Are Catholic nuns cruel? (Why do Catholic nuns have a reputation for being cruel?)

As a devout Christian and theologian, I find it hard to reconcile my feelings with the harsh realities within major denominations such as the Catholic Church. Numerous sources reveal that many (not all) nuns show a tremendous amount of cruelty, especially to children who go to convent schools. When an old friend who went to a Catholic institution revealed to me the horrors she faced at the hands of nuns, I knew I had to follow up. In my quest to learn the motivation behind these cruel acts, I visited several convent schools to talk to children and nuns alike. I was lucky to access some alumni records and speak to older students from these schools. What I found out was heartbreaking. Last month, members of our cross-denominational group discussed the issue of nuns’ cruelty. Since I have dedicated a lot of my free time to speaking to victims and nuns who were willing to open up, I was ready to tackle some of the issues concerning this topic. So, are Catholic nuns cruel?

Yes, studies suggest that a significant percentage of Catholic nuns have a knack for immense cruelty, especially toward children. This angry disposition could be a result of unresolved issues within their lifestyles. A report co-signed by the Pope revealed that many nuns faced sexual abuse and other forms of trauma at the hands of priests and other clergymen. This might be the reason nuns take out their pent-up anger on innocent children in convents. What’s more, the popular notion is that they have zero maternal instincts since they are forbidden to marry or have children. Others suspect that their stressful lives could be among the reasons for their seemingly relentless cruelty.

Join me as we try and figure out the source of the disdain that some nuns have shown to children in convent schools. In this article, we will discuss several instances of sexual and physical abuse inflicted on children in Catholic convent schools. Read along to learn about the Catholic Church’s response to these scandals.

Why do Catholic nuns have a reputation for being cruel?

Nurses got cruel nametags due to the numerous cases of extreme brutality in convent schools. Some of them respond to children’s mischievousness in a harsher way than is necessary. In the past, nuns were forced to take up teaching jobs even if many of them did not have a passion for teaching. Still, due to their calling to serve, they took on these jobs. Statistics show that some convent schools would have nuns teaching several classes, with each class having 50 students or more. As you can imagine, that kind of exhaustion can bring out the worst in anybody. Nuns working in convent schools resulted in being harsh to control the large numbers of students. Many people view nuns as cruel because they render cruel punishments even for simple infractions.

Why are Catholic school nuns considered to be mean?

Are Catholic nuns cruel?
Why are Catholic school nuns considered to be mean? Image source: Pixabay

Catholic nuns take vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Since most nuns did not have actual teaching training, they took these ideologies and applied them to the convent schools. Another factor contributing to the mean demeanors of nuns is the stressful nature of their lifestyles. Nuns are not allowed to have any kind of social life outside their orders. Social media and dates are not a part of their lives.

Adding to the fact that at least 14% of nuns have gone through abuse, you can see why many nuns seem to have pent-up anger. Sadly, these unresolved issues affect children under the tutelage of nuns. Alumni of convent schools talk about getting erasers thrown at their heads in class and sometimes getting their heads bashed against the walls.

Do Catholic nuns sexually abuse children in convent schools?

Yes, there have been numerous cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by nuns and other women religious behind the walls of convent schools. In the last decade, many victims of sexual abuse have broken their silence on the atrocious reality in catholic convent schools. These people paint an uglier picture of the nuns than the mean stereotype we are accustomed to.

One victim named Cait Finnegan got the courage to open up in her 60s. She recounts suffering sexual abuse from a nun who was supposed to be her teacher. Sister Mary Juanita Barto would recite the words “God is love” while raping a 15-year-old Finnegan. To say that that is an abomination is an understatement. According to Finnegan, the abuse continued throughout high school until she was a young adult. Though she tried to share her traumatizing experiences, no one made an effort to help her. You see, the Pope and other high-ranking officials in the Roman Catholic Church were more fixated on the sexual misconduct of priests against children.

Back in the day, nuns wielded an immense amount of power over society’s children. It was nearly taboo about the moral decay of nuns who were supposedly the epitome of “purity.” Convent schools were lauded for instilling discipline in unruly children. Members of the Roman Catholic Church would take their children to these boarding schools hoping their children would acquire the tools they need to succeed in life.

Sadly, convent schools became breeding grounds for childhood trauma and gross abuse of power and scripture. Recent reports indicate that sexual abuse in convent schools was a real issue, as people in their 70s continue to open up about the abuse they faced in these institutions. Men seem to find it particularly hard to discuss the details of their sexual abuse. For instance, a survivor whose identity is hidden talks about the abuse he faced at the Sacred Heart School, previously known as the Addington Convent School.

The gentleman, now in his mid-70s, recalls being abused by a nun named Mother Lucia. The abuse started when he was 8 years old. According to this survivor, the sister once asked him to remove his clothes to confirm if the 8-year-old was circumcised. The nun would hit, fondle, and cuddle the boy for nearly a year. Such horrifying stories ring true for many who spent their formative years in Catholic convent schools.

Do catholic nuns physically abuse children in convent schools?

Yes, many Catholic nuns have exhibited violent behavior toward children attending convent schools. Several decades ago, society put women religious on pedestals as if they were above human error. That is why it was so difficult for abused children to come forward about these issues. Most of these children could not convince their parents, grandparents, or guardians that nuns were subjecting them to horrible physical and mental torture.

While these schools prided themselves on instilling discipline, the methods used were inhumane. Survivors of convent schools spoke about the routine punishment that often came for the smallest mistakes or even for things beyond their control. Former students of convent schools often talk about not being allowed to laugh or express themselves freely for fear of being cracked with a whip.

What are some scandals surrounding catholic nuns?

Why do Catholic nuns have a reputation for being cruel?
What are some scandals surrounding catholic nuns? Image source: Pixabay

One of the saddest stories of abuse involves Irish nuns. William Gorry and his disabled little brother, Thomas, went to an “industrial school” named Mount Carmel. The school was one of the many schools owned and operated by the Catholic Church in Ireland. While in his 50s, William spoke to The Sun about the abuse he and Thomas suffered at the hands of priests.

This expose revealed that children were not only sexually abused, but the nuns subjected them to hard labor. William recalls a rage-inducing incident where two priests took his little brother and himself to a room and tripped them naked. The degenerate clergymen then proceeded to debate who they would rape first. This continued for a whole weekend, and no one in the institution bothered to look into the matter. William explains how this abuse ruined his life, leaving him with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder a decade later. This survivor admits to being easily triggered by tormenting flashbacks of the gruesome incidents at Mount Carmel.

When the sisters of Mercy offered his younger siblings a holiday, they were excited. Having been born into a family of 13 children by two financially unstable parents, the opportunity seemed golden at the time. When they arrived at the Mount Carmel industrial school, William took on the duties of caring for his severely disabled brother. At the age of 10, William would dress, feed and clean his brother’s clothes under the supervision of the Sisters of Mercy.

You see, William was also partially blind owing to some birth defects. The head nun would have him clean her office. If she weren’t satisfied with the work, the head nun would bang William’s head against the wall. The nuns would also ridicule young William, calling him useless due to his partial blindness. In a heartbreaking turn of events, the nuns told William that his little brother died during a school trip. Sadly, William never saw the body, and he still wonders if his brother was sold or murdered.

Fred Aitken remembers the gruesome scenes at the Nazareth House, an orphanage operated by nuns. Aitken ended up at the orphanage after the passing of his mother when he was just six years old. He remembers numerous instances where the nuns would bang children’s heads against the walls for various “infractions.” Aitken recalls the nun’s nightly checks for bed-wetting children. If found, the children would get thorough beatings. On one memorable night, a bed-wetting boy was flung outside a window and held by his ankles for soiling his beddings. At times, the children would be woken up at odd night hours and made to carry their wet beddings as punishment.

What is the Catholic Church’s response to the abuse scandals surrounding catholic nuns?

After decades of allegations and outright accusations against sexually abusive nuns, the Roman Catholic Church is finally paying attention. In 2019, Pope Francis directly addressed the sexual abuse concerns against religious sisters. The Pope proposed that the church leaders should handle the allegations against nuns. Pope Francis maintained that accusations against nuns should be dealt with, like the cases involving priests.

The spokeswoman for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious also added her two cents to the issue. Sister Annmarie Sanders assures the affected parties of new measures set to prevent future instances of abuse in convents. She also offered her deepest sympathies while recognizing the psychological scars caused by sexually abusive nuns. These reactions from the Pope and the LCWR representatives show a growth in the Roman Catholic Church. These issues were swept under the rug, and the victims were left to deal with the aftermath of years of abuse.

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