On Tuesday, the Vatican denied a report in the National Catholic Reporter saying sexual abuse of nuns by priests, especially in AIDS ravaged Africa, is a serious problem.  The magazine article is based on five reports dating to 1994 by senior members of women's religious orders and a priest.  A Vatican spokesman acknowledged there were isolated cases of priests sexually abusing nuns, but said the problem is restricted to a limited geographic area.  The article said, priests are afraid of contracting AIDS and sometimes turn to young nuns who are considered safe sexual partners.  Sister Maura O'Donohue, a physician and member of the Medical Missionary of Mary, reported that a priest in one case got a nun pregnant and then arranged for an abortion.  After she died during the procedure, the priest officiated at her funeral Mass.  Reports also say that nuns who become pregnant are often forced to leave their orders, while the priests involved are allowed to continue with their ministries.

(Vatican City)