Abuse by Women Religious (nuns and sisters)

For at least eight years, victims of child molesting nuns and members of SNAP have repeatedly urged America's largest organization of nuns to expose the truth about child sex crimes and cover ups by women religious. But the LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious) continues to essentially rebuff us and them.

Now more than ever, since they're being attacked by bishops like we have been (and are being), nuns should be sympathetic to our plight. It grieves us to have to keep prodding them to take long-overdue, simple steps to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded. But how can we do otherwise?

Contact: Mary Dispenza
Phone: (425) 644-2468
Email: mcdispenza@comcast.net

  • 2002 - LCWR refuses to participate in USCCB’s “Policy for the Protection of Children”
  • April 5, 2002 - LCWR issues statement on clerical abuse
  • August 24, 2002 - LCWR National Board issues statement on sexual abuse
  • June 12, 2004 - Nun survivors meet for the first time in Denver at SNAP Conference
  • July 13, 2004 - Hand-delivered to LCWR and USCCB from nun survivors regarding Plan of Hope, Respect, and Open Healing. Also requested nun survivors be allowed to speak at LCWR-CMSM Joint Assembly in Ft. Worth. To date, we received no answer from USCCB.
  • August 5, 2004 - Letter to LCWR from SNAP expressing dismay over their decision not to let us speak
  • August 9, 2004 - E-mail to National Review Board to intervene on our behalf
  • August 13, 2004 - LCWR Press Release: Response of LCWR President Sister Constance Phelps, SCL saying we can’t speak in Ft. Worth
  • August 19 to 22, 2004 - Joint LCWR – CMSM Assembly in Ft. Worth, TX. Nun survivors attempt to attend event but are refused.
  • October 3, 2004 - Meeting with LCWR Leadership in Chicago
  • November 22, 2004 - LCWR letter to SNAP refusing to work with SNAP members who are survivors of sexual abuse committed by nuns and sisters
  • August 2, 2005 - Not allowed to speak at LCWR National Conference in Aneheim, CA; we are present – we delivered letter
  • August 17, 2006 - Not allowed to speak at LCWR National Conference in Atlanta, GA; we are present – we delivered letter
  • August 24, 2007 - LCWR contacts us to meet to talk but LCWR does not provide an agenda after numerous requests; Not allowed to speak at LCWR National Conference in Kansas City
  • September 19, 2007 - LCWR responds to SNAP, denying all five requests
  • August, 2008 - LCWR rebuffs us via letter; SNAP holds night-time vigil
  • October 9, 2008 - SNAP meets with Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious in St. Louis; requests are denied
  • February 23, 2009 - SNAP asks to speak at the LCWR conference in New Orleans
  • March 26, 2009 - LCWR denies all of SNAP's requests
  • August 11, 2009 - Not allowed to speak at LCWR Conference in New Orleans; we deliver letter
  • August 14, 2010 - Not allowed to speak at LCWR Conference in Dallas; we are present
  • August 16, 2011 - LCWR National Conference in Garden Grove, California
  • August 7, 2012 - LCWR National Conference in St Louis; SNAP members deliver letter and hold vigil

Letter sent to bishops:

Aug. 8, 2012

Dear Archbishop Sartain Bishop Blair, Bishop Paprocki

We write you with great sadness and reluctance. Each of you, like most of your colleagues, has done a poor job of dealing with child sex abuse and cover up. Still, each of you have a chance to prod US nuns to do a better job in this regard. For the sake of prevention, healing, openness and justice, we hope you seize this opportunity.

We have little faith in "internal" church "investigations" and reports on clergy sex crimes and cover ups. We have even less faith when they're conducted by bishops or “outside” firms hand-picked and hired by bishops.

Still, something is often better than nothing. That’s the case today with abuse and cover up by nuns. Right now, there's very little known about child sex crimes and cover ups by nuns. No one's apparently trying to learn more. And as best we can tell, no one inside or outside of the nuns’ community is trying to prod them to do a better job of protecting the vulnerable and healing the wounded.

So with considerable reluctance and distrust, we're asking you to expand your “oversight” of the LCWR into what the organization – and America’s religious orders of women- are doing and are not doing regarding child sex crimes and cover ups by nuns.

Why does this matter? Because we believe that

  • many abusive nuns have never been exposed or disciplined.
  • many who have seen, suspected or hidden their crimes have similarly never been exposed or disciplined
  • many who were abused by nuns have coped by essentially denying and mischaracterized the crimes they suffered, and minimizing the impact of those crimes, so they suffer in confusion, denial, isolation, shame and self-blame.

We suspect that fewer nuns molest than priests. (Research suggests that more men are sexual predators.) At the same time, however, that’s just speculation. And regardless of the rates or percentages of abuse, two other facts are important. First, there are more nuns than priests. (55,944 nuns in the US versus 41,406 priests) Second, many more nuns had more access to more kids, largely because they worked and work in schools.

Ultimately, however, the numbers or percentages are not especially relevant. If there are 400 or 4,000 or 40,000 adults who were victimized by nuns in this country, every single one of them deserves help. And if there are 4 or 40 or 400 children who may be victimized in the future by nuns in this country, they need protection.

Again, we take this step with great sadness and reluctance. Everyone knows most nuns don’t commit or conceal child sex crimes. Everyone knows that most nuns do wonderful, selfless work, often to help society’s marginalized.

But we see little or no evidence that nuns – either in or through the LCWR or their individual orders – are in any way, shape or form “trailblazers” in making the church or our society safer from clergy child predators or making substantial contributions to the healing of those who suffer because of clergy child predators.

It’s a painful truth to acknowledge. It’s unusual and unsettling for us to seek your help in dealing with it. But our concern – for the vulnerable and the wounded – and our inability to get the LCWR to be more pro-active, leave us with few other options.

Click HERE to download a .zip archive of correspondence between SNAP and the LCWR, SNAP and LCWR press releases, and other coverage of the groups (4.76 mb)

nuns sisters women religious clergy abuse

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  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-02-26 22:37:05 -0600
    Mary thank you for all your help
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-02-26 22:36:18 -0600
    Mary I reported to district attorney they have a hot line now so I did that so I can move on. The district attorney found inconsistencies of the Springfield diocese mass reporting clergy abuse. Here an article link to the changes made which are beneficial for victim survivors

    https://www.masslive.com/news/2019/02/hampden_county_da_gulluni_urge.html
  • John Kellermeyer
    commented 2019-02-26 16:35:15 -0600
    By now we know that with the conference in Rome barely a whisper to match its nonsense for self preservation still its only goal, we’ve learned that Mr. Pell the cardinal in Australia and 3rd in line for power and control of this church was convicted in December of the rape of two choir boys years ago. In Australia, a gag order is placed on one and all until the likelihood of a second trial has been determined, which Pell was not granted, before the original conviction is made public, which it was yesterday. Even so, Mr. Jorge Bergoglio, the current pope of the two available still jockeying for position and status in the Vatican, announced that Mr. Pell would not be permitted to be around children or have the ability to say mass until his appeal had been heard. If he’s not being permitted a second trial, why would this pope believe an appeal is in order, and why would he fight his conviction if Mr. Bergoglio has turned over a new leaf? Because new leaves are for all other people, the little people, and he had no intention of changing the direction of the curia when and where it comes to the abuse and rape of men, women and children within the Catholic fold. It’s business as usual for the church and everyone else can go to hell. What a surprise awaits most of the clergy when that day finally comes, to learn that what they created for themselves and others while alive is what they face moments after they take their last breaths, and no one is exempt. Not even popes.
    Do not wonder what steps to take if you have been raped or abused by members of this church any longer. Bypass the church and its minions completely. Go to the police and file a report, instead. Then, find an excellent attorney. Take your power back while you follow these steps and never look back. Look forward, where those of us who’ve done more than survive horror await your strong steps in our direction. We’re the ones with open arms.
    Peace to you all.
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-02-25 13:27:32 -0600
    Jake what are you tore apart
  • Jake D Baldonado
    commented 2019-02-25 11:47:52 -0600
    I’m tore apart
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-02-23 11:12:03 -0600
    Thank you John
  • John Kellermeyer
    commented 2019-02-23 10:54:30 -0600
    Everytime you bare your soul you inch closer to taking back your power that was lost to those who still hold the keys to your feelings of guilt and shame, Patricia. They were the cause and they remain the cause, not you and not any other victim in this world. They are the monsters. They are the perpetrators. They are the demons in your life that must be dealt with, but they can be dealt with by finally admitting you had no control over their actions, only your responses that took you so deep inside yourself you may not have been sure who you were when you finally emerged. You did not give them permission to be monsters then, and you cannot give them permission today to be anything but what they are: the past. The past you must beat to a pulp and imagine them left behind where they belong. Seal the entry, look at it anew as something that can never harm you ever again when the memories surface. Beat them into oblivion and do it every single time until you realize one day you haven’t been troubled for two days, then three, then a month and then at any time, because you alone control your past as well as your future and the memories weren’t meant to survive, you were. And you have, Patricia. You’re here for all to see. My best to you always.
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-02-23 10:42:06 -0600
    Thank you for the encouragement
    My hope is one day is not feel guilt shame and blame
  • John Kellermeyer
    commented 2019-02-23 10:25:31 -0600
    With humbleness and clarity of purpose, it’s me who thanks you for laying bear the harm we’ve all survived in the ever widening circle of Catholic abuses and deceptions, Patricia. Your strength must eventually come from within if your goal is healing beyond the harm others have caused you. Take back your power and let them own what they have done that does not belong to you. It’s always been theirs. Let that burden crush them, not you.
    -John
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-02-23 09:58:08 -0600
    Thank you John
  • John Kellermeyer
    commented 2019-02-22 20:09:09 -0600
    Dear Patricia Budd, I’m not sure who your comments may be directed to, but please don’t fall into the trap of believing you’ve done anything wrong. Abuse is a psychological game and abusers are usually fifty steps ahead of their victims. I’m sure you’ve done everything within your power to make things right, but the simple act of coming forward and pursuing the reporting and speaking of the abuse is an act of courage well worth mentioning and applauding. So, I will and do applaud you for your courage and strength in continuing your passionate vocalization.
    If you’re writing to me, my writings are usually geared to a general audience, but please know I write to encourage others to tread the path I’ve been on so long with a semblance of peace and joy in speaking out, whether anything else has been successful to date. Victims are up against a monstrosity of enormous proportions. We find strength, honor and justice where and when we can. If that can come from fellow survivors, realize we’re still standing and so are you. Be well.
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-02-22 18:10:34 -0600
    Nuns and or sisters are vicious in child abuse and abusing thief younger or older nuns after doing research I believe the emotional side makes the abuse personal and there is more humiliation control and physical abuse. It shocked me what some nuns did to children including murdering. I’m glad I’m not a nun and I reported everything and put it on record as well. I feel responsible and accountable that I did not report it right and check for follow thru. Hidden abuse is hard to prove and when the Vatican dissolve the order it is hard to seek any justice. I just want to help others who have suffered clergy religious church and any kind of abuse.
  • John Kellermeyer
    commented 2019-02-21 14:05:00 -0600
    If you’re in a situation where you’re being harmed by others in the church, whether in your parish or from the diocesean offices, document everything going on to the most minute detail, to include time, place and everyone involved, whether pro or con. You’ll need this for any future steps you may take. These very acts involve taking your power back and very much away from those either in power or the many wannabees involved in protecting the church, rather than human beings. No church was ever worth more than a single human being on this planet, and by now you may have discovered the blanket of lies goes far beyond the rape and abuse of children, women and males of all ages. What will you do when you discover none of the sacraments was ever valid, if you’ve not found your strength and anger at this point in the final whimperings of the church of Rome? You’ll be further destroyed internally by your own hands and by the very indecision that’s crippling you now, to the point some may never recover.
    You are your own priest and priestess for this or any other life you become carnate. Please remember reincarnation was the bedrock of early Christianity until even teaching it became the very first anathema of this church under the direction of emperors and others seeking power and control they had not earned, and had no right to. What you do in this life becomes the planning stage of future lives where integrity, self realization and actions that were needed to be taken in past lives rear their lovely heads and make you deal with them anew. Why not deal with these issues when they’re presented in opur current lives, grow stronger as a result, and truly fear no one or anything that might deter you, or make you believe you have neither the right or the ability you already possess because you’ve possessed it since birth.
    Rise up. You must be the light; your own and for anyone in the shadows looking for guidance themselves, and a better way to live and honor all we’ve been blessed with to be here in the first place.
    Now shine! Shine until you burst from the exhilaration of being alive and truthful and strong, for simply being you.
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-02-21 11:29:09 -0600
    Wow Deacon I’m sorry that you suffered how can we make right in a corrupt institution in the name of God. I know of another deacon that suffering and being punished by the diocese for helping clergy abuse survivors.
  • John Kellermeyer
    commented 2019-02-14 13:39:25 -0600
    Thank you for all you do, Mary. I’m quite happy to have met you on this leg of this journey of a lifetime. Be well, and have a safe trip.
    John
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2019-02-14 13:16:16 -0600
    Dear Ed,

    Thank you. Few survivors have received any help by going to the diocese of religious order. I suggest, filing a report at the police Department and seeking an attorney to go through options with you and above all take care of yourself through therapy and doing things you love. you are brave Ed. Please can you send me an e-mail so I can have a way to contact you. I am setting up a support line very soon. Love.
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2019-02-14 13:12:26 -0600
    Thank you John Kellermeyer — you are right on here. Thank you for powerful words. May I remind everyone that sexual abuse is a crime and along with other steps a survivor is taking — number one: Take care of yourself 2. report crime to criminal justice system and reach out to an attorney 3. Follow the next step, one by one with a great attorney’s support and advice. Love.
  • John Kellermeyer
    commented 2019-02-14 11:18:49 -0600
    Hello to our beloved Mary Dispenza and to the community of Survivors (rather than perpetual Victims), at large.
    Are you still giving money to this church, or worse yet, working for it? May I gently ask why? How do you cut off the head of the serpent? First, you stop feeding it, and then you chop. If not, you’re part of the problem, aren’t you? Adults don’t invite their childhood abusers and those who protect them over for dinner, Jews don’t cuddle neoNazis, and survivors of this church do not work for the church seeking answers they still don’t have, and will never get from this criminal organization, no matter how many supposedly good and decent men and women never hurt anyone, whether among the clergy or in a convent. By now, we know they all protected one another, which means they’re all complicit in the crimes.
    Seek an attorney, instead, stay strong, remain active in your own spiritual life, be the best you can be, and remember to smell the roses (and the coffee) before it’s all too late, along the way.
    My heart is with you all. With all of us; the ‘we’ in this prescription.
    Be well.
  • Ed Schepers
    commented 2019-02-14 10:58:05 -0600
    It is truly sad that these crimes ar being hidden and covered up. As a survivor I have suffered tremendesly as I am a Deacon in the Catholic church. I have taken the appropriate steps of reporting this incidents to the proper authorities and my Diocese. Only to find out that no Diocese has direction over these cruel women. I incourage those that have been abused sexually or physically notify your diocese and be persistent on getting answers.
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-02-11 17:31:26 -0600
    I am perplexed why the church ⛪️ did not discipline Madre Maria Elisabetta Patrizi now called Sr M. Elisabetta Patrizi and Sr Therese Kovacs held her accountable. They did just dissolved the order and that’s it meanwhile Patrizi is still writing theology books and holding spiritual conferences. I believe the church should stop what she is doing. She still have control over souls.
    I am so glad the truth is coming out.
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2019-02-07 11:36:50 -0600
    Thank you so much Patricia. You are barge to speak out. We need your story and I am so sorry this happened to you. May I use this story when I am doing my interviews with the media?

    Can you give me a call at 425-941-6001
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-02-06 23:41:21 -0600
    Here is the testimony narrative.

    Time to testify

    Abuse of Sisters Minor of Mary Immaculate

    I was part of this order called sisters minor of Maria Immaculate under Madre Maria Elisabetta Patrizi and Sr Therese Kovacs they and other sisters were abusive and neglectful. I was refused medical attention forced by patrizi to leave the hospital. I was physically mentally spiritually almost sexually abuse I witness abuse and neglect of other sisters in the order which gave me no choice but to leave in 2003 She even helped cover up priest abuse with bishop Eagan and tolerated and allowed sexual assault of her sisters by other sisters and benefactors in the order Alcoholism was tolerated and patrizi would put unfit superiors into authority torturing sisters and breaking thier spirits, souls, bodies and minds down, so as to make them submissive to do evil things. severe punishments were given, like beating, starving and imprisonment. Medical attention or going against doctor wishes was perpetrated by Patrizi and Kovacs and other sisters that were superiors. There was no charity and most of us sisters lived in fear not of God but of Patrizi and Kovacs. For some reason or other the church allowed this for years because of her family name Patrizi which is tied to the Vatican. I have reported the abuse I suffered at the hands of Patrizi and Kovacs to my diocese so they know. They said they can not do nothing They knew since 2004. There was racism in the order where an African American sister would be called a black dog frequently by her superior. She left. Other sisters were stuck in countries because thier visas ran out and one particular sister was stuck in Italy.
    There was a death of an Italian sister who was imprisoned and not allowed to see her family she did not get medical attention and she had lung cancer. Another sister who was Polish was put in an institution against her will she called me for help. Another sister nearly died because she was bleeding internally she is American and if it was not for her doctor she would not be here today. October 4 2014 a document from the Vatican was addressing patrizi that the order she founded and other orders she started were abusive and she no longer allowed to find another order.

    How it affected me I have auto immune disorder and PTSD and anxiety can’t attend a mass with out physical complications or panic attacks

    Have I given up NO

    my relationship with God is even stronger and want to help others who suffered abuse by SMMI as well as those who suffered clergy abuse at which I became a potential victim it’s time to stop the silence and speak the truth and let the healing begin.
  • Jen Wissler
    commented 2019-01-04 22:16:58 -0600
    I am the granddaughter of Lenore Z who was a resdident along with her sisters at a place called Sylvan Heights in the 1950s. It’s in Harrisburg, PA. Her mother abandoned them there and in her mind, thought she was doing the right thing by them. My grandmother was traumatized by the nuns at the orphanage as she put it. She said it was a nightmare and she made herself sore pinching herself and hoping to wake up. Not only were the nuns abusive and incompetent, they were poor caretakers at best and those who didn’t prey on the children them
    Selves, allowed other children to prey on each other! She has a hard time speaking of the place. It was a terrible, traumatic memory and she is in her 70s now. She compared it to theMagdalene Sisters movie about the laundries in Ireland. These nuns need to be held accountable as welll! I’d like to help research the place and advocate for the girls/women/victims in any way I can. The home began accepting its in the 60s who were abused as well.
    I plan on attending the conference with the Bishop at St Catherine Laboure in Harrisburg next week. The nuns need to be held accountable too because they were often abusers themselves and covering for priests!
  • Tom Adams
    commented 2018-11-15 03:43:34 -0600
    I am glad there is SNAP.

    St. Mary Star of the Sea School in Virginia was home to abusive nuns in the 1950’s. Chief among them was Sister Constantine who taught 5th grade in 1959.

    Her favorite technique was to deny restroom visits in order to force the child to soil himself then the psychological abuse would start. Never the girls, always the boys. And that abuse was public and went on until the next victim was assaulted. Why would anyone, especially a “bride of Christ”, do that to a child?

    Five decades later and I still feel rage when I think about it.

    SNAP gives me release. Thank you.
  • Anonymous
    followed this page 2018-10-28 12:12:38 -0500
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2018-10-03 10:36:14 -0500
    Dear Susie, I will send love and light to your dear son Andrew and his family and to you. There is no pain greater than the pain a mother carries when one of her children has been harmed, in this case repeatedly by nuns. I’m happy to know that you have contacted an attorney. This process can be a great part of healing. Susie, we will be forming a support group soon. Please contact me at 425-644-2468 if you would like to know more about this or just need some support and understanding. Mary.
  • Susie Deghelder
    commented 2018-10-03 09:12:59 -0500
    My son was abused and beaten repeatedly by nuns at the Catholic school he attended. I have contacted an attorney to review our case. Will you all please pray for Andrew and his family.
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2018-08-27 12:48:29 -0500
    Dear Veda,
    I am sorry that you have suffered such pain. You are on the right page. Please contact me so we can talk. Thanks. Mary Dispenza.
  • Veda Summers
    commented 2018-08-26 04:05:22 -0500
    Hi. I’m a survivor of mental abuse at the hands of nuns in the second half of the fifties. Together with my parents they ruined my life. Am I on the right site?
  • Cait Finnegan
    commented 2018-08-22 12:17:03 -0500
    Has the LCWR had any positive response to the needs of victims of vowed religious or do the still cling to silence about this?

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