The Raping Priest: How Nuns Voices Have Been Overshadowed by the Catholic Church.

Social IssuesWomen's Issues

  • Author Luis Villar
  • Published December 21, 2022
  • Word count 1,778

The Catholic Church has had a long history of abuse allegations which have lately become more widespread due to changes in our communication technologies and practices, especially social media. A new movement named NunsToo has emerged, seeking to report clerical abuse of nuns in convents and how the Catholic Church has been silencing these accusations. Social media tools and the modernisation of newspapers have taken on increased importance in how social movements like NunsToo are changing, mostly by sharing the information and cause of the campaign in question. As social media turns its course into a new generation of social movements, nuns have begun to speak up against the Catholic Church’s history of abuse and thus break the silence; this opens up a new debate on how social media assists in the creation and spreading of movements through the world. The present essay aims to analyse and discuss how social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter have helped the social movement NunsToo come to light and why traditional media fails to deliver the same type of activism social media has achieved. This essay also investigates how the success of other movements like MeToo inspires new ones and why this incites active engagement.

The movement NunsToo is relatively recent and has grown thanks to many factors, but even though it has gotten more acknowledgement, the movement still lacks recognition. Mass media has lately been covering the topic and giving it more prominent attention in this new era of social movements. With massive media changes due to new technologies, social protests like NunsToo have become a more powerful expression throughout the globe, this new era of technologies has altered the way movements work, and it has created something new called cyber activism. Thanks to newspapers changing into a new online format, people's access to news have increased, creating an evolution of activism and social movements (Sandoval & Ramon 2014). However, it could be argued that the newspapers’ advance into an online format has brought a decrease in the coverage of relevant issues because of the advertisement each article has, the papers nowadays earn most of their profits through publicity which has an impact on how advertisers control the information in the media (Elman & Germano 2009). Therefore, some articles may not be as accurate as they seem and sometimes may lack information on the topic. In the issue of the Catholic Church's history of abuse, many newspapers seem to have covered the problem. In contrast, others have not given much information and detail besides general knowledge. Still, the movement NunsToo has gained notice as a result of Pope Francis recognising the issue and asserting it was a real problem that has been going on for years (Reals 2019).

Sex abuse in the Catholic Church has been a global and controversial issue for more than two decades, but cases of priests abusing nuns weren’t much covered until recently. The movement came to light when the Vatican magazine Women, Church, World published about the issue and even endorsed Pope Francis for revealing the problem to the media. However, the eight editors of Women, Church, World later resigned in protest over the Church’s attempt to silence all reports of clerical abuse of nuns, as Lucetta Scaraffia, the editor-in-chief, said the Vatican Newspaper L’Osservatore Romano tried to discredit their work in an attempt to put them under control (Rice 2019). Consequently, this has led to an impact on the movement since Women, Church, World is a magazine published under the auspice of the Vatican Newspaper and discrediting their work affected the reach of the original publication. Therefore, showing the extent of ways the Catholic Church uses to silence accusations that may damage its integrity. To illustrate more about the silencing of the Catholic Church in abuse allegations done by priests and bishops, cases like the protection of the Church in the abuse of minors could be comparable to what is happening with Nuns. The Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team covered this case, in which Cardinal Bernard Law covered the claims from the media in many cases of abuse, a movie about this report was done 12 years later in 2015, and it showed how the higher-ups of the Catholic Church condoned the wrongdoing (Rainey 2015; Rezende 2017). Compared to the abuse of nuns, it can be argued that both cases share similarities in how the higher-ups of the Catholic Church search to discredit or even hide these cases from the media.

Social media focuses on the immediate acceleration in the cycle of media production with constant updates and new materials, which identifies social media as newness and always in the making (Kaun 2016). Furthermore, with media and information technologies rising in the world of activism, movements have become more diverse and vast. It can be said this will affect NunsToo because social media plays an important role in many protests throughout the globe. For instance, in recent events, social media tools were used to manage information and enable users with online tools to organise protests and become activists. In contrast, newspapers have a more limited margin of action and influence (Sandoval & Ramon 2014). However, Konieczny (2014) states that social media tools have failed to deliver radical change in social movements but have pandered to a younger audience creating more young activists. Even though Konieczy argues that social media tools have failed, Milan (2015) asserts that social media has given social movements a voice and has played a role in how the protests operate. In the case of NunsToo, the campaign was inspired by the revolutionary movement MeToo, which started in October 2017 (Winfield & Muhumuza 2018). Nevertheless, NunsToo and MeToo differ in how the protests gather a bigger audience since MeToo emerged thanks to social media and had a bigger audience from the start (Gill & Orgad 2018), while NunsToo appeared globally after the publishing of many news articles about the issue. Furthermore, NunsToo has failed to gather a younger audience of activists, while MeToo did get a wider one thanks to social media tools like Twitter, this mainly shows how social media tools can garner a bigger audience of young activists, while newspapers have failed to deliver the same result.

Although some movements like MeToo have gained significant recognition thanks to social media tools. Still, it could be said there are cases in which the media does not provide a safe environment for activists in what is now known as cyberactivism, this is due to the privacy the internet offers its users and how some people can have a negative response towards a specific movement since media technologies are neutral platforms (Kaun 2016). The damage social protests can have through the media goes from hacking to even reputational damage, this is caused by the vast amount of information available in social media channels, which provides a valuable source of intelligence for possible attackers (Mehan 2014). Also, the sufferers of these attacks are not only the movements but the activists too, since the rise of cyberactivism in social media on what is known as cyberactivism 2.0, more people have started to share ideas, but at the same time, their thoughts may be attacked and even condoned by others with opposite beliefs (Sandoval & Ramon 2014). Furthermore, cyberattackers are almost impossible to detect, making cyberattacking more common and leaving organisations and protests vulnerable (Mehan 2014). Still, social media was useful for movements like MeToo and has been effective in creating mass reactions and building an online community (Sandoval & Ramon 2014). But, in NunsToo, social media didn’t play a major role in the diversification of the issue, the only part it played was the sharing of the movement through comments on social media sites, and even though this could spread quickly, it did not gather enough attention. Konieczny (2014) did a study in which he proved that organisations with an age base of 18 to 20 years old did find social media more useful, in the case of NunsToo, it did not assemble many young activists due to the lack of social media usage.

Both MeToo and NunsToo share many similarities as both of the movements report the abuse of women in the workplace, with NunsToo basing itself on the abuse of nuns by priests and bishops with a higher religious position. But, MeToo has gotten some criticism for only including women in particular roles and workplaces, leaving out some women who do not fit what the movement stands for, this accusation damaged part of the movement's integrity and has given it some criticism (Gill & Orgad 2018). As well MeToo, it could be said that NunsToo leaves out a large number of people who have suffered the same hardships, as NunsToo only speaks up about the abuse of nuns by the members of de Catholic Church and does not include the many cases of abuse of children in the same institution. Still, it can be argued that the abuse of nuns did need its own coverage since the victims in these cases are adults, and there may be a tendency to blame them for the abuse. In the Catholic Church, the image of the nun as someone who only serves the priest also undercuts those who try to speak up about the abuse (Horowitz 2019). Similarly, Wormer and Berns (2004) suggest that the power of members of the clergy is enhanced by their religious position, thus showing an imbalance of power on sex that may appear to be consensual in adults. Putting aside the cases of children being abused by priests, even though there isn’t a movement that represents them, that issue has gathered more attention than the NunsToo issue, mostly because it involves children and as stated by Horowitz (2019) the cases in which the abused is an adult seems to be discredited as consensual.

In conclusion, there are many possibilities NunsToo has through new ways of communication, as some previous movements have gained more prominent recognition thanks to the usage of social media technologies to attract young activists and enhance the campaign's influence. Still, this essay considered the possibilities in which general media like newspapers can help a movement and, in the process, argued about the dangers of social media activism. Therefore social media can be considered an alternative for activism by arranging protests but should be used carefully, as it may be useful for diversifying people’s thoughts. Also, it can be stated that NunsToo, as a new protest, has the potential to stand out on its own and, more so, become popular on social media platforms. Last, it could be possible that NunsToo inspired another social movement against the abuse of priests, as MeToo inspired NunsToo, it can be argued that a new protest can arise due to the popularity of others.


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