SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Three former Chilean nuns who claim to have been sexually abused over two decades ago by priests in their religious order have hailed comments by Pope Francis earlier this month in which he recognized the abuse of nuns in the Catholic Church.
The three nuns, who had been members of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan order in the Chilean city of Molina, 130 miles south of Santiago, told Reuters in an interview on Friday that they were embraced and fondled during the 1990s and 2000s by several priests who had since died.
The three, Yolanda Tondreaux, Eliana Macias and Marcela Quitral, told Reuters TV they had reported the abuse to their mother superior but were told either that they were lying or had provoked the abuse and were threatened with being forced to leave the convent.
Earlier this month, Pope Francis, whose papacy has been marked by efforts to quell a global crisis over sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy, said he was committed to stopping the abuse of nuns by priests and bishops, some of which had amounted to “sexual slavery.”
“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.
This week, the Pope summoned bishops from around the world to a Vatican summit to develop a unified response on how to protect children from sexual abuse by clergy. He said he would take similar action to confront abuse of nuns in the Church.
Tondreaux told Reuters at her home in the city of Talca that the Pope’s provided “relief” that he “has broached this issue, that abuse exists of any kind – sexual, power, psychological, by priests, by bishops and by their superiors.”
Quitral, speaking alongside her, added: “I told the mother superior many times about the fathers who were abusing nuns. She said that we were to blame, that we had provoked them.”
In December last year, the Vatican sent a delegation to investigate abuse claims made against the Good Samaritan order.
A spokesman for the Talca prosecutor’s office confirmed that complaints had been filed against priests and a mother superior of the order for alleged sexual abuse and cover-up. He said the investigation remained open and no charges had yet been brought.
The Good Samaritan order declined to comment.
Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Dan Grebler