Abuse by Women Religious (nuns and sisters)

Contact: Mary Dispenza
Phone: (425) 644-2468
Email: [email protected]

A virtual support group for those abused by nuns (Nun-1) meets weekly on Wednesdays from 5-6:30 PM Pacific time. There is also a second virtual support group for those abused by nuns (Nun-2) that meets every other Monday from 5-6:30 PM Pacific time. Please call or e-mail Mary if you are interested in participating.


Additional Information

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?

  • 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

Showing 229 comments

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
Secured Via NationBuilder
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2021-10-11 14:05:07 -0500
    The most horrific acts of nuns managing Indian residential schools is beyond reproach and still goes unnoticed by the media. Please read — “Where are the Nuns — Missing in Action” posted on stories for the day. Thank you, friends.
  • Carly Szerencsy
    followed this page 2021-08-01 22:55:00 -0500
  • Linda Villegas
    followed this page 2021-06-28 16:25:37 -0500
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2020-10-08 14:12:42 -0500
    Sure Ron I sent you an email
  • Ron Guerin
    commented 2020-10-07 16:01:41 -0500
    Patricia Budd – can you please contact me via email: [email protected]
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2020-10-05 16:08:39 -0500
    I need legal counsel for class action law suit concerning three to four dioceses.
  • Ron Guerin
    commented 2020-10-05 15:35:36 -0500
    Thank you, Patricia. Could we arrange to talk by phone sometime?
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2020-10-05 15:30:31 -0500
    I am sorry what happened to your father and to many other survivors. I was abused by nuns and priests too and I was a nun. I live in the Springfield diocese if you need anything don’t hesitate to let me know. My prayers are with you.
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2020-10-05 12:19:30 -0500
    Dear Ron, I am so sorry for your pain and loss. The impact of your Father’s abuse indeed affected all of his family and his own life significantly. You in ways were a victim and a survivor also, now trying to put the pieces of your father’s life together and to understand better his and your life. You took a brave step to ask that your Father’s records be subpoened from the Sisters of St. Joseph. You could also file a report with local police. I have known survivors who have been successful in meeting with Superiors of religious orders to demand information and in some cases it was helpful and in some not. If you are able. Another avenue to healing is to write an article about it all — especially when you have moved through this courageous journey, and find a sympathetic journalist who would publish your story in the media/newspaper. I can help you with this. I am happy to have a longer conversation on the phone. My number is available at on nun abuse page. Blessings and Peace.
  • Ron Guerin
    commented 2020-10-05 10:18:21 -0500
    Hello -

    My father told me stories before he died of his suffering sexual abuse at the hands of nuns.

    Between the ages of 9-15, grades 5-10, years 1937-1943 my father was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph at St. Joseph Parish in Pittsfield MA. He attended St. Joseph’s Grammar School and High School. During this time period, the parish had a convent for the Sisters of St. Joseph.

    In the present day, a Judge has approved my subpoena of all records relating to my father from the Diocese of Springfield in MA. Even so, the Diocese has been less than forthcoming.

    I need to understand his life during this period and the events that shaped his adult life. Can you tell me who I can talk to, what I can read, where I can visit to learn about this abuse culture? Do you know how I may strengthen my position with the Diocese of Springfield in MA?

    Thank you so much for your time and attention – Ron
  • Cait Finnegan
    commented 2020-01-03 13:52:23 -0600
    William, I am sorry you and others were so mistreated. The cycle of abuse that many nuns perpetuated was never limited to only sexual abuse! The majority of abuses where physical violence and often toward boys. Sick women, themselves often victims of sexual or physical abuse repeated the cycle, as some victims in families and various positions of power in civil society. It’s a sick evil cycle that is only broken be healing AND bringing it all into the light.
  • William Calderwood
    commented 2020-01-03 12:44:18 -0600
    Haven’t thought about it for a long time, I was in St. Francis Home for Boys in Detroit, Mich. 1963-1965, 7th and 8th grade. I watched the Nuns beat boys with Rulers, Belts and a few other things, I got a few myself and one time a Nun hit me in the Stomach with her fist, almost passed out, but I survived it all. Heard a lot of stories and rumors about nuns doing things with boys there, but it was just rumors to me, far as I know none of the nuns or Male Teachers got in trouble for anything. My Mom was the only one who believed me but didn’t know what to do, so did nothing as far as I know.
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2019-10-26 09:23:26 -0500
    Thanks, Pat and Cait. for your advocacy and voice in supporting survivors. Mary.
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-10-14 10:34:53 -0500
    I do have interview with huffington post on the 29 th if this helps
  • Cait Finnegan
    commented 2019-10-14 10:28:54 -0500
    Yes. You know I am in with this, Mary!
    Cáit Finnegan
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2019-10-13 10:39:05 -0500
    If you can lead a press conference on nuns as abusers too, please contact SNAP. We will be holding press conferences around the US on All Survivors Day on November 3rd. email Mary at [email protected] net or e-mail SNAP. Thanks. We need your help..
  • Tess Sneesby
    followed this page 2019-09-22 17:46:54 -0500
  • Jennifer Dubois
    followed this page 2019-05-13 08:12:56 -0500
  • Therese Budd
    commented 2019-05-05 14:38:24 -0500
    Brothers under Patrizi
  • Therese Budd
    commented 2019-05-05 14:36:59 -0500
    There were brothers who were physically verbally abused which now thier testimony’s are coming forth
  • Melanie Sakoda
    followed this page 2019-04-28 15:11:25 -0500
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2019-04-10 12:12:10 -0500
    Not a flavor — a favor!
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2019-04-10 12:11:47 -0500
    Thanks, Patricia — a flavor — Can you please give me a call at 425-644-2468. Thanks, Mary.
  • Sheila Gray
    commented 2019-04-09 15:45:41 -0500
    I guess they’re all different. Religious Orders engaged in teaching can only operate within the USA with permission of the local Cardinal, Archbishop or Bishop. Ultimately, Teaching Orders of nuns are responsible to their Alumns.
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-04-09 14:09:41 -0500
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2019-04-09 12:24:15 -0500
    Yes, Patricia that is what I found out also with the addition that certain religious orders were founded by a pastor and so become responsible to diocese. It seems to me that we would need to research to origin of this order to know canonically to whom they are responsible. They certainly fall under Rome or archdiocese. Join me in some research on this — to whom are religious orders accountable? Love.
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-04-09 08:48:57 -0500
    Is it true if you were abused by a pontifical order and the order was disbanded or dissolved then then the diocese of Rome would be responsible and held accountable and not the local diocese where abuse occurs. That is what I was told by Bishop Rozanski bishop of the diocese of Springfield.
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2019-04-08 14:23:40 -0500
    Patricia, let’s talk later today. I do have some thoughts of how to proceed. Love.
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-04-08 13:59:33 -0500
    Hi Mary and everybody I had a meeting with the bishop from Springfield Massachusetts diocese about Patrizi and Kovacs they said it’s out of thier jurisdiction so they never reported it. I just feel helpless meanwhile 16 + currently abuse continues.
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2019-04-01 13:03:46 -0500
    Our stories have the power to change us as yours is having. Thanks.

SNAP Network is a GuideStar Gold Participant