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Victims of Nun’s Sex Abuse Need Our Compassion, Too

Imagine the reaction of the thousands of men and women sexually abused by American nuns to the continuous media coverage lauding their tormenters and torturers as the ultimate practitioners of virtue. In response to the multitude of commentaries championing religious women against the Vatican, I agree with Kris Ward of the National Survivors Advocates Coalition (NSAC) who wrote:

[I]t is important and imperative that in this time and at this juncture we must say that while being bullied, being treated rudely, and being investigated is offensive and insulting, it is not on the same par as an innocent and vulnerable child’s body being raped, sodomized, forced into a crucifixion poses and made to mock the God that was systematically being taken from them in the vilest of ways.

For those survivors who have not succumbed to suicide – either quickly or slowly by alcohol, drugs and other self-destructive means – this must be an excruciating period in their lifelong battle to deal with the abuse inflicted on them by some of the “good sisters.”

Ward continues:

It is because of the survivors and the families of those who committed suicide that we raise our voice in the midst of the discussion about the nuns.

We raise it to ask the sisters as they pray, reflect, gather and seek to dialogue in their current crisis to come clean with the sexual abuse by nuns and do right by the survivors and their families.

We believe that if five, ten communities of religious sisters had stood up, ramrod straight and unblinkingly strong when the third incarnation, let alone the first and second, of this horrific scandal burst into the general consciousness in Boston in 2002 that we would be miles ahead of where we are today in resolving this crisis – and certainly the survivors who [gave] the heartbreaking and heart wrenching testimony that is unfolding in Philadelphia after the need for two grand jury reports could have been spared.

“Sadly, his efforts to work with the Leadership Conference of Religious Women (LCWR) have been rebuffed,” David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), tolda reporter. Clohessy called for the LCRW – nuns who hold senior positions in 450 orders across the country  -  “to develop a national abuse policy that could be a model for the bishops and for the entire world.”

Clohessy said SNAP has repeatedly asked to address LCWR at its annual national gathering, a request that has been denied. He said SNAP has also asked LCWR to allow a SNAP link on the LCWR website and to give SNAP the names of regional women religious sex abuse victim coordinators, requests that have also been denied. Clohessy said the LCWR leadership has told him that it is more proper for abuse victims to work with individual orders, claiming that LCWR is not the venue to deal with women religious sex abuse issues.

“I believe there are a number of reasons why abuse by nuns is not in the public eye and not being addressed: taboos against believing abuse by nuns…and statutes of limitation laws which…the Catholic Church actively lobbies against,” statedMary C. Dunford, a victim of sexual abuse by a nun.

“Another reason is that nuns are not held accountable. Bishops refuse to take any responsibility for them or their behavior. Nuns are accountable only to their own orders’ provincials” and to the Vatican department in charge of religious orders, said Dunford. When the U.S. bishops first publicly addressed sex abuse at their meeting in June 2002 in Dallas, “nuns, according to Archbishop Harry Flynn, refused en masse to be included in the ‘strictures’ of the Dallas Charter. They self-govern, self investigate, and self determine the credibility and consequences of each accusation,” according to Dunford.

No one really knows the actual number of victims of religious women since, unlike the bishops and priests, the nuns refuse to cooperate in any studies aimed at quantifying and qualifying the horrific results of their actions. In an article relating the experiences of victims in bringing suit against the sisters, a Minneapolis newspaper, The Star Tribune, stated in June 2006 that a dozen victims in Minnesota and 400 nationwide (“which probably just scratches the surface”) had come forward. As regards the following excerpt from the same report, unfortunately nothing has changed.

Accusers interviewed for this story say they’ve come forward only recently because it took them years to fully remember or process the abuse and decide how to deal with it.

Sexual abuse by nuns has gone largely unaddressed and unreported until now in part because of cultural biases about gender roles and sex, say those knowledgeable about the cases. Women often abuse in seductive ways that silence and confuse victims, [St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, who specializes in clergy sex-abuse cases] said.

And when abuse is alleged, it can be difficult for victims to assign accountability in the maze of 450 women’s religious orders. The Catholic Church says it has no jurisdiction over the orders….

Cases involving nuns feature complex sociological and psychological factors, said Minneapolis psychologist Gary Schoener, a national expert on clergy sexual abuse. Women are less likely to sexually abuse children, but nuns have access to children in schools, orphanages and at music lessons, he said….

Cases that Anderson has seen, most involving girls, occur “not because perpetrators are lesbian, but because they have access to and power over children,” he said….

Attorneys are less likely to take nun cases than cases involving male clergy, said Clohessy of SNAP, because “lawyers know that the deference shown to priests is even more intense with nuns.”

And most cases cannot clear Minnesota’s six-year statute of limitations on lawsuits, Anderson said….

The lawsuits against the Rochester Franciscans seek to circumvent the statute by focusing on recent recognition of the abuse and on the order’s response, Anderson said. But those who have reported abuse say little has been done to restore trust. Bertrand, Britten, Schwartz and Dunford have asked the orders involved in their cases to look for possible other victims at the locations where the perpetrators lived and worked. The orders, citing confidentiality concerns and logistical difficulty, have refused to do so.

BishopAccountability.org is an organization dedicated to documenting the phenomenon of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. If one inputs “nuns” into the website’s internal search engine, 3700 “hits” are produced chronicling the record of abuse by religious women.

While all the individual stories of abuse by religious women are as gut-wrenching as those involving ordained (deacons, priests, bishops) and religious (brothers) men, the record of what happened in orphanages to children completely under control of the nuns are especially horrendous.

Two dozen former residents (some as young as 4 at the time of their abuse) at an American Indian orphanage run by the Catholic Church sued the Sioux Falls diocese in a 58-page lawsuit  filed in 2010.

Rebecca Rhoades, an attorney with Manly and Stewart, a California law firm that has handled hundreds of abuse cases involving Catholic officials and is involved in the filing of the Tekakwitha lawsuit, said she was surprised by the number of claims against nuns and the alleged severity of the abuse.

“Really it was just very perverse, very strange and the clients we have whose abusers were nuns were very, very traumatized,” Rhoades said Friday.

Other suits have been filed against the St. Thomas-St. Vincent Orphanage in Anchorage, the St. Ignatius Mission’s Ursuline Academy on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana, the Boston School for the Deaf operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph, and the Sacred Heart Orphanage in New Jersey, to name just a few. “As children, they were sexually molested, physically abused and otherwise mentally tormented,” attorney Mitchell Garabedian, representing some of the plaintiffs, saidat a news conference.

Abuse by nuns in societies dominated by the Catholic Church is even worse.

The UN Committee against Torture released its Concluding Observations for Ireland last June based in part on the information submitted by the Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) organization.

Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries were residential, commercial and for-profit laundries operated by four orders of nuns where between 1922 and 1996, when the last institution closed, an estimated tens of thousands of girls and women were imprisoned, forced to carry out unpaid labor and subjected to severe psychological and physical maltreatment.

The Irish government’s 2009 Ryan Commission report, based on a nine-year investigation, “describes ritualised beatings, torture, sexual humiliation, and rape perpetrated by priests, brothers and nuns in church-run institutions” in Catholic church-run industrial schools and orphanages.

An advocate for Canadian orphans and Dr. Jonathan Levy, PhD, an international law expert, on behalf of thousands of Québécois orphans held captive in institutions operated by Catholic women religious orders announced they were making a claim agains the Vatican. The petition

documented accusations including use of electro shocks to punish children, child trafficking, murder, sexual molestation, torture and forced labor. The petition outlines various representative case histories and crimes committed on a systematic basis through 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s until finally halted by the Canadian government. Many of the crimes committed resulted in financial gain for the orders who received millions of dollars from the Canadian and Quebec government for warehousing so called orphans.

God helps those who help themselves

This is not to say that religious women don’t deserve the praise they have received for helping the poor and sick, especially when contrasted with the Pope and his U.S. proxies’ (the bishops’) solid backing of the global plutocracy.

Yet one columnist for the highly respected National Catholic Reporter describes the hierarchs’ recent strategy as “Control the nuns and thereby control their money.” Kris Ward wrote, “[The sisters] know, as we do, that it is their properties more likely than their policies that today are in the bulls eye of Rome. The religious sisters hold and manage valuable properties in the United States and a number of the congregations are involved in the lucrative business of health care both in hospitals and nursing homes.”

Mercy Health, with revenue of nearly $4 billion, could qualify as one of the largest corporations in the St. Louis region….Mercy has investments totaling about $1.5 billion, which earned nearly $19 million in the past fiscal year. More than $200 million of Mercy’s assets are invested in hedge funds and private equity ventures. And the health system’s executive retirement plan has nearly $70 million in assets….

“The Sisters of Mercy Health System is classified as a church and is therefore not required to file a Form 990,” the organization told the Internal Revenue Service in its May tax filing. The church “is voluntarily filing a Form 990 in a good faith effort of full disclosure and transparency of operations.”

Under joint sponsorship of the Daughters of Charity, the Congregation of St. Joseph and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet:

Ascension Health Alliance executives say their joint venture to build a $2 billion“health city” in the Cayman Islands with an India-based hospital group will bring high-quality, low-cost medicine to the Caribbean and South America.

“We’re not considering this a medical tourism facility. That’s not the intent at all,” said Anthony Tersigni, president and chief executive of Ascension Health Alliance, which runs the nation’s largest Catholic and nonprofit health system.

But the system’s for-profit partner, Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospitals in India, has cast the project in sharply different terms. For years, Narayana’s founder, Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty, has promoted the idea of building an offshore medical center to serve primarily American patients who cannot afford health care in the United States.

“Cayman Islands is an hour flight from the U.S., and we intend to offer cost-effective treatment for the citizens of the U.S. and also (those) who are under-insured,” Shetty said in Narayana news release in October….

Associate Professor Leigh Turner, a health care expert at the University of Minnesota, describes the joint venture as “an odd partnership.” The Cayman Islands – which enjoys a standard of living ranked 14th among world nations – seems a strange place to launch a health mission aimed at social justice and health-care access, Turner said.

“That seems like a place where you build a private, for-profit health center,” Turner said

The Resource Center for Religious Institutes is the 2-year-old descendant of the National Association of Treasurers of Religious Institutes, and the Legal Resource Center for Religious, each of which was founded with the help of – you guessed it – the LCWR. In fact, the organizations’ headquarters share the same building in Silver Spring, Md. The Resource Center for Religious Institutes says it provides “one-stop shopping” regarding financial and legal issues facing its membership, mainly U.S. institutes of men and women religious. Many women’s institutes have substantial cash, equities and property in their own names, and their members hold directorships in multiple institutions, which in turn have giant assets.

For example, what must be one of dozens or hundreds of similar organizations, the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati run the SC Ministry Foundation which is worth $200 million. Older Catholics remember when rich girls attended only the “finishing schools” operated by nuns. The value of their convents, schools and other properties in these very wealthiest of locales would be mind-numbing.

“Much of those tax-free assets are managed by the Christian Brothers Investment Services – about $4 billion. Many, many institutes of women religious have carefully guarded their property and funds.”

It is their extraordinary holdings which allow U.S. religious women to be so independent in the face of Vatican censure.

30 Responses

  1. I have watched with mix feelings the ordeal the nuns have been subjected to – just as I watched with mixed feelings what the good priests have been going through. While I feel that they do not deserve the rath of the Vatican, they are not as squeeky clean on the abuse issue that most people would like to believe. It is time that this come out in the open.

    Thanks for the article and the light of truth

  2. Thank you, Betty, for this excellent and deserved report! You are appreciated by all survivors of abuse by nuns, if I may speak on their behalf.

  3. Yes, all of this media and compassion for the nuns, has caused a lot of pain for the many victims who have been sexually abused by nuns.
    They feel very alone and ignored.

    The sex abuse by nuns needs to be talked about more.. and brought up in the media frenzy about how badly the nuns are being treated.

    How can the bishops be in charge and in control of the nuns, and yet when it comes to holding them accountable for abuse, the bishops claim they have no authority over the nuns?

    Thank you for this article, it needs to be told more often..

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511
    snapjudy@gmail.com
    (SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims.
    SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 12,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers and increasingly, victims who were assaulted in a wide range of institutional settings like summer camps, athletic programs, Boy Scouts, etc. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org).

  4. Thank you, Betty, for getting this information out. I have posted on Bilgrimage and Voice from the Desert about the nonconsensual urophilic BDSM sexual assault perpetrated on me in front of my classmates on three occasions by the nun who was my first grade teacher in 1964. Just before starting first grade, a newly minted Alter Christus attempted to assault me at a CYO camp during “family week” when I was there with my cousins.

    Of the two, it was abuse by the nun that was the most harmful, humiliating, and damaging to me in ways I’m only beginning to understand: social anxiety, social awkwardness, constant fear of humiliation and embarrassment, fear of being prohibited from using a restroom when needed, fear of being criticized, and being to this day an *unwilling and unwitting* target of bullies because I can’t defend myself and I “vibe” as a potential victim/easy pickings.

    I always remembered what the nun did to me and thought of her as “mean”. As I grew up, I understood her actions to be abuse. When I read the reports out of Ireland, I realized the abuse was sexual abuse, perhaps of a sadomasochistic variety. When I read entries in Wikipedia on urophilia and omorashi, I realized that the abuse was a *very specific* BDSM scenario.

    The nun who abused me was a Sister of Mercy, the same order that perpetrated the horrors in Ireland. Their “training” no doubt was all about how to break and destroy children and vulnerable women. It certainly seems to be the case because so many of us got abused in specifically sadistic ways.

    Another item I should mention is that it’s much more difficult to track down nuns because they all use fake names, aliases to conceal their true identities. “Sister Mary Stephen” – how do you track that down? At least most priests use their actual first and last names. And just what “Sisters of Mercy” did she belong to? The one out of Michigan? The one based in Ireland? The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas? I tried to look up this order and found it’s split into at least three organizations now. I guess the one with a “motherhouse” in Cincy is the one because I remember the nuns mentioning the motherhouse there. They’ve probably buried their records even more deeply than any diocese ever has.

    Boys abused by priests can win in court. Girls abused by priests hardly ever win. Girls and boys abused by nuns have NO CHANCE at justice, none at all.

    I HATE the “good sisters” for what they did to me and because I’ll never get justice for the lifelong damage one in particular did to me. Out of about 20 nuns at my elementary school, only one was “nice”, and she was gone after a year. This tells me that nice nuns are a small minority of total nuns, so the abuse was not done by a “few bad apples”. That argument will never wash with me because I know the truth. I don’t trust even one nun in the entire world. Nuns suck!

    • Dear ClevelandGirl, I am so sorry for what was done to you and all the other survivors. I appreciate your response because it is the courage of those like yourself, willing to speak up and speak out, who will change the world. Hang in there. Your suffering is acknowledged, recognized and you already have and will continue to make a big difference.

      • Betty, Thanks for your kindness and validation. I get so little of either, so I treasure people like you, Bill, Kathy, and others who understand. I have been outside of RCC Inc for over 30 years now (and officially got myself excommunicated/defected four years ago before you couldn’t anymore when they conveniently removed the word “defection” from canon law), so my words are “invalid” much of the time to those inside. I’m just “bitter”, “disgruntled”, etc., dontcha know. I guess the difference for me is that I had *a lot* of reasons for leaving, saw or experienced a lot of victimization and abuse of all kinds, saw the misogyny and corruption, all before I understood everything that happened to me fully. RCC Inc is a place for victims to go to be victimized, and I refused to be a victim anymore, 30 years ago.

        We are presently dealing with bullying from Hubby’s family because we didn’t show up at our nephew’s ordination last year because my dad was on his deathbed and died a few days later. They were so cruel as to not even believe my dad had died, and Hubby’s brother (nephew’s dad) showed up at the funeral home to see if we were lying or not (he probably thinks we still are, that we faked the obituary and entire funeral set-up, like we had thousands to spend on a ruse of that kind). We won’t bow down and worship this nephew and give him all our money, so we’re evil and stuff. This nephew is assigned to a white, privileged parish (in line with the racism taught to him by his father), and he’s a golden poster boy for his diocese and gets media publicity for every move he makes. He spent a *week* in Nicaragua the summer before his ordination, but he supposedly did all this “great missionary work”. His family has even started a hagiography for “St. Christopher of Berea”, including stuff like he was consecrated to the “holy angels” while in the womb. We’re not buying any of this crap, so we get bullied. We can’t wait until we can tell these idiots to kiss off (with stronger language), and we will be setting up restraining orders as part of our estate planning because we know when one of us goes they’ll try to hijack funeral plans and steal our estate (such as it is) from the survivor.

        Any wonder why I’m an Atheist?!

  5. I’ve always felt the abuse from religious women would not get any attention until the law suits started coming from Native Americans who were abused in the Boarding Schools. The two Montana Dioceses now have four law suits pending involving over 200 victims and nuns figure prominently. What went on in the Boarding Schools beggars the mind. But it was seen all over the globe and frequently involved the same orders of nuns. This goes way way beyond the jokes about rulers and knuckles.

    • Thanks for your comment. It’s tragic that any justice these children ever receive is so many years after the fact. Unfortunately, what happened in these boarding schools is still underpublicized.

      • Betty, it’s not just that the stories of the Boarding Schools are under-publicized, but also the consequences to the tribal structures when these children started coming back to the Rez. They brought the culture of abuse with them. The incidence of child sexual abuse is endemic on our reservations. It is fueling the alcohol and drug issues and the equally devastating suicide statistics. It’s almost like the reservations now mirror the abuse culture endemic to the religious congregations which ran the Boarding Schools.

        I really wish the various organizations of sisters would face this history because until they deal with their own historical culture of abuse they will never deal with how that abuse was then perpetrated on the children in their ‘care’.

        I’m not unaware of the fact that poop rolls down hill and because of that would hope that the current attack on the LCWR by the USCCB and CDF would trigger an examination of just how certain congregations kept their own institutional abuse rolling down hill on the even more vulnerable and innocent people they themselves were supposed to ‘oversee’.

    • Thanks, Kathy. You’re so right. It was the exposure about the industrial schools and orphanages in Ireland that raised my consciousness. Not to make comparisons, but I believe that Native American/First Nations kids got it the worst of anyone because of the policy “kill the Indian, save the child”. Well, they killed the Indians *and* the children both, didn’t they?

      I also think that the ongoing exposure of baby selling by nuns in Spain, Australia, Ireland, and elsewhere, primarily perpetrated by nuns, will go a long way in exposing the truth too. (And there are reports out of Ireland that the nuns were selling access to babies and children for unethical human subjects experimentation with vaccines and the like. All about the Benjamins, always.) I have several cousins that my eldest aunt and her husband adopted in the 1940s and 1950s – one is a Korean girl and the other a Navajo boy (both now 60ish). AFAIK, they adopted through RCC Inc sources in AZ. I would lay down a merry bundle of cash that Rusty was forcibly taken from his real parents and sold to my aunt and uncle. I’m sure they were told that Rusty’s parents were dead and that he was an orphan. I’m sure they thought they were doing good and didn’t know the truth. Nuns are crafty that way – “mental reservation” to make a profit. If they were into all these profit-making activities, perhaps there *is* a lot of money and property to be had by the Vatican by putting them into receivership to acquire more wealth. And how convenient it would be to bankrupt the orders so as to keep money out of the hands of the victims of those orders of nuns.

      Oh, and as you all know, the nuns were using (mostly) girls as slave labor to manufacture rosaries (if you have a rosary made in Ireland before the late 1970s, it has the blood of child slave labor on it). At one point, the nuns asked us at my school/prison if we wanted to “volunteer” to make rosaries for no pay. I like crafts, but I certainly didn’t “volunteer”! They couldn’t use us as slave labor because we were all children of blue collar UNION dads and moms who went home to parents every afternoon, so they used the “volunteer” ploy to see if we’d bite and they could make profit from us, too. Scumbags!

      • Colleen, sorry for getting your name wrong – I was posting too early in the morning!

        • You have said everything that I am feeling. Thank You. i wrote a letter to a priest in response to an article he wrote referring to nuns as angels, and being especially kind to children. I reminded him of the abuse by nuns, which i was a victim of and told him that his article was a lie and of course, as in everything we cannot put every nun in the same catagory, but we cannot omit the fact that these women were evil,monstrous people disguised as angels put on a pedestal following the Lord’s path. That is so ar from the truth and it needs to be known. I have suffered then and alll my life because of these monsters.

          • Carmela, I am so very sorry for the pain you have had to suffer for so long. Though I haven’t suffered as you have, I do get so angry at the media’s unquestioning lemming-like beatification of these women instead of the calling them to accountability for what they did to so many children.

      • We were used as slave labor … a well devised scheme ….we worked the laundries….we brought in all kinds of money that supported these convents but the big money makers were the babies….if a girl was pregnant adoption wasn’t an option …. it was something you were forced, somehow, to comply with …. this was a huge operation from the babies that were taken from mothers here in America to the babies shipped over here from Ireland….I do believe one of the biggest points of distribution came out of the convent in Buffalo….it is a port city and babies could be distributed in the US and Canada …. The convent I was sent to was huge …gothic structures on many acres hidden behind walls with barbed razor wire on top …. hidden tunnels etc. They called it sacred ground so society would not pry …. the Bishops, etc were all involved …. thousands of babies passed through Father Bakers Orphanage …. where did they all REALLY come from? Father Bakers was connected with this convent on Best St.

  6. Dear ClevelandGirl, your experience with “Hubby’s family” is all too common now. They are the “remnant” which Benedict XVI desires to be his “church.” And yes, the rosaries made by “volunteers” were sold and the money pocketed by the nuns, just as you say, as were the other products of child slave labor. ClevelandGirl, I hope you find solace in the knowledge that you know the truth and have survived to tell the rest of us what really happened. Thank you so much.

  7. I am a ‘survivor” of a Magdalene Convent here in the US….they are better known over here by Good Shepherd Convents/Our Lady of Charity etc. At 12 I was sent “behind the walls” to live in a Gothic hellhole …secret tunnels, secrets, abuse on all levels, and yes, we worked the “laundries”. Why? Because they could. This was not just a few random crazy nuns…these convents were a conspiracy ….that netted the top dogs ALOT of money ….not only were girls/women subjected to abuse but their babies were taken from them and put up for adoption ….there was also thousands of babies who had been torn from their mother’s arms in Ireland and shipped to America, Canada and other countries for adoption….for profit…Thousands of lives destroyed ….A movie was made, The Magdalene Sisters directed by Peter Mullen that portrayed the horrible lives led by those living in these convents. It is a movie all must see for a true account. Ireland has been very active in recognizing these atrocities …however, it remains a part of American History that is kept silent….The horror stories of the pediphile priests surfaced but the horror stories of these convents continues to stay below the radar….I survived ….many did not…

    • Thank you, Diana, for commenting and being willing to tell the world about what really happened. All the world’s children owe such a debt to those who speak up and speak out. Betty

  8. Thank you, Betty for acknowledging this horrible part of our history. I would like to share some additional thoughts. Yes, I am a SURVIVOR of one of these convents…to be exact, it was located at 485 Best St. Buffalo, NY. These convents were all a well devised money making scheme….those in power within the RCC benefited greatly from the abuse we endured and the memories we carry …. and all of this done in the name of God …. they appointed themselves in charge of our “salvation” and we were forced “to do penance” for all of our supposed sins. The abuse was textbook which is why the same abuse experienced in the Magdalene convents in Ireland was the same abuse doled out over here….that is why a woman in America could pick up the movie The Magdalene Sisters and see a part of her life being played out in front of her….of course, it was textbook with a free for all thrown in ….We had no voice over circumstances then. BUT WE DO NOW. We need to raise our voices together, we need to tell our stories….we need to join together ….. for it is then that we will be heard. Personally, when I shared the horror stories I experienced and witnessed from these nuns with a social worker many yrs later her response was “This will never be spoken of again … and if it is, no one will believe you and no one will care.” Over the yrs., when I would run into wall after wall, trying to get these stories out, her remark would come back to haunt me. I do believe that NOW is the time ….If you have a story, if you know of someone who does, if you would like to be involved in bringing this darkness to light please come forth because together we CAN make a difference ….Evil can only exist when good men do nothing…

    • Thanks, Diana, for giving us your additional thoughts and information. I can’t begin to imagine the total frustration and helplessness of being told “no one will believe you and no one will care.” Thank God for SNAP and other organizations and groups who advocate for survivor justice. Betty

    • The documentary Magdalene Laundries left me sick and stunned. It describes a very similar culture to the Boarding Schools. I guess that’s not surprising given the same enculturation was used in most convents and so their would have to be a certain sameness to these various ‘boarding schools’.

      I have to admit that I had no idea we had our own versions of the Magdalene laundries here in the US. Your story has also left me sick and stunned and you are absolutely correct, these stories must be told, it’s the only way this evil can be dealt with and given the exorcism it deserves.

  9. We are in the beginning stages of making a documentary …. anyone with a story …. the convent is occurred in etc. please contact us at bluestar88_2000@hotmail.com

  10. This is NOT to excuse what was done to the victims, many of them still living in pain. But I have to ask whether some or most of the orders involved have reformed to purge themselves of these practices? Today’s sisters may feel like they are being blamed for something they didn’t do and never condoned. At the same time, today’s sisters may be facing persecution by the Vatican precisely because they reformed themselves to prevent such abuses. Such abuses thrive in certain institutional cultures, and those cultures have been discarded.

    • Thanks for your comment, Brigid. But if there was any reform, then the LCWR would invite their victims to speak at their conventions, they would publish either their compliance with the Dallas Charter or have something similar which addresses what will be done for their current victims and what concrete steps they have taken to prevent further abuse, or promise that they will report any credible allegations to civil authorities, etc. They could initiate and pay for a study of the causes and scope of sex abuse by religious women. AND they could publicly produce a list of known offenders and where they were assigned just as the bishops are being asked to produce. They could also confer with SNAP about what they could do to cooperate more fully in the healing of the victims. To suggest that the Vatican persecution has anything to do with religious women reforming themselves to prevent such abuses is something I have never read even a hint or inference that such a thing is possible.

      • I expressed myself poorly. I think such abuses require an atmosphere of strict obedience and no questioning of authority in which to flourish.In fact, many of the sisters themselves were bullied and harmed by an attitude that once they were in the convent, they were empty shells to be used as their superiors dictated. Many weren’t even allowed to select their own name!
        They lived in an unhealthy time when all sexual encounters were viewed as bordering on the sinful, even within the bounds of matrimony. If all sex is bad, what’s a little child abuse? There was also a very strong streak of the worst kind of Calvinism in the pre-Vatican II Church. If we have to beat the sin out of a child, aren’t we doing it to save the child’s immortal soul? If the child wasn’t evil, why would God allow that child to be in an orphanage or reform school etc.
        No organization that deals with children is safe from being used by pedophiles. I have to believe that the orders that reformed themselves are more aware of and less likely to tolerate such crimes these days.

        • Sex abuse is about power and control, not sex. Yes, pedophiles are more prevalent in organizations which deal with children. Yes, today’s orders are more aware of and less likely to tolerate crimes against children just as all organizations which deal with children are. My point was that in the last few months of constant and widespread praise for women religious as paragons of virtue, I’ve not yet read anyone mention their current disdain for and maltreatment of their victims, or even the fact that they have so many victims.

  11. Some of these convents began “shutting down” in the late 60′s because they knew they could no longer get away with all that they were doing. Or they handed the convents over to organizations, states, etc. where “modern” practices were put into place. Then they slunk away …. back into the darkness. Just like the priests that were kept hidden by the Vatican, they transferred to other convents etc. They made the money and ran …. well devised plan …. it is hard to track….what convents kept records of their horrors? None…..how to trace a nun or many nuns? They give up their names …..There are nuns out there who have apologized for these atrocities who had nothing to do with the abuses but recognized that they took place….there are some who left the convent….they are some STILL OUT THERE…

  12. Thanks, Diana. Yes, many things changed when the boarding schools and orphanages were shut down. However, I think many of these orders still have records which could help survivors find the perpetrators and they do not cooperate.

    • Maybe they do, but you are right, they are not going to come up off of them…I invite all to visit American Victims of Magdalene and Good Shepherd Convents …. on facebook ….look us up and join our voices …

  13. It occurred to me this morning that when we look back to the particular order of sisters for justice, we are falling back into the trap that set the stage for the original abuse. It is not up to orders of sisters to handle criminal matters, it is up to the justice system. If we take crimes to the sisters, we are agreeing with the original abuser that these things are private matters that need to be hushed up. In effect, we are once again co-opted to hide the crime in order to protect the institution.

    There are cases of abuse that did not rise to the level of criminality. These are more difficult. I would say that many of the sisters themselves were victims of such abuse. The sisters worked through this using the documents of Vatican II and many orders changed their internal practices to eliminate abuse among themselves. I am still working on this thought, but the fact that these orders no longer tolerate abuse in the name of the institution makes them a threat to a hierarchy that does. If a bishop can no longer order a sister to be silent, then that bishop is no longer in control.

    I can understand that the sisters today would be afraid of looking at the abuses of yesterday. However, if they would take a look at the abuses that sisters inflicted on themselves and on the people in their care, and publicized these abuses, and stood up to say, This, this is why we had to change, this is why we can’t be the sisters of the 19th and 20th centuries, that statement would stop those who want to force them back into the old ways in their tracks.

    I am aware that many sisters in Africa and Asia are still subject to abuse by priests, both criminal and non-criminal abuse. If women are being abused, so are children. This is another reason for American sisters to take the lead on this.

    • Whether it’s a day care facility or public school or a Little League baseball team, any adult who knows that children are being physically, mentally or sexually abused has an obligation to protect the children in their care whether there is a “criminal” statute on the books or not. I’ll grant that now the standard is that they have an obligation to report that abuse to civil law enforcement, but in the past that standard of care and protection owed to children never changed. Certainly men and women who claim to be spiritual adepts and committed to upholding moral principles should be held to a higher standard than secular organizations. I cringe when I read the over-the-top praise heaped upon American religious women as the highest examples of moral and selfless lives when these same religious women have never – to this day – done what’s right by their victims.

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