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 meets weekly on Wednesdays at 5 PM Pacific time. Please call or e-mail Mary if you are interested in participating in the meeting.


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

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  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-04-01 13:00:57 -0500
    Thank you Mary hearing your story encouraged me
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2019-04-01 12:56:30 -0500
    Dear Sheila, it was great to talk to you today. I will review my our contacts to see if there are other survivors who were sexually violated by the Madames of the Sacred Heart in New York. Keep up your good work and healing and above all take care of yourself. Mary.
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2019-04-01 12:53:03 -0500
    Oh Patricia that is wonderful. Look what you had a part in starting speaking truth to power.
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-04-01 12:48:18 -0500
    Mary other ex Sisters of my old order are coming forward there are five testimonies. I can’t wait to meet with the DA.
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-04-01 12:45:47 -0500
    I’m so sorry Shelia for what you suffered but so proud that you have the courage to search and help other survivors.
  • Sheila Gray
    commented 2019-04-01 12:27:25 -0500
    I was sexually abused by a Religious of the Sacred Heart in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan in 1969, when I was a young 17 year-old at the beginning of my Senior Year. It changed the course of my life forever. I wanted to be an English Professor before the abuse happened, and the cover up began. Please contact me if you, or anyone you know, was ever molested by a Religious of the Sacred Heart anywhere in the USA or elsewhere. Thank you.
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2019-03-31 11:07:34 -0500
    Dear friends, if you were abused by a nun — physically, emotionally or sexually in Pennsylvania, can you please contact me at 425-644-2468 or e-mail at [email protected] your voice is needed for an upcoming story. Thanks so much for being brave. Mary.
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2019-03-31 11:03:20 -0500
    Patricia, you have done great work to expose these perpetrators. Thank you.
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-03-15 16:36:49 -0500
    Hi Mary I have done that with Theresa Kovacs. She’s the one abusing her mom. Patrizi lives in Italy or France. It’s so confussing. I did report to protective services.
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2019-03-15 13:18:05 -0500
    Hi Patricia, have you considered giving your experience of Patrizi and abuse to protective services where Patrizi and her mom are located? Love.
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-03-15 09:12:09 -0500
    I found out that Theresa Kovacs right hand of Elizabeth Patrizi has been abusing her mom in which she has a bruise on her head. Luckily protective services got involved. But you see even I reported to the DA hotline in my area of the abuse I suffered. The abuse stills continues.
  • John Kellermeyer
    commented 2019-02-28 10:24:35 -0600
    Welcome home, Mary. I know you did your best in Rome, but this was never going to have an outcome that would be decent, fair, honorable or truthful coming from this false church with false dogma and and an expiration date drawing closer with each passing hour. Be well.
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-02-28 10:06:56 -0600
    Thank you Mary for your support
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2019-02-28 10:04:21 -0600
    Patricia — good for you for putting your story out to DA. May I suggest that you also file report at the police department in the location where abuse occurred. You are brave and getting your story out will help others. Love.
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-02-28 09:56:50 -0600
    I’m glad you home safe and sound
  • Patricia Budd
    commented 2019-02-28 09:56:16 -0600
    Hi Mary I reported to the DA and they responded. The problem abuse occurred in different locations like in three rivers massachuttes st hyathis granby massachuttes bridgeport diocese in Danbury Stamford new haven Waterbury Connecticut then Italy and Turkye. I hope the Da can work with me. Meanwhile I’m putting my story out there in hopes of helping others.
  • Mary Dispenza
    commented 2019-02-28 09:23:19 -0600
    Dear Patricia, John and Jake. I’m back from Rome now. Thank you for your comments and helping each other here. We survivors offer each other strength and caring. Jake, if you care to, please give me a call at 425-644-2468. I would love to meet you and have a conversation. I do care. Love.
  • 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

  • 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.
  • 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.

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