Is there really justice for victims of sexual abuse?

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The latest case of sexual abuse by nuns in the United States has put the Catholic Church back in the eye of the hurricane

Is there really justice for victims of sexual abuse?

In an investigation, journalist Nikki Battiste of CBS News interviewed several women who had recently reported abuse by nuns in New Jersey about 20 years ago.

Leer en español: ¿Realmente hay justicia para las víctimas del abuso sexual?

The principal complainant, Patricia Cahill, stated that Eileen Shaw, a nun from New Jersey, was the person she trusted most in her childhood and youth. With it, she managed to express herself about the abuse she had suffered as a child by an uncle who was a priest. The nun, according to Cahill's testimony, "taught her to drink alcohol and have sex with other women," says Caracol TV.

Cahill denounced Eileen Shaw but affirms that the trial was not carried out fairly, because the church's lawyers had much more power than what someone like her could have. After the hearing, Cahill was compensated, and the nun was dismissed from the school where she worked. However, although they do not allow her to leave the monastery, she still lives there without any other kind of reprisal.

For this reason, Patricia Cahill claims that the resolution of the trial is not enough. Even though nothing can be done, she affirms that her intention with public denunciation is to prevent those things from happening and that those who have been victims can denounce it.

Another woman interviewed by Battiste was Mary Dispenza, who was a nun in the past and assures that one of her superiors kissed her. As a result of what she lived and she is sure that many more people live this, but they are not able to tell, she is part of SNAP, a network of people who have suffered abuses by priests. Working with SNAP, according to CBS, has found cases of abuse by nuns and priests, and also with cloaking of sisters in many instances of abuse.

According to Dispenza, the community of nuns is very reserved, even more so than the rest of the Catholic Church. For this reason, there are not many stories of abuse on their part.

The Catholic Church around the world has been troubled by issues of sexual abuse, mostly to minors. Although not all the members of the church have committed these acts, public opinion criticizes the Catholic Church also for hiding these abuses, and for not bluntly punishing those who commit them.

Also read: No more impunity in cases of sexual abuse

Priests in Pennsylvania

In 2018, one of the most significant investigations on the subject came to light. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania released to the public view, a document that evidences more than 1000 victims, on the part of 300 priests. Also, the paper also revealed different forms of abuse and actions that were committed against children since about 1940.

This research has driven, according to Mary Dispenza, many people to approach SNAP to tell their story. Many stories happened 20 years or more ago, but people had not had the peace of mind to report it.

In the same way, it has happened all over the world, where different congregations and communities of priests have been denounced and investigated. Even the Vatican has been criticized for not being forceful in the repercussions.

The case of The Boston Globe

In 2002 the Boston Globe newspaper published an investigation into child sexual abuse in Boston by priests of the district, especially by Cardinal Bernard Law. Years later came the film 'Spotlight' based on this research, winner of an Oscar and who sought, according to the director, to make visible the significant problem of sexual abuse by the Catholic Church.

Following the rise of the theme thanks to the film, Michael Rezendes, one of the journalists who uncovered this story in the Boston newspaper, which also won a Pulitzer prize for research, said that "In the last ten years, the Vatican has expelled about 850 priests and authorized another 2,500. But regarding policy, there have been very few systemic changes."

However, on January 9 of this year, he was interviewed and said that "the greatest similarity in these cases is that the high offices of the Catholic Church [...] have tried to sweep and hide sexual abuse under the carpet of clerics in all parts of the world."

Besides, contradicting in a certain sense what he had said when the movie came out, he said that "[Pope Francis] has been a great disappointment in this regard for Catholics all over the world. The evidence of the widespread global cover-up of clergy sexual abuse has been undeniable throughout his pontificate."

Despite criticism of the Vatican, Rezendes also said he believes that Pope Francis is beginning to realize the magnitude of the problem because in 2018 great scandals like the one in Pennsylvania came to light. Another case that also happened to light was the investigation of 144 priests in Chile, this, according to the journalist, must be a way for the Catholic Church, led by the Supreme Pontiff, to begin punishing clerics who commit abuses.


LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez

Translated from "¿Realmente hay justicia para las víctimas del abuso sexual?"