For immediate release: Friday, Aug. 9
Statement by Steve Theisen of Hudson IA, Iowa director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (319 231 1663, Ltreggiefan@cs.com)
Next week, America’s largest group of nuns meets in Orlando. And today, a former top Catholic official publicly admits that child sex crimes by nuns are “invisible.”
But he opposes changing church policy so the same child sex guidelines that govern bishops would govern nuns. We strongly disagree.
The church’s abuse guidelines are weak, vague and rarely enforced. Still, they should apply to nuns as well as priests. Some oversight beats no oversight.
No one knows how many nuns have abused or are abusing kids. Nor does anyone know how many nuns have or are concealing those crimes.
But that’s not our primary concern. Our concern is that current child sex crimes and cover ups by nuns are stopped, future child sex crimes and cover ups by nuns are prevented and that those who’ve already been hurt by nuns are sought out and helped.
We believe virtually nothing is being done to make this happen.
There are about 170 Catholic dioceses in the US. There are, however, more than twice that many orders of nuns. In many respects, nuns have had and still have greater access to kids than priests. And because of the shame and isolation many nun victims feel, we believe a smaller percentage of them ever step forward.
For these reasons and others, no one knows how widespread abuse and cover up by nuns may be. (We in SNAP have heard from hundreds of men and women who were sexually assaulted by nuns. I am one of them.)
But again, numbers aren’t our first goal. Prevention and healing are our first goals.
One obstacle to these goals is the continuing hollow insistence by nuns that they cannot have a nation-wide abuse policy like bishops do. Baloney.
The excuses are painfully familiar: “We’re not structured that way,” “Each of our entities is independent.” They’re the same ones bishops used until 2002. That year, the scandal reached epic proportions and suddenly – facing the glare of klieg lights and the ire of parishioners and the investigations by police and the disgust of prosecutors and the outrage of citizens – bishops decided that they could, in fact, adopt a nation-wide abuse policies.
But the nuns feel no such heat so they take no similar action.
Judge Michael Merz once headed the bishops’ national sex abuse panel. “All the stones need to be turned over," he tells the National Catholic Reporter. "We need to get this stuff out in the open and deal with it."
He’s right. But America’s nuns continue to be successful in keeping “this stuff” hidden and unresolved. As a result, kids are hurt and adults are suffering.
Next week in Orlando, sadly, we see no signs of change.