SALTA, Argentina — Feminist groups have rallied to the support of 18 cloistered Carmelite nuns who have filed an unusual complaint of gender violence against the local Catholic archbishop.
Dozens of activists gathered Tuesday in the esplanade of the Convent of St. Bernard in Salta, some 870 miles northwest of Buenos Aires.
The nuns, members of the Discalced Carmelites order, have filed a complaint with a local court accusing Salta Archbishop Mario Antonio Cargnello, Bishop emeritus Martín de Elizalde and vicar Lucio Ajalla of “physical, psychological and economic violence.”
The archbishop has denied the accusations and the position of the other two is unclear because they have not given statements or officially named attorneys.
Elizalde had been designated by the Vatican to hear the nuns’ complaints, but they complain he had accepted the behavior they denounced.
Protesters carried posters reading “Sister, We Believe You” and “Enough of Violent Priests!” The woman joined hands and spread out around the historic structure in a symbolic hug.
“Sometimes one thinks that the sisters are in harmony, in a contemplative live, but the violence of the church itself has made them say, ‘enough!’” said Irene Cari of the Forum of Women for Equal Opportunities, one of several groups that participated in the demonstration.
The cloistered nuns have long been at odds with Cargnello over their support for a local woman who professes to have seen visions of the Virgin Mary that he does not accept.
Attorneys for the nuns say the archbishop was upset when an image of the Madonna del Cerro was placed at the funeral of a nun in 2020 and that Ajalla lunged at a nun to stop her filming the scene. They say the archbishop himself, as well as Ajalla, hit the prioress’ arm when she recovered the device used to film.
The attorneys say there were other threats and aggressions but did not detail them, citing a court gag order. The archbishop’s defense says the problem is rooted in economic issues and the administration of the Carmelite properties.