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Vatican magazine shocks with claim nuns exploited as 'indentured servants'

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By Marshall Connolly (Catholic Online)
3/2/2018 (1 year ago)
Catholic Online (

Women are worthy of respect and honor, regardless of their vocation.

The official Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano has published it's women's magazine for the month of March. The magazine, titled, "Women Church World" contains a shocking claim, that nuns are being exploited for their labor are often treated as indentured servants. 

Labor is an honorable duty, and such is religious life. But all work deserves compensation and all talents should be invested in the service of God.

Labor is an honorable duty, and such is religious life. But all work deserves compensation and all talents should be invested in the service of God.


By Marshall Connolly (Catholic Online)
Catholic Online (
3/2/2018 (1 year ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Vatican, newspaper, Women Church World, nuns, labor, exploitation, me too

LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - There exists no organization in the world that is as pro-woman as the Catholic Church. The Church recognizes and preaches the special role of women in the world. A small number of vocal critics claim the Church is patriarchial and opposed to women, but such criticisms stem from ignorance. While women cannot be priests, they are not restricted from positions of respect, responsibility, and authority. The Church routinely advocates for the protection of women from those who would dehumanize and sexualize them. It protects women from the moment of conception. And the Church has a powerful devotion to Mary, the Mother of God. Half of the world's Catholics are women! 

Knowing this, it is painful and saddening to read that some women are being exploited for their labor within the Church, and are being treated as indentured servants. 

The March edition of "Women Church World" details several cases of nuns who are assigned menial labor, often in the employment of high-ranking Church officials. They cook, clean and wait, and are "rarely invited to sit at the table they serve." According to the article, the nuns are either low paid or unpaid. There are no contracts for their service. 

The women can come from many backgrounds. In one case, a nun with a Ph.D. was compelled to perform menial labor, not at all commensurate with her talents. Others come from developing nations and feel they have no voice or right to complain.

When these women become ill, they are sent back to their orders and another sister is assigned in their place, almost as if they were a disposable commodity. 

None of this is consistent with Church teaching. 

We are called to cultivate our talents and to invest them in the service of God. To compel a Ph.D. recipient to spend the entirety of her time keeping house could be seen as a negligence to invest talents; we all know how that parable ends. 

There is nothing wrong with labor. We are all called to perform labor. Virtually all of us perform labor in our homes, doing chores from dishes to laundry to gardening, this is a normal part of life. When performed with the right attitude, labor can bring us closer to God. It can be an escape from the distractions of worldly life. We can even pray and meditate as we work, making such labor a pleasure. 

But there is a difference between labor and exploitation. When the person who cooks and serves your meal and washes your dishes is not invited to sit with you at the table, they are a servant. And if that servant is not paid commensurate with their value, then they are being exploited. And when a doctor is employed as a waitress and dishwasher merely because of her sex, then their talents are clearly being misplaced. 

Yes, doctors need to wash dishes too. But full time? No. Assigned to eat in the kitchen? No. 

A life of labor and service is honorable, but such a life should be freely chosen, and based on the best use of a person's talents. And regardless of the arrangement, every person who labors is entitled to a fair and just compensation for their work. 

It is unclear just how widespread or common these problems are. The busiest church officials do need people to help them, and that probably includes someone to help them cook and clean. But they must compensate these people. And they should only hire those who are suited and willing to perform the work with a spirit of joy, and not with a reluctant heart. 

It must be asked, "Does this person have talents or a disposition that is suited to different work?" 

The Church must conduct all its affairs with the utmost integrity. If the Church is to remain a moral and authoritative voice, then it does not enjoy the sinful luxury of hypocrisy. To be pro-woman, to speak authoritatively on women's issues, the Church must not merely be pro-life. It must also be supportive of women and their vocations throughout their entire lives. 

The Church cannot make women priests or pontiffs. This is understood. But it is widely construed as patriarchy. If the Church is to answer this ignorance effectively, it must be able to demonstrate its feminist credentials to all.

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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for January 2019
Young People and the Example of Mary.
That young people, especially in Latin America, follow the example of Mary and respond to the call of the Lord to communicate the joy of the Gospel to the world.


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