Power, manipulation and blackmail in womens’ religious orders

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The Roman Catholic church is being urged to pay attention to the abuse of power and conscience suffered by womens’ congregations.

An article by the Jesuit priest Giovanni Cucci, in the influential Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, says the Church should pay attention to abuse within women’s congregations.  

“For the most part it does not take the form of sexual violence and does not involve minors; however, this does not make it any less important or without significant consequences.

“From pastoral experience and from conversations we have had on the subject, it is mostly an abuse of power and conscience”, he said.

He describes how willing and innocent novices can be manipulated and decisions can be taken arbitrarily on their future, for example, in who can further their studies, often awarded to the most faithful and docile, which can “lead to forms of blackmail and power without limits”.

He said he has seen cases of superior generals circumventing the rules to allow them to stay in charge: “One even wanted to change the constitution so that she could remain superior general until her death.” 

He quotes an interview given to the magazine Donne Chiesa Mondo, where Cardinal João Braz de Aviz said he had found cases of sexual abuse among sisters.

The great attention paid to the abuse of children should not prevent a proper response to the sisters, he said. “It is a matter of giving a voice to those who have no voice”.