“He sent me to the basement alone to clean it. A while later, he appeared behind me telling me that I was one of his favorites and he wanted to protect me. A moment later, he jumped on me and began to touch me,” a former nun named Sandra Migliore told Perfil during an interview.
She was 16 years old. As detailed in her 2015 memoir, “Race of Vipers,” Migliore was sent to the Santa Rosa de Viterbo school in San Lorenzo to begin her novitiate with the Franciscan sisters in 1983.
In her ethnography, Migliore recounted the stories of abuse, sexual abuse and physical torture administered by superiors and religious guides throughout her eight years in the San Lorenzo convent. At least 12 other novices were mistreated during her stay in the Catholic institution.
“Since (novices) were not allowed to talk to each other, we did not know that the abuses were systematic. At the time, I thought that what had happened to me had been a moment of weakness for the superior, "said Migliore, noting that one of their superiors, Sister Viviana Fleitas, was among her primary abusers.
Extreme punishment akin to medieval torture was forced upon the young religious hopefuls, Perfil reported after a thorough investigation. Metal- studded whips, hair shirts, gags- in "honor" of their vows of silence, and a steady diet of bread and water were forced upon the novitiates.
"In my congregation there was also the use of sackcloth on the legs and hips. It is like a belt with pinches, which is attached to the flesh to cleanse sins. Even the Mother Superior, Viviana Fleitas, used to use it” Migliore said.
These “sacrifices” made in “the name of God,” which have long been criticized by members of the Catholic church, caused serious psychological trauma for the women who have since abandoned the idea of a religious life, the former nun said.
Migliore said that although the Church has not commented on her writings, many women have thanked her for her courage in publishing her experiences.
“The women who suffered wrote to me privately; some have married, have had children and their family knows nothing about abuses. Many of them still have nightmares. I do not want to criticize the faith; I only tell what happened to me and my colleagues at one time, so that it is known,” the author said.
The culture of abuse within the walls of Catholic establishments around the world has gained international attention as every week a new abuse allegation arises against a priest, religious person, or church volunteer.
Three Chilean nuns shared their stories of sexual abuse Friday, describing the multiple times they were embraced and fondled during the 1990s and 2000s by several priests.
While in India, nuns publicly accused male religious leaders of rape within their community.
Pope Francis admitted nuns have been used as “sex slaves” and repeatedly abused by priests and bishops in the past. He said the Church has "suspended several clerics" and the Vatican has been "working (on the issue) for a long time," he said. The abuse was "still going on, because it's not something that just goes away like that.
A Rome-based congregation, the International Union of Superiors General (USIG) also openly condemned the sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse executed against nuns which, they said, impairs the dignity, health and development of a victim.
Catholic bishops, Vatican officials, experts and heads of male and female religious orders from around the globe are expected to attend the four-day meeting beginning Thursday.
The meeting which aims to prevent the “abuse of minors and vulnerable adults”, comes as the 1.3 billion-member Church still struggles to enact a concerted, coordinated and global effort to tackle a crisis that is now more than two decades old.