A group of nuns have spoken out about the exploitation they say they face at the hands of men for whom they do housework in the Roman Catholic Church.
Sister Marie, Sister Paule and Sister Cécile told their story in the Vatican magazine "Women Church World" and said they are often treated like servants by cardinals and bishops, carrying out chores for very little pay.
The monthly women's magazine from the Vatican's official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano ran an exposé Thursday denouncing the unfair treatment of nuns and the "real abuse of power" in the Catholic Church.
Testimonies from the sisters detailed the large amount of arduous daily household tasks they were to carry out for “often modest” pay and the abuse of power sometimes shown by men of the cloth.
"Some sisters... get up at dawn to prepare breakfast and go to sleep once dinner has been served, the house has been put in order and the laundry washed and ironed," said Sister Marie.
"The nuns have no precise and regulated schedule, like in the secular world, and their financial rewards are uncertain," she continued.
Sister Paule described the moment a nun, who had a PhD in theology, was ordered to go to the kitchen and wash the dishes, adding that sisters were asked to complete tasks that had “no relationship to their intellectual formation”.
According to Sister Cécilein, nuns are seen as expendable in many dioceses: "The sisters are seen as volunteers who can be disposed of as you want, which gives rise to genuine abuse of power."
"Women Church World" is run by a female staff of journalists and academics and distributed for free online, with print versions in Italian, Spanish, French and English.
The open criticism is remarkable for an official Vatican publication.
"Until now, no one has had the courage to denounce these things," the magazine's editor, Lucetta Scaraffia, told The Associated Press news agency. "We try to give a voice to those who don't have the courage to say these words."
Pope Francis lives in a guest house which is run like a hotel and eats in a dining room staffed by paid waiters, unlike his predecessors.
In 2016, he advised churchmen: "When you are asked something that is more servitude than service, have the courage to say no!"
The sisters who denounced their exploitation could have taken a step towards heeding his words.