The past decade has brought to light serious allegations of sexual abuse against the Catholic Church, with new stories still appearing in the news. Now, another group of religious leaders are facing claims of abuse: nuns. CBS News has reported cases of molestation and other mistreatment from those willing to share their stories.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is a resource for survivors. One survivor, a former nun herself, described her experience of being molested by a superior. She was called into an office and knelt by her superior. Then, the other woman kissed the victim’s face repeatedly, making her very uncomfortable.
The former nun now works with SNAP, and said that before the sexual abuse scandal started, she rarely heard about abuse by nuns. She says that nuns take difficult vows of celibacy and chastity, and their culture is extremely private. Since the Pennsylvania Grand Jury’s report identified pedophile priests in the state, 18 people have reached out to tell her about their experiences with abuse.
Another woman told CBS about how she was sexually abused by two church officials. When she was five years old, a priest, who was also her uncle, started sexually abusing her, which lasted for years. She first revealed this to a nun at a New Jersey convent. The nun later gave her alcohol and drugs and taught her about sex. The survivor later reported this to the congregation, who paid her a large settlement out-of-court.
Congregation representatives stated that they investigated the claim right away, and that they acted in a responsible way. The accused nun lost her position as a grade school principal but is still a nun. The church gives her housing and food, although she is not permitted to provide outside ministry.
The woman who was abused twice said that she is facing a lifetime of suffering and trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder. She had issues with drug and alcohol addiction, dating back to when the abuse started. Now, she feels that the settlement does not equal the amount of distress that she is dealing with, and that other nuns were aware of the situation. She hopes that sharing her story will give others the courage to speak up and prevent the abuse from happening again.
In early January, Catholic bishops from different parts of the country met in Chicago at the behest of Pope Francis. This retreat lasted a week and was organized around spiritual reflection and prayer. No new policies were announced.
The International Union of Superiors General, which is the Catholic Church’s world-wide nun organization, issued a statement late last year. They urged nuns who have experienced sexual abuse by the church to report it and made a vow to help them do so to help survivors and find justice.
If you or someone you care for has been abused by a clergy member, a Georgetown sexual abuse lawyer at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. can help. For a free case evaluation, fill out an online form or call us at 302-656-5445. With offices in Wilmington and Georgetown, Delaware, we represent clients in Dover, New Castle County, and Sussex County.