of the Nuns and other ladies. She challenged the Catholic Church’s culture of silence on sexual issues and said priests are too often put on pedestals. Openibo also criticized the practice of letting elderly clergy who had abused children retire quietly with their pension and good names in place.

Her words: “Let us not hide such events (sexual abuse by clergy) anymore because of the fear of making mistakes”.

Pope Francis was there when Openibo was calling for a policy of “zero tolerance” toward clergy who abuse children. She referred to dozens of sexual abuse survivors gathered for protests and vigils on the streets of Vatican City recently. She commended Pope Francis about his stand on the Chilean abuse survivors about a notorious priest who was defrocked last year, and the bishops who covered up his crimes.

Openibo spoke in an assembly of 190 Catholic leaders, 114 of them bishops and cardinals from around the world as well as a dozen of women participants, most Superiors General of religious orders.

Veronica Openibo was invited to address the Meeting on the Protection of Minors in Vatican City through her role on the executive committee of the International Union of Superiors General.

In 2010, Openibo, who has a doctorate in pastoral education from Boston College in the United States, was elected as the first African leader of her religious order, the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. Founded in England by an American-born nun, the order focuses particularly on education.

Openibo said her experience in the “Global North” — fifteen years in Rome and three in the US — gave her a distinct perspective on the church’s massive and morally compromising sexual abuse scandal.

Openibo said many bishops have wounded the Church’s moral standing by covering up the abuses in their church.

“We proclaim the Ten Commandments and ‘parade ourselves’ as being the custodians of moral standards and values and good behavior in society. Hypocrites at times? Yes! Why did we keep silent for so long?”

Pope Francis had acknowledged for the first time that Catholic priests and bishops had sexually abused nuns. This was a break from the culture of silence and secrecy that has allowed abuses by the clergy for so long.

To be continued next week…….

Cornucopia is a weekly column of Odogwu Emeka Odogwu. Odogwu is a known Journalist, Editor, Media Consultant and famous Blogger, as well as Social Media Entrepreneur, Publisher and Conversationalist @ among others.

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