The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
For immediate release:
For more information:
David Clohessy of St. Louis
Barbara Blaine of Chicago,
Barbara Dorris of St. Louis,
Sex Abuse Victims Blast Catholic School
Ex- Nun Facing Molestation Lawsuit Is Honored
She Faces Civil Lawsuit For Assaulting Girl
In Sharply Worded Letter, SNAP Criticizes Principal
A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is writing a New Jersey Catholic school principal asking her to revoke an honor recently given to a former nun who is accused of child molestation.
Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are writing the head of Immaculate Heart Academy of Washington Township, expressing concern about Linda Cusano. Despite a pending sexual abuse lawsuit against her, Cusano is listed on the school's web site's "Hall of Fame Honoree," SNAP recently learned. http://ihahs.com/index.cfm/MenuItemID/1147/MenuSubID/271.htm
The group wants the Academy to immediately rescind the recognition, remove Cusano from the Hall of Fame, including, publicly explaining why, and publicly "anyone who suspected, witnessed or experienced sexual abuse . . . contact civil authorities."
In May 2003, Cusano was civilly sued in New Haven Superior Court for allegedly molesting Landa Mauriello-Vernon at Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden. Mauriello-Vernon, who still lives in Hamden, is SNAP's Connecticut coordinator.
Both schools are run by the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a Hamden-based religious order to which Cusano belonged.
"This is a travesty that discourages victims from coming forward and rubs salt into the already deep wounds of Landa and anyone else Cusano abused," said David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP's National Director. "It is terribly insensitive and intimidating."
Sacred Heart's lawyer is Stephen Fogerty and the school's principal is Ritamary Schulz. Mauriello-Vernon, who still lives in Hamden, is represented by Patricia Cofrancesco.
SNAP's letter is signed by the group's founder and president, Barbara Blaine of Chicago, and its national director, David Clohessy of St. Louis.
SNAP, is the nation's oldest and largest support group for victims of clergy sexual abuse with support groups in over 60 cities nation wide.
A copy of SNAP letter to Cronan sent today by fax and e mail, is below:
November 24, 2004
Sr. Ellen Cronan, ASCJ
Dear Sister Ellen Cronan,
We at SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) recently learned that Linda Cusano, a former teacher at Immaculate Heart Academy and member of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, has been inducted as a member of the Academy's Hall of Fame. We feel that the circumstances surrounding her removal from the classroom and eventual departure from the Order would prohibit her from being honored in any school.
We also believe that Cusano sexually abused at least one young girl.
By placing Linda Cusano in such a highly regarded position, you are sending a clear message not only to victims of sexual abuse, but also the community at large. While victims of sexual abuse continue to suffer in shame, guilt, and silence, it says that you hold this woman in a place of respect and honor. Having her listed as a member of IHA's Hall of Fame may prevent other victims of sexual abuse from coming forward and getting the help that they so rightly deserve. It also proves that you have not considered the feelings of the victim or her family.
We are asking that the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart Academy take the following actions:
1. Immediately remove Linda Cusano from the Immaculate Heart Academy's Hall of Fame, including, but not limited to her name's removal from website, her name or picture being taken from any wall, plaque, etc.
2. Send a letter to the IHA community and a notice to the secular news media explaining why this action has been taken.
3. Publicly urge (through the secular news media) that anyone who suspected, witnessed or experienced sexual abuse by an employee of the order to contact civil authorities.
By taking these steps, the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus can promote a safe environment for students currently in IHA. By sending a clear message that abusive behavior will not be tolerated and abusers will not be protected or honored, it may also give victims whom are still suffering in silence the courage to come forward. Lastly, it may give some comfort to the victim and her family by just doing the right thing.
We look forward to your prompt response.
Cc: Sr. Maureen Martin
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests