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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  • bonnie richard
    commented 2014-09-24 12:15:20 -0500
  • Patricia Sulecki
    commented 2014-08-10 10:47:35 -0500
    the way I see it and mind you I’m sure thousands of other people do also" and I’m not saying this to take away from what the Nazis did " to the Jews,Polish all Nationalities (The Holocaust) The horrible things the Nazis did;" With the Priest, Nuns, Pope, Vatican; horrible abuse on children;“starving children,abusing, rape ,torture,murder,burying baby” children’s bodies in septic tanks ; tell me" what is the difference between the ( Catholic Church & the Nazis ? )……… for a while they were able to stop the Nazis " and now we have the Neo Nazis / SSPX…………………but " what I don’t get" they were never able to stop the Pope,Priest,Nuns,The Vatican……mmmmmmmmWonder Why ????

    SSPX is a growing danger because they have six seminaries, three universities and 70 primary and secondary schools around the globe. In addition to Williamson it has three other bishops, more than 550 priests and 200 priests in training. Are they training to incite another Holocaust? Pope Francis doesn’t talk about the real issues — these skeletons in the vatican closet.
  • Timothy Egan
    commented 2014-08-02 15:12:58 -0500
    Judgement Day might be sooner than you think Rita Marie. Either way, it still boggles my mind that women could be part of this cover-up, let alone the abuse itself. It’s just further proof that the Catholic hierarchy is indeed part of what the book of Revelation (3:9) describes as the synagogue of Satan….those calling themselves Jews (and Christians) even though they are not. Even the righteous are being fooled, as foretold. Don’t expect the U.S. government to lift a finger concerning this issue either, as they are a part of it as well. Outrageous conspiracy theory? We’ll find out upon Christ’s return. Just because an idea is too monstrous for the good-hearted to consider doesn’t mean it’s not possible. We’re in the last days. The final war between good and evil is upon us. The signs are everywhere.
  • Patricia Sulecki
    commented 2014-08-02 11:42:13 -0500
    As victims we have to get the DOJ, Government etc.etc. to open their eye’s and keep them open to help the Children ( Victims ) to get justice here and now" this is 2014 stand on & for No More Abuse on Children; White House site; sign and pass it on to all who care > http://wh.gov/lzySY
  • George and Jean Barilla
    commented 2014-06-04 21:35:33 -0500
    Starving children in catholic-run “homes” was the way the nuns enjoyed themselves. The food they gave me was disgusting slop and not much of it. The nuns ate well — I thought gluttony was a sin. You are correct Rita that those still alive should be punished now along with those still doing these horrible deeds. Then they can pay later in that burning lake too.
  • George and Jean Barilla
    commented 2014-06-04 21:25:53 -0500
    800 dead in a mass grave in Ireland. Over 50,000 Canadian Indian children died — from abuse, torture, starvation, from murder — in residential schools run by the catholic church jointly with the church of England. Their bodies found in graves under trees that were planted to cover up the deaths. With so much evidence, in so many countries why is the church not held accountable? Why aren’t the governments in all countries excavating the land next to all of these schools and orphanages? It’s good that these atrocities make the news pages.
  • Rita Marie Kelley
    commented 2014-06-04 20:44:44 -0500
    It’s too long to wait for them to reach the hot lake; they need earthly consequences. When enough of us publicize all of their atrocious acts, public opinion will shift, just like it did with marriage equality and pot. If there’s one thing perps hate, it’s the light, so let’s keep shedding light on their actions. (And by perps, I mean the abusers and their superiors equally!)
  • Timothy Egan
    commented 2014-06-04 19:08:53 -0500
    Let them enjoy their lavish lifestyles now while they still can. They’re going to be spending quite a long long time in a hot lake.
  • Rita Marie Kelley
    commented 2014-06-04 18:56:03 -0500
  • Rita Marie Kelley
    commented 2014-06-04 18:37:29 -0500
    Look at what was in the front page of msn.com today!!!
    Where was anyone who thought to speak up of the starvation that was so widespread in these catholic—I won’t capitalize it—institutions??? If you delve further, it was noted that the nuns and priests had gourmet meals…how in the world did no one speak out for the children?

  • Cait Finnegan
    commented 2014-05-30 16:02:03 -0500
    If the pope refused to meet with victims he’d be called out on that too.
  • Rita Marie Kelley
    commented 2014-05-27 02:16:39 -0500
    The pope’s meeting with victims is just another empty gesture—how many meetings have there been with zero results? When Pope Frank turns over the perps and Cardinal Mahoney et al to law enforcement for due process, then we’ll know he means business and is truly sincere about wanting to help victims and prevent future abuse.
  • bonnie richard
    commented 2014-05-26 18:35:33 -0500
    the pope said he will meet with sex abuse victims—why did he not say all victims of nuns etc—not just priests— but he will NOT come to usa where most of the victims are
  • Timothy Egan
    commented 2014-05-18 18:47:58 -0500
    He must have been one of the last honorable bankers (if there is such a thing). I hope and pray that the Father in Heaven brings justice to these people and the world, for I believe we’re living in the last days. Please keep praying for the true Light to win.
  • Rita Marie Kelley
    commented 2014-05-18 18:37:04 -0500
    We were in England when a Vatican banker was found hanging from not ironically, Blackfriars’ Bridge…another facet of the conspiracy to kill my favorite pope…
  • Timothy Egan
    commented 2014-05-18 17:36:52 -0500
    Pope Francis is knowingly working for the devil. The last good pope to hold office was John Paul the 1st. And he was murdered.
  • Rita Marie Kelley
    commented 2014-05-18 17:17:49 -0500
    This video explains Ratzinger’s resignation.
  • Rita Marie Kelley
    commented 2014-05-18 17:13:08 -0500
    Oh and I forgot this: We all know that Pope Frank was elected to clean up the image, to window-dress as the church is so adept at doing. As he hasn’t been responsible for even one arrest, HE IS COMPLICIT!
  • Rita Marie Kelley
    commented 2014-05-18 17:09:57 -0500
    Go to: ITCCS.ORG….The International Tribunal of Crimes against Church and State…I firmly believe that it was through this organization’s actions and the efforts of Kevin Annett, that Ratzinger resigned. The timing was just too perfect: Just as the World Criminal Court was about to indict Ratzinger, he tendered his historical resignation under the guise of “illness.” He was on the verge of being exposed for the atrocities he personally committed as well as the rape of children by clergy all over the world and the conspiratorial coverup by sociopathic priests and higher ups. Check it out—there is a lot being done to combat these atrocities—even that word pales when you think of what has been done to children throughout the ages. There’s a lot of meaningful action all over the world by this organization. It’s very encouraging…also, read Kevin Annett’s story if you want to be inspired. ITCCS.ORG
  • Timothy Egan
    commented 2014-05-18 16:35:15 -0500
    Maybe this is why Christ warned us not to call priests “fathers” (even HE didn’t foresee women doing this though, I presume). My God, I’m so sorry that happened to you and your brother. Believe me, these wicked people WILL be held to account on Judgement Day. They’ve secretly sided with the enemy but they’ll be powerless to defeat God. Justice will be achieved.
  • George and Jean Barilla
    commented 2014-05-18 15:44:32 -0500
    While I and my brother were beaten with a stick and raped by a priest, it was the nuns who tortured, beat me, sexually abused me and finally smothered me with a pillow into a coma. They are truly Satan spawn and they need to be exposed and punished for their crimes along with the clergy “fathers” and the rest of the hierarchy up to and including the Pope who is ultimately responsible for all of their crimes.
  • Timothy Egan
    commented 2014-05-18 15:11:35 -0500
    It just boggles my mind to know that nuns are part of this Satanic infiltration of the Catholic clergy and conspiracy against the innocent. It’s as though they don’t yet fear God and the Day of Judgement.
  • Cait Finnegan
    commented 2014-05-15 22:02:05 -0500
    My response tonight to the liberal Catholics demand that the Pope apologize to the American nuns, to the LCWR:
  • Rita Marie Kelley
    commented 2014-05-11 08:38:16 -0500
    If you want some concrete evidence about mean, cruel abusive nuns, look no further than Ireland and the Magdeline laundries…tales of pure terror.
  • Cait Finnegan
    commented 2014-05-10 21:13:58 -0500
    NY Times is crying for the poor sisters: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/11/opinion/sunday/dowd-with-malice-toward-nuns.html?_r=4
    It would be good to overload the Times with reality…
    My response:
    Cait Finnegan
    Poconos, PA Pending Approval

    Ever wonder if the pope may know more than you do about the nuns? Just a thought. Everyone has the nuns held up as saints and angels. Anyone notice they have been deafeningly silent on the issue of abuse in the Church? There are reasons for that. According to a study commissioned by the sisters 40% of their own membership admitted to being sexually abused before or after entering the convent. Abuse needs to be dealt with, not just run away from, and if it is dealt with about 30% of victims still repeat the abusive cycle. 70% do not—if it is dealt with. So, the silence about abuse? Do the math. When the LCWR grow up and act like responsible leaders (note how they ridicule the mishandling of this by the bishops) and work with victims’ groups, and help in the healing process with victim/survivors then they might be a bit more respected for actually being mature women and honest, and not just highly educated academics and social workers who are ignoring their own victims. Just do the math.
  • Rita Marie Kelley
    commented 2014-05-09 05:10:17 -0500
  • Rita Marie Kelley
    commented 2014-05-09 05:07:36 -0500
    Nun abuse video—others good, too, especially Fr. Thomas Doyle’s…
  • Rita Marie Kelley
    commented 2014-05-09 05:06:10 -0500
  • Cait Finnegan
    commented 2014-05-07 23:40:23 -0500
    There is a good article on the current National Catholic Reporter at: http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/pope-francis-sex-abuse-panel-gets-real-accountability-protocols

    Here is my response. PLEASE ADD YOURS
    Cait Finnegan • a few seconds ago Hold on, this is waiting to be approved by National Catholic Reporter.

    This needs to be about more than just priests. Vowed religious women also abuse children and youth, and this continues to be totally ignored by the American Catholic population and the LCWR who claim no authority in this matter, yet do not hesitate to speak about and criticize everything the male clergy do or don’t do. LCWR has a moral authority if not canonical, and needs to stop ignoring victims of abuse by nuns and victim support groups who need to be part of a Church-wide healing process. The Vatican is cracking down on LCWR for theological matters, but letting them just slip quietly by while pointing fingers at the priests and bishops. Women religious commissioned a study in 1996 about their own members, but the results were squelched—with good reason by those who didn’t want the public to know that 40% of nuns admitted to being sexually abused before or after entering the convent… We know that 30% of victims who were abused go on to repeat abuse, keeping the cycle going, and this converts to major numbers among the population of nuns in the USA now, and over double that in the 60’s when so much abuse occurred! Abuse is sexual yes, but the rage in an abuse victim who goes on to repeat the cycle presents not only as sexual abuse by physical as well. Sounding more familiar now? The rage in abused nuns who fled to convents did not disappear into prayer books.

    As a survivor of sexual abuse by a Sister of Mercy who died last week, I really think this issue needs to be dealt with, and nuns need to stop throwing stones at the Vatican and male clergy while living in glass convents. They need to do their own work of healing from abuse, and face this all very directly. http://abusedbynuns.wordpress….
  • Rita Marie Kelley
    commented 2014-05-06 16:55:37 -0500
    Cait Finnegan, I admire your attitude and your journey and hope that you attain continued peace with the knowledge that your abuser is gone, truly gone…

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