Vatican magazine decries treatment of nuns as bishops’ servants

‘Women, Church, World’ highlights that nuns cook and clean for clergy for little pay

A nun among the colonnades at St Peter’s Square in the Vatican. The March edition of Women, Church, World, the monthly women’s magazine of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, highlighted that nuns cook and clean for senior Catholic clergy for next to no pay. File photograph: Getty Images

A nun among the colonnades at St Peter’s Square in the Vatican. The March edition of Women, Church, World, the monthly women’s magazine of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, highlighted that nuns cook and clean for senior Catholic clergy for next to no pay. File photograph: Getty Images

 

A Vatican magazine has denounced the treatment of nuns as indentured servants by cardinals and bishops.

The March edition of Women, Church, World, the monthly women’s magazine of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, highlighted that nuns cook and clean for senior Catholic clergy for next to no pay.

The exposé on the underpaid labour and unappreciated intellect of religious sisters confirmed that the magazine is increasingly becoming an imprint of the #MeToo movement within the Catholic Church.

One lead article said of the nuns: “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.”

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

Common knowledge

While such servitude is common knowledge, it is remarkable that an official Vatican publication would dare put such words to paper and publicly denounce how the church systematically exploits its own nuns.

Women, Church, World began 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.

Its editor, Lucetta Scaraffia, told the Associated Press: “Until now, no-one has had the courage to denounce these things. We try to give a voice to those who don’t have the courage to say these words.”

While Pope Francis has told Ms Scaraffia he appreciates and reads the magazine, it is by no means beloved within the deeply patriarchal Vatican system. Recent issues have raised eyebrows, including the March 2016 edition on “women who preach”, which appeared to advocate allowing lay women to deliver homilies at Mass.

One of the authors had to publish a subsequent clarification saying he did not mean to suggest a change to existing doctrine or practice. – Associated Press