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The Journal Gazette

Friday, March 02, 2018 1:00 am

Vatican magazine exposes servitude of nuns by bishops

Associated Press

VATICAN CITY – A Vatican magazine has denounced how nuns are often treated like indentured servants by cardinals and bishops, for whom they cook and clean for next to no pay.

The March edition of Women Church World, the monthly women's magazine of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, hit newsstands Thursday. Its expose on the underpaid labor and unappreciated intellect of religious sisters confirmed that the magazine is increasingly becoming the imprint of the Catholic Church's #MeToo movement.

“Some of them serve in the homes of bishops or cardinals, others work in the kitchens of church institutions or teach. Some of them, serving the men of the church, get up in the morning to make breakfast, and go to sleep after dinner is served, the house cleaned and the laundry washed and ironed,” reads one of the lead articles.

A nun identified only as Sister Marie describes how sisters serve clergy but “are rarely invited to sit at the tables they serve.”

Although such servitude is common knowledge, it is remarkable that an official Vatican publication would dare to publicly denounce how the church systematically exploits its nuns.

But that pluck has begun to define Women Church World, which launched six years ago as a monthly insert in L'Osservatore Romano and is now a stand-alone magazine distributed for free online and alongside the printed newspaper in Italian, Spanish, French and English.

“Until now, no one has had the courage to denounce these things,” the magazine's editor, Lucetta Scaraffia, told The Associated Press. “We try to give a voice to those who don't have the courage to say these words” publicly.

“Inside the church, women are exploited,” she said in a recent interview.

While Pope Francis has told Scaraffia he appreciates and reads the magazine, it is by no means beloved within the deeply patriarchal Vatican system.

Scaraffia, a Catholic feminist and professor of history at Rome's La Sapienza university, sees the magazine as a necessary tool to push the envelope on issues that matter to half the members of the Catholic Church.

The March issue of its women's magazine is dedicated to “Women and Work,” and explores many issues that are in some ways correlated to the #MeToo movement, including the gender pay gap, the lack of women in leadership positions, and the “Ni Una Menos” movement to combat feminicide and violence against women, often by spurned lovers.

During his recent trip to Peru, Francis denounced feminicide and gender-based crimes that have turned Latin America into the most violent place on Earth for women. He also has frequently called for dignified work – and dignified pay – for all.