Once again, for the umpteenth time, the Catholic Church is in the news for all the wrong reasons. And again, its callousness, nefarious activities and wickedness has been exposed to the world by its own top leadership. Papa Francis, for all his shortcomings, has become the Catholic Church’s chief whistle blower.
A fortnight ago, the pontiff, in a rare candidness, spoke of the terrible malaise that has continued to shame its supposedly-celibate clergy worldwide, when he opened up to the fact that certain priests have for the longest time been having carnal knowledge of nuns. Nuns, like their brother priests, are not supposed to have sex, and that is why they are called sister so and so because the priests and other religious orders of men who complement the nuns’ religious works, are meant to be their soul brothers and indeed, their sisters’ keepers.
But the Catholic priests, instead of being their sisters’ keepers have been lusting after the hapless nuns. The pontiff said the priests in their vile behaviour have been holding nuns in sexual hostage, not only tasting the forbidden fruit over and over again, but even impregnating them and then encouraging them to flush out the foetuses – a cardinal sin in the Catholic Church edicts. Those who are afraid of abortion, carry the pregnancy to the end, ignominiously, outside of the precincts of the “holy” convent, because, either way, the mother superior, would chase her away and accuse her of being immoral and negligent.
The Catholic Church is a terribly male church – women, whether religious or not, are relegated to secondary roles in the affairs of the church. They are supposed to kowtow to men’s whims – sexual or otherwise. If they fall prey to the men’s sexual advances that sometimes are crude and very forward, they are blamed for the consequences. If they, on the other hand, spun those advances, they are punished by being denied ''favours'', accruing fringe benefits, or in whichever way the priests or church men may find it suitable to express their angst.
Just like the pontiff was being forthright and honest (for whatever reasons, because this candidness was a long way coming), we shall also speak plainly: The pontiff was not saying anything particularly new about priests and nuns having abundance of forbidden sex. Even going further to state that some of the priests have turned some of the nuns into their sex machines is not new. What is new is that he had the courage to publicly proclaim the disease, which has been eating at the very tenet that has supposedly distinguished the church from other mainstream churches for many years.
Allow me to illustrate with some personal examples. Years back, I went to college with some Catholic priests and some nuns. As is wont to happen in an academic campus full of sexually active students, liaisons (sexual) are abound to be formed. One of the sexual liaison that went on was between a priest and a nun. Both were my friends, but even though the nun was my friend, she acted like I did not know that she was living the life of a married woman. Several times I warned her to be wary of the cunning fox, but would always shrug away my unsolicited advice.
Then the dastardly thing happened: The priest ballooned the nun. Confused and her sisterhood in tatters, her ''spiritual'' world came tumbling down. Naïve, afraid and dazed, the nun was nonetheless expelled from her order by the mother superior, who accused her of besmirching their religious order. What happened to the ever randy priest? Your guess is as good as mine. He was given a pat on the back and transferred to another parish to continue with his sexual escapades.
Much later after we were done with college, we were having a drink with the priest and I asked him why he had ended the career of a young, obsequious, but well-meaning nun, whom he preyed on. He smiled, a wearily smile and said he had asked her to abort the baby but she was too afraid. ''What more could I have done?'' surmised the priest. I also asked him why he, being the more knowledgeable of the secular world than the nun, then did not use protection. I will not tell you what he told me.
The second example is linked to the first. A separate nun friend once called me to visit her at their convent. She wanted to show me something. The convent’s drainage system had been clogged and they had invited a plumber to fix the problem. The plumber unearthed that it was condoms that had blocked their water passageway to the toilet cistern. ''These sisters are so foolish and naïve, they don’t even know that after using the condoms, you wrap them carefully and throw them in a rubbish can or burn them altogether,'' commented my bemused nun friend. In their effort to hide their sexual escapades, with priests of course, the nuns would flash the rubber sheaves in the toilet, hoping to hide away any lingering evidence.
The mighty Catholic Church has existed for a 1000 years. It has faced many earth-shaking scandals in its lifetime, worse than priests engaging in lustful endeavours, and it has survived. It will also survive these pestilence of priests, just like it survived all other scandals of the past centuries. Looking at this religious edifice, one is owed by its monolithic power of existence and survival, its tenacity to push forward amid what many people would consider to be unsurmountable epochal challenges. But there it is.
Mr Kahura is a senior writer for 'The Elephant', a Nairobi-based publication.