The Catholic Church’s global organization of nuns condemned the church's handling of sexual assault, advocating for sisters who have been abused or are aware of abuse to report such instances to police and their superiors.
The Union of International Superiors General (UISG), which represents more than 500,000 nuns globally, denounced the "culture of silence and secrecy" surrounding abuse in the church, promising to help sisters who have been abused heal and seek justice by reporting misconduct.
“We stand by those courageous women and men who have reported abuse to the authorities. We condemn those who support the culture of silence and secrecy, often under the guise of ‘protection’ of an institution’s reputation or naming it ‘part of one’s culture,’ UISG said in a statement Friday.
"We advocate for transparent civil and criminal reporting of abuse whether within religious congregations, at the parish or diocesan levels, or in any public arena,” the statement continued.
The statement marked the first from UISG since the church was hit by a new string of abuse scandals earlier this year, the Associated Press noted. The AP reported earlier this year that the Vatican failed to act on decades-old knowledge that clergymen across the world were abusing nuns.
The UISG vowed to provide assistance to those who report abuse and called for new programs to prevent misconduct from happening in the future.
“We ask that any woman religious who has suffered abuse, report the abuse to the leader of her congregation, and to church and civic authorities as appropriate. If UISG receives a report of abuse, we will be a listening presence and help the person to have the courage to bring the complaint to the appropriate organizations,” the statement reads.
“We commit ourselves to work with the church and civil authorities to help those abused to heal the past through a process of accompaniment, of seeking justice, and investing in prevention of abuse through collaborative formation and education programs for children, and for women and men. We wish to weave solidarity in these situations that dehumanize and to contribute to a new creation around the world.”
An investigation by the AP found cases of priests abusing nuns had occurred in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia with few repercussions. The outlet reported that its findings suggested women in the church could be treated by clergymen with near impunity due to a power imbalance within the institution.
The U.S. has also been rocked by a series of sex abuse cases stemming from Catholic clergy.
In October, the Department of Justice opened an inquiry into child sexual abuse allegations at several diocese in Pennsylvania. A Pennsylvania grand jury report released in August detailed hundreds of allegations of child sex abuse by priests in dioceses throughout the state.