Catholic Church investigating after two nuns went to Africa on mission trips and returned pregnant

Women dressed as nuns tried and failed to rob a bank in Pennsylvania.
Women dressed as nuns tried and failed to rob a bank in Pennsylvania. | REUTERS/Jim Young

Just months after Pope Francis publicly acknowledged that nuns were being sexually abused by priests and bishops, officials in Rome have reportedly launched an investigation after two Italy-based nuns who served on separate mission trips to Africa returned pregnant.

“There is consternation at this news. It appears that both women were back in their home nations and obviously had some form of sexual encounter. An investigation has been launched. They both breached strict rules of chastity but the welfare of their children is uppermost,” a Catholic Church source in Rome told The Sun. “The most likely outcome is they will leave their religious service.”

The two nuns are both African and were posted to their home continent as part of their charity mission.

One of the women, who is 34, had been complaining of stomach pains when she was rushed to a local hospital only to discover after an ultrasound that she was expecting, ANSA reported.

The other nun, served as a mother superior at an institute that helps “fallen women and their children” in Ragusa, a town in the Messina area of Sicily. The town’s mayor, Salvatore Riotta, told The Sun that the news of the nun, who is originally from Madagascar, has “left our village shocked ... but should have been kept quiet.”

In February this year, Pope Francis publicly acknowledged during a news conference that the Roman Catholic Church had faced a persistent problem of sexual abuse of nuns by priests and even bishops.

“It’s true,” Francis said. “There are priests and bishops who have done that.”

In the 1990s, as the child sex abuse crisis was starting to emerge in the United States, leaders of women’s religious orders wrote several reports pointing to the abuse of nuns, many of which came from Africa.

Priests reportedly turned to nuns for sex during the spread of AIDS.

Maura O’Donohue, a nun at the time, wrote about a case in Malawi where priests impregnated nearly 30 sisters in one congregation. When it was reported to the archbishop, they were replaced.

A nun in India also accused a bishop of raping her repeatedly between 2014 and 2016 last year, The New York Times said. The bishop was arrested after she reported him to the police but it caused a division in the local Catholic community.

Sister Federica, a former nun, told The Daily Beast in May that the story of sex among nuns isn’t always one of victimization or lesbian love. Nuns she said, commonly fall in love with their priests or parishioners.

“We are all bound by the vow of celibacy, but we are also guided by human nature,” she told The Daily Beast. “Sex is a natural urge for women, too.”

Like priests, she explains nuns often struggle with their vows of celibacy as even masturbation is considered a sin.

According to the report, priests are warned against masturbation because the church believes it amounts to spilled seed that should be used for procreation. Likewise nuns are prohibited from masturbating because the church believes that self-pleasure “robs the potential of sex” from the partner and it often gives way to the potential for “adultery of the heart” when a woman fantasizes while touching herself.

Sister Patricia, who left religious life after two decades, told The Daily Beast that she pursued her parish priest even though he did not give in to her advances.

“There are many cases where priests use intimidation, guilt and pressure to coerce young nuns into sexual relationships,” she said. “But there are at least as many cases of nuns who cannot fight their own desires, either.”

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