Pope Francis publicly acknowledged the scandal of priests and bishops sexually abusing nuns for the first time on Tuesday, and says he is committed to doing more to fight the problem. “Should we do something more? Yes. Is there the will? Yes,” Francis said to reporters while returning home from the United Arab Emirates. “It’s not that everyone does this, but there have been priests and bishops who have,” Francis added. “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.” His comments come after new allegations of widespread abuse against nuns surfaced. Francis noted that Pope Benedict XVI had taken action against a France-based order after some nuns had been reduced to “sexual slavery” at the hands of the priests. In the past year, there have been reports of abused nuns in India, Africa, Europe, and South America—evidence that the problem is by no means limited to one region.
The Catholic Church has been juggling numerous cases of sexual abuse of minors at the hands of priests in the United States and abroad. The pope’s acknowledgement of the religious sisters’ abuse supports the notion that adults can also be victims of abuse whenever there is an imbalance of power in a relationship. The pope has called a crisis summit on abuse from Feb. 21 to 25 to try to grapple with the systemic problem.