PARIS, 31 MAY 2011 Manifestly, the Vatican has a troubled
history with sex and deceit. The influential contemporary Italian artist
and court jester Maurizio Cattelan made that clear in his prescient
1999 work La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour), where Pope John Paul II
is felled by a meteorite as if by the hand of God. Now, according to
French journalist and author Serge Bilé, the Vatican has another problem
on its hands, one that has been percolating since World War II
racism against Africans.
In his book entitled Et si Dieu n'aimait pas les Noirs? (And
What if God Did Not Like Blacks?), co-authored with Audifac Ignace and
published in 2009 (Éd. Pascal Galodé), Mr. Bilé investigates decades-old
complaints of racism brought against the Holy See and its current
candidate for sainthood, Pius XII. In doing so, the RFO (Radio France
Outremer) journalist explores Roman Catholicism's perception of blacks in
Africa and the diaspora, the Vatican's alleged racial discrimination
during the ecclesiastical training of Africans and their precarious
conditions as immigrant clergy in the Eternal City, and most disturbingly,
the sexual abuse of African nuns by priests.
This last topic is the focus of a trailer for Serge Bilé's new
52-minute on-line documentary, Une Journée dans la Vie de
Marie-Madeleine (A Day in the Life of Mary Magdalene). In it, Mr.
Bilé records nuns from convents in Rome, France, Congo and elsewhere who
describe repeated sexual abuse by senior prelates in some cases with the
complicity of the convent itself.
One French nun shares her knowledge of a clinic near Lyon with a
special wing where nuns can discreetly deliver their babies or terminate a
pregnancy. Another nun confesses losing her virginity at age 42 in a love
affair with a priest in Paris during meetings on Catechism classes for
handicapped children. In Rome, one African nun speaks frankly about being
dispatched to the Vatican by her convent to avoid scandal over her
pregnancy, while another admits to prostitution in order to afford basic
necessities such as shoes and underwear. The trailer ends with remarks by
a French physician in Martinique who has offered advanced pre-natal
medical care to cloistered nuns, or listened to their desperate
requests for an abortion.
In that film, he interviews the few that managed to survive the camps
and, for whatever reason, escape the gas chambers. Particularly riveting
is an extensive legal analysis by an elderly Afro-German camp survivor of
the German racial laws as they applied to assimilated Jews and Germans of
mixed African and European heritage. In most cases, they were the
children or grandchildren of an African (from a territory like Tanganyika
in the pre-World War I German East Africa colony) and a metropolitan
European. Like all Jews in Europe, these mixed race Germans were
considered undesirable contaminants of the true Aryan race and (were)
therefore to be exterminated. Most perished.