Pope acknowledges clergy sexual abuse of nuns


ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) — Pope Francis today publicly acknowledged the scandal of priests and bishops sexually abusing nuns and vowed to do more to fight the problem, the latest sign there is no end in sight to the Catholic Church's abuse crisis – and that it now has a reckoning from the #MeToo movement.

Francis admitted to the problem for the first time in public during a news conference while returning to Rome from the United Arab Emirates. The acknowledgment comes just two weeks before he hosts an unprecedented gathering of bishops to craft a global response to the scandal of priestly predators who target children and the superiors who covered up the crimes.

Francis was asked about priests who target adult women – the religious sisters who are the backbone of the Catholic Church's education, health care and social service ministries around the globe – and whether the Holy See might consider a similar universal approach to combat that issue.

"It's not that everyone does this, but there have been priests and bishops who have," Francis told reporters. "And I think that it's continuing because it's not like once you realize it that it stops. It continues. And for some time we've been working on it."

"Should we do something more? Yes. Is there the will? Yes. But it's a path that we have already begun," Francis said.

The issue has come to the fore amid the Catholic Church's overall reckoning with the sexual abuse of minors and the #MeToo-inspired acknowledgement that adults can be victims of abuse whenever there is an imbalance of power in a relationship. In the past year, The Associated Press and other media have reported on cases of abused nuns in India , Africa, Europe and South America – evidence the problem is by no means limited to a certain geographic area.

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