Pope Francis greets nuns during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Pontifical university takes up sex abuse of nuns by priests

September 26, 2019 - 11:16 am

ROME (AP) — A Togolese nun has successfully defended a first-ever dissertation at a Vatican-sanctioned university on the sexual abuse of nuns by priests in the latest evidence of a problem confronting the Catholic Church in the #MeToo era.

Sister Makamatine Lembo was awarded summa cum laude at her defense Thursday at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and was praised by her examiners for her courage in examining such a taboo subject.

Lembo's dissertation explores the relational dynamics behind the sexual abuse of nuns by priests, focusing on nine victims in five sub-Saharan countries. It found that the abuses involved entrenched power imbalances, a yearslong grooming process and often money given to poor sisters in exchange for sex.

Examiner Sister Brenda Dolphin thanked Lembo "on behalf of consecrated women all over the world."