The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
to Leadership Conference
Carole Shinnick, SSND
RE: Plan of Hope, Respect, and Open Healing
Dear Sister Carole Shinnick:
We, the undersigned, represent surviving human beings with broken souls and lives, who were raped and sexually molested as children, teenagers, and vulnerable adults by religious women of numerous orders; many of which belong to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious which you embody. Sadly, we also represent those victims who took the ultimate escape from pain by suicide and their heart-broken parents who continue to exist with the needless and dreadful loss of their child.
We are women and men who exist and constantly cope with the severe life-long consequences of rape and sexual molestation at the hands of female offenders sheltered by the habits worn by members of the LCWR. The only mistake we and our parents made was to trust the women wearing the habit.
We also represent those who have lived with us and loved us despite the life-long consequences of abuse which absolutely affects our spouses, children, and friends as they struggle to dearly love us and support us. Sexual abuse by religious women offenders, whom the LCWR members represent, has left many of us spiritually desecrated with a murdered soul.
The goals of the Leadership Conference of Religious Women include:
We call upon you to recognize that these goals of the LCWR naturally include us, your victims. The goals of LCWR include working for justice and showing solidarity with those who experience powerlessness or any other form of violence and oppression. Sexual abuse is violent and oppressive.
Victims feel powerless against the abuse and against the damage abuse causes. We are very concerned and distressed about the lack of leadership of women religious organizations regarding the acknowledgement of sexual abuse committed by members of women religious orders.
In your May 12, 2004 letter to one of the undersigned, you stated: "Consequently, it is not within LCWR's power to set a policy of any kind for our members to abide by, including one related to the protection of children, young people and vulnerable adults."
In the same letter, you indicated steps the LCWR has taken since the early 1990s to assist your member congregations in developing their own policies, procedures, and practices to prevent abuse by members of religious women organizations. We commend the LCWR in these efforts.
However, we are resolute that your communities to take more courageous and basic actions. We, as victim-survivors, challenge you to live your goals in response to sexual abuse perpetrated by nuns and sisters.
We ask that a group of victim-survivors of nun sexual abuse be allowed to address your entire audience at the upcoming LCWR-CMSM Joint Assembly in Forth Worth. By allowing us to speak to your assembly and dedicating yourselves anew to your goals you will positively affect the lives of many sexual abuse victims and prevent future abuses.
We, as Survivors, strongly encourage and justly challenge the LCWR to become the world leader in stamping out not only sexual abuse committed by members of the LCWR and the approx. 460 women religious communities inside the United States, but to become the model of Hope, Respect, and Open Healing for all victims of women religious throughout the world.
To become this model of Hope, Respect, and Open Healing, we specifically
ask the LCWR to:
Information provided by the LCWR states the LCWR is a "canonically approved membership organization which exists as a support system and corporate voice for leaders of institutes of women religious (Catholic sisters) in the United States." In your letter of May 12th, you stated that each "congregation has its own structure, constitution, policies and procedures and they, in turn, are directly accountable to the Church - either in Rome or in the local diocese depending on the nature of the particular religious community."
For the safety of children, young people, and vulnerable adults, we call on the LCWR to become the leader in promoting healing for survivors, families devastated by women religious sexual abuse, and for the Roman Catholic Church in the United States and as a model for the rest of the women religious communities throughout the world.
In no way do we believe this to be an impossible dream for human dignity and shattered lives. Re-victimization by default to a bishop or Rome is unacceptable when Healing and the Safety of Children is required.
We call on you as agents of change and as agents of change in society to use your corporate voice and influence to urgently and systematically change the severe shortcomings and uninspiring LCWR response to nun sexual abuse.
We trust you will provide copies of this letter to the LCRW Officers and your member orders.
cc: United States Catholic Conference of Bishops
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests