SNAP Agrees With Victims Receiving Compensation from Sisters of Charity of St Augustine

(For Immediate Release March 8, 2023) 

Restitution for dozens of child abuse victims from a former home for kids in Parma is starting to arrive in mailboxes. Unfortunately, the payment is very different than what was initially spelled out by the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine for those who suffered at the Parmadale Children’s Village of St. Vincent de Paul decades ago.

Most individuals recognize that tens of thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – of boys and girls, have been sexually assaulted by priests and other male clergy. Regrettably, many individuals remain unaware that hundreds or thousands of nuns have also sexually abused children and have done so for decades.

Consider this: who has had greater exposure to Catholic children for as long as Catholic nuns? Who made up the majority of teachers at parochial schools and still do so today? Elizabeth Ann Seton, recognized in the Catholic Church as the first native-born U.S. saint, started the Sisters of Charity, an order that opened separate parochial schools for families of poor and wealthy girls, in the early 1800s. Some consider these the first Catholic parochial schools in the U.S. The Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine have been around since 1850.

The ongoing scandal involving sexual assault in schools committed by ordained or professed religious begs a question that is never satisfactorily addressed: what about the nuns who, at least until the mid-1960s, were significantly more prevalent than priests or religious brothers in classrooms and boarding schools and had power over vulnerable children?  

According to estimates, each survivor of childhood sexual abuse has a lifelong financial burden of close to $831,000, calculated using costs associated with disability payments, unemployment benefits, and other benefits, a large portion of that expense is transferred to the taxpayers. More significant, however, is the understanding that survivors have endured irreparable lifetime harm and frequently cope with problems including unemployment, poor mental and physical health, and addictions for no fault of their own. The in-house payments that the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine is offering for each victim is a small payment for the pain already experienced.

Mary Dispenza, SNAP Leader, Washington State, chronicles her own abuse, her years as a nun, and her search for healing from trauma and shame. Mary shared this with us, ‘It is time for Religious Women to do the right thing, pay up for their sins, sell the many estates they own, the elaborate convents and retreat centers.’ ‘Justice denied, justice delayed.’

As we see it, these defense strategies are quite like those used by male religious superiors and Catholic bishops. They used a variety of tactics, including shady internal investigations, relocating predators, paying hush money, negotiating private out-of-court settlements, and concealing themselves behind statutes of limitations. And they made it clear that they would not take any responsibility for the atrocities that were done while they were in charge. They must do better than a simple compensation campaign. 

Mary Dispenza, SNAP Leader, Washington State ( 425-941-6001 [email protected]) Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)


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