LCWR’s long-standing coverup of sexual abuse of children by nuns

The Dissenter’s Breviary, NCR, and the "magisterium of nuns", LCWR, are abusing the abuse crisis for their own ends.

Have a look at the recent NCR piece, "Compromised hierarchy needs relational wisdom of women" by Charlene Spretnak.

Spretnak draws an opposition between the "patriarchal value system" of the "men’s club" and the "relational wisdom of women", which she says is exemplified, in part, by the "[harassed] communities of nuns" and by other women in the Catholic Church. 

NCR‘s Spretnak turned a blind eye to the voluminous new emerging data concerning the sexual abuse of children by women, and, in particular, by Catholic nuns, as reported here and here and especially here

In the latter article, "Nuns On the Run From the Truth" (Salon – 17 August 2009), self-described "feminist and progressive Catholic" Frances Kissling, moans,

"we were surprised when the LCWR leadership refused to allow survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic sisters to address the past few annual meetings. The survivors want to share their stories of abuse as well as suggest processes to prevent such abuse in the future, including recommending that the sisters adopt the bishops’ anti-sex-abuse guidelines. To date, the nuns have just said no."


Just imagine! Frances Kissling is surprised that the LCWR, that besieged bastion of religious integrity, of female "relational wisdom" (to quote Spretnak), would ape the bishops and major superiors!

But wait, there’s more!

Even as they wag fingers at male bishops and priests, the LCWR, fully supported by the liberal press, has covered up sexual abuse of children by women religious.

Just focus for a moment on how the LCWR has for years been fighting off SNAP.

SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) has been trying to get the LCWR to deal with them since at least 2004

SNAP tried to engaged the LCWR about women religious who have abused children but the LCWR has stonewalled them.  In their "relational wisdom", LCWR responded to SNAP, thanking them for "raising their consciousness" about this problem.  Then they did nothing to work with SNAP.  In 2009 LCWR was still "raising their consciousness" and still stonewalling.

What would Spretnak say about the superiority of women’s "relational wisdom" over the men’s club’s "patriarchal socialization" if she had bothered to do this simple Google search – "Catholic nuns child sexual abuse" – before she emailed her corrosive article to NCR’s HQ?

The dirty little secret is that both Catholic priests and nuns – yes women! – have engaged in sick, immoral acts against children and minors.  This is not an exclusively male problem. This is not a celibacy problem. See my article here on Protestant ministers – married ministers – and sexual abuse of children.

Consider for a moment a statement by Fr. Thomas Doyle, OP, – no conservative he – posted on 20 Sept. 2009 on the site of ex-priest Richard Sipe in an entry called "Sexual Abuse by Nuns"

Doyle says that the numbers of women religious who have abused children are "equal to the numbers of priests".  Did you get that?

Let’s just read together for a moment with my emphases:

"The sexual and physical abuse by nuns is far more widespread than most people are aware of.  The nuns have been protected by the inability of most people to believe that such things were possible but I can assure you, they were possible and the reality is far worse than one could imagine.

In light of the highly visible and vocal support of most contemporary nuns, including their leadership in LCWR for victims of social injustice both inside and outside the Church,  we would certainly expect that they would quickly respond openly, honestly and with compassion to victims of religious women.  The opposite has been true.  The religious congregations of women who have been sued have fought the victims with a viciousness that was equal to or exceeded that of many bishops.  The LCWR has treated the victims who have tried to communicate with them in a disgraceful and downright unchristian manner.  They have been as cold, as clerical, as arrogant and as dishonest as the bishops.

They have refused to even consider cleaning the mess in their own house.  They have treated those who have brought the mess to their attention with cruelty and disdain."

And this just barely scratches the surface of how the LCWR has been avoiding the issue of sexual abuse of children by women religious.

TwitterQUAERITUR: Why hasn’t NCR‘s personification of "relational wisdom" Sr. Joan Chittister protested the LCWR’s cover-up? 

After all, Sr. Joan has been so "prophetic" in her criticism of denials and cover-ups of priest sexual abusers by U.S. bishops.  Shouldn’t her sense of justice urge her to be as forthright as Fr. Doyle about the LCWR’s cover-up of abuse of children by U.S. nuns? 

Liberals harp that the "men’s club" of popes, bishops and priests covered up sexual abuse of children by male clerics.  Therefore, they whine, male priesthood and celibacy have to be changed.  "If only women were priests!", they lament.  "If only women were in power positions!"  The slimy irony is that the liberal-dominated LCWR has covered up abuse of children by women religious.  NCR doesn’t want to cover that story.  Why?  Could it be that a large number of their readers are aging women religious?  NCR doesn’t want to jeopardize their base.  Perhaps LCWR doesn’t want to jeopardize collections taken up in parishes for their own support.

Think about this. The "magisterium of nuns" and the LCWR had the experience of watching the sexual abuse crisis strike priests and male religious and they still didn’t learn the lesson about cover-ups.

It’s over, sisters.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Biased Media Coverage, Clerical Sexual Abuse, SESSIUNCULA, Throwing a Nutty and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Jayna says:

    A woman’s relational wisdom? Is every woman supposed to possess that? Cause I sure don’t. I’m not even sure what it means.

  2. torch621 says:

    It would seem, Father, that in their world, only men can ever be abusers, because that’s what modern feminism teaches; men are evil oppressors, women are kind and compassionate.

  3. Tradster says:

    Father, thank you many times over for dragging this horrible issue into the daylight. For the sake of the past and future victims please keep it alive until it’s everywhere on the Internet and even the liberal media can no longer help cover it up.

  4. The-Monk says:

    I’m willing to bet that when the truth comes out, this will make Maria Monk look tame by comparison.

    Let’s just assume that what is asserted about why men who become abusers go into the priesthood and religious life is equally true about women who become abusers go into religious life. At the height of the pedophilia scandal, that would mean there were four times the numbers of sisters perpetrating acts of pedophilia as there were priests. [ouch]

    It’s a simple matter of statistical probabilities, that is, unless that “relational wisdom” is a confounding factor.

  5. There’s been a lot of stories coming out lately about abuse by Protestant female ministers, by male ministers’ wives, and by “church ladies”; and of course there was all the “Magdalene Laundries” stuff over in Ireland. But as we’ve seen with the all the recent US stories about female teachers abusing their students (male or female), American people are very reluctant to picture women as sexual offenders, even if they can see them as possibly committing physical or mental abuse. I’m sure a lot of nasty stuff still is due to come out.

  6. sejoga says:

    You see, Fr. Z, when a priest molests a child, he’s being oppressive and patriarchal, but when a sister does it, she’s “opening the child up to new experiences” and “freeing their body” and all that.

    Also, even if what these sisters did was wrong, the work they do to secure abortion funding and votes for Democratic social programs and such things are much too important to set aside for a little thing like justice or respect for human dignity.


    I hate to sound cynical, but I wonder how many people will really say that it’s “not as bad” when sisters molest children because of “all the good they do” [Exactly. Some are sure to argue that way.] … and maybe the molestations were even good for the children, so they can learn the joys of sex and hedonism without the “judgmentalism” of sacred tradition and the Catholic moral code.

  7. Elly says:

    If this story is spread, will it not make people hate Catholicm even more and think it’s just made up of a bunch of creeps- male and female?

    Does it make the bishops who covered up abuse look any better to say that nuns did the same thing?

  8. Well well, I wonder what Peggy Noonan would have to say about THIS? Would she still say that the Church needs more of a woman’s touch?

  9. Jack Hughes says:

    PLEASE tell me that this isn’t true!!!, please I could just about take the news about Religious Sisters physically abusing children in their care, one could quite reasonably chalk it up to young girls being forced by their parents (especially in Ireland) into vocations they didn’t have and taken out thier frustration out on the kids (not that it excuses what they did but at least one could empathise with them), but sexual abuse? NO NO NO Father please tell me that this is some cruel april’s fool joke.

    I’ve taken just about as much news over cruel/wacky religious as I can, all the talk of eco-femminist Sisters and priests using enegrams over the last 40yrs was one thing – such people were to pitied and prayed/sacrificed for as people who were led down the wrong parth unwittingly,but to think that people totally consecrated to God could do such a thing to Children, to think that these Brides of Christ to do such wicked things to children just strikes at my soul. PL:EASE FATHER TELL ME that you have just shown us the sick side to your sense of humour

  10. blefoley says:

    After going to Catholic school and seeing how these “liberated” sisters verbally and psychologically bully and abuse anybody who crosses them (so motherly and relational!) , it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that this was going on. I’m willing to bet that the sexual abuse is far worse in some cases than what most priests have done. The Holy Father is right on about the rot and filth in the Church, and I really feel so far we’ve seen only the tip of the iceberg when it comes it.

  11. Jack Hughes…Oh, so sorry…really! The abuse of children is “across the board”; in whatever way, form or fashion.
    Satan is laughing with a hearty glee, I’m afraid…we have much repentance and reparation to do, all of us…this is truly Satanic!
    Bishops and priests, in any involvement in this, in any way, are to be held responsible; women and men religious, as well.
    This is something that needs to be known…the “self-righteous” attitude of the LCWR in this whole matter is just horrid.
    They better thank the Lord that they’re not shut down; the whole lot of them…this is just the tip of the iceberg, I’m afraid…I know, I know…I’m sounding “irritable” and nasty again…Jesus, mercy!

  12. Philangelus says:

    I believe power corrupts women just as badly as it does men, although corrupt women are corrupt in different ways than corrupt men. Women do tend to view the world more in terms of relationships than in terms of power and hierarchy. But that doesn’t mean women can’t be corrupt.

    But doesn’t it make sense that a pedophile nun would have been put in a new location if she’d been put in front of her female superior and had bawled and cried about how sorry she was and would they please forgive her? She’d probably have been BETTER at getting out of it and BETTER at faking repentance, and a woman superior who wanted to foster community and love and forgiveness and mercy might well have tried to smooth things over. Because again, it’s about the relationship. It’s about feeling and mercy and forgiveness, and that’s the church’s job.

    Our job as Christ’s followers is to love mercy and forgive the sinner and see the image of God in one another.* It shouldn’t surprise us that evil people manipulate that to their own ends. Both male and female. :-(

    *That doesn’t mean evildoers shouldn’t be turned over to the police and testified against at trial. It just means that we forgive them while we stand back and let the law handle the justice.

  13. I’ve been wanting to get this word out. The focus is totally on the Catholic Church and Priests. It is obvious this is a problem in the secular world and Protestant churches as well and has nothing to do with male only priests and celibacy. I provided a link below to an article published by the NY Times from the AP on June 16th 2007 showing the abuse is higher in Protestant churches then in the Catholic Church. This in no way excuses the abuse but we need perspective. Protestant churches have had married and female pastors and this does not seem to stop the problem. [YES! You got it.] Here is a link to the article.

  14. Gregg the Obscure says:

    I can’t say I’m surprised by this. We’re all of us sinners. Those who lose track of this basic truth (and too many have lost track of this in the past fifty years or so) tend to do some horrid things on a large scale, having lost the restraint that comes from a functioning conscience. All of us need sacramental grace to keep us from harming God’s children in whatever way we are most inclined to do.

  15. Clinton says:

    I can see why some of these withering congregations of sisters would be so ruthless in the way they fight off victims of past abuse.
    One or two settlements in favor of a plaintiff would crush a congregation.

    In many cases, that would not be such a bad thing.

  16. bookworm says:

    By now most of us (though not the general public) are aware that many cases of sex abuse by priests are not “pedophilia” in the strict sense (abuse of children below the age of puberty), but homosexual acts or relationships engaged in with teenage boys. (That doesn’t make them any less sinful, of course.) I cannot help but wonder if in a similar fashion, many of these cases among nuns will turn out to involve lesbian relationships with teenage girls.

    Hardcore feminists would probably not frown on such relationships and in fact might even encourage them. The infamous “Vagina Monologues” as originally written described, in positive terms, a 13-year-old girl’s sexual experiences with an older woman. Only after much protest did the author, Eve Ensler, rewrite that portion of the script to make the girl’s character older and clarify that what the older woman did was wrong.

    An extremely liberal congregation of nuns heavily influenced by the feminism of the ’70s and the whole idea that the time had come to shake off the “patriarchal” restrictions of the past and “celebrate” women’s sexuality, etc., could easily slide into this kind of conduct, and if they were a teaching order, condone or even encourage it among their students.

  17. avecrux says:

    Thank you Father for this vital article. You are educating many here, including myself.
    Sounds like we need an investigation equivalent to John Jay. Would the sex of the sexual abuse victims show the same tendencies that we saw in abuses perpetrated by men (namely homosexuality)? There is a certain play… “(blank) Monologues” often performed at Catholic Universities around Valentine’s Day. I have heard that it includes the lesbian rape of a 13 year old – calling it “good rape”. Anything anti-man or non-male…..

  18. avecrux says:

    Thanks bookworm for updating us on the changes in the play. i think we were posting at the same time.

  19. I may be way off base with this however I believe that a symptom that leads to this problem is identification of who we are. For decades now the clergy have been in a “stealth” mode. You rarely see a priest outside of the Church wearing a collar or a sister or nun wearing a habit. This is a powerful reminder of who they are and what they have been called to do and represent. Not just a reminder to the laity but to themselves. Traditions, actions and appearance influence behavior. The collar and habit are powerful symbols, I know I changed by attitude many times when I was young and saw Father or Sister walking my way. There will always be true evil that will creep in but in some way I have to think this adds to the overall problem.

  20. Jack Hughes says:

    May I suggest ALOT of Prayer and Fasting?

  21. RichardR says:

    Many of us who went to Catholic schools in the 1950s and early 60s (pre-Vatican II) experienced and witnessed plenty of physical and emotional abuse from the nuns who “taught” us. Personally I had no experience with sexual abuse but can tell you that the hitting and degrading went far beyond “accepted” corporal punishment of the day.

  22. Lee says:

    For the life of me, I cannot see how this information about women religious helps, balances, or offsets any of the previous miserable stories that we have heard from the endless “priestly pedophilia” scandal. It is just more “concrete boots” for the faith of many people.

    Frankly, it would seem to put priests in a worse light if they say, “O yeah, well women religious have a problem, too.” Or, “Oh yeah, well Protestant pastors have a big problem too, you know, and maybe a bigger problem.”

    There is a different tack our bishops and priests could take, and are excellently positioned to take.

    In our society the reformed addict has a lot of credibility. We need to point out the extent to which we have reformed our own culture, and the extent to which society as a whole needs to reform its culture.

    We need to point out with deep sympathy and concern the extent to which sexual addiction is overwhelming us, the disastrous effects this is having on marriages and on children, and the huge social and financial cost to the society as a whole.

    A lot of this could be framed under the rubric of “sexual immaturity” which is rampant in our society.

    Ironically, we are excellently positioned to campaign for chastity and modesty. Since this would take a lot of courage in this milieu, it would be a tremendous witness as well. I am sure there are many parents who would be grateful and many Christians who would take notice.

    If we could only muster the zeal, the implacability and ingenuity of the anti-smoking crowd who have utterly reformed society on that relatively insignificant issue.

    In other words, we are excellently positioned to frame this entire discussion on our terms, and in a kind of spiritual jiu-jitsu to give our ancient enemy an unbelievable thrashing- to the glory of God and the salvation of many people.

  23. TJerome says:

    I can’t wait for “Sister” Chittester’s next “From Where I Stand” column. I’m sure she’ll go after her fellow nuns big-time (NOT). Remember “Being Liberal Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry.” (With apologies to the author of “Love Story.”)

  24. TJerome says:

    Lee, why not focus on public school teachers, you know, union members who are overwhelmingly liberal and Democrat!

  25. The-Monk says:

    In response to Thomas.Grant2, let me point out that the majority of the cases of clerical abuse of pre-teenagers, teenagers, and young men occurred during a period when it was common and, in some instances, requried for religious and priests to wear clerical apparel when out in public. I am not aware of any serious psychlogical or sociological study over the past two decades which has correlated the wearing (or not wearing) of clerical apparel with predatory behavior. In fact, in the immediate decades following Vatican II, it was common practice in many seminaries to relate the wearing of clerical apparel and a need to “dress up as a priest” with personality deformations and, in some places, of homosexual inclinations. While it is undoubtedly good for religious and priests to witness to their vocation by wearing clerical apparel in public, doing so will not reduce predatory behavior.

    Also, unrelated to Thomas.Grant2’s comment but stemming from it, there is an unstated matter implicit in all of this discussion. It has to do with the difference in the way the public views predatory behavior on the part of males and on the part of females. Why this is factual is a matter of great speculation in some of the literature I have read. It is too simple (and, I would argue, naive) to believe that the public’s outrage at male predatory behavior has to do with anti-partriarchal sentiments, in general, and the Church, in particular. Instead, it appears in general that male-male sexual relations stir up much stronger emotions and reactions than do female-female sexual relations. This helps to explain why the pornography industry makes a ton of money by “hooking” males into paying to view two females engaging in sexual relations…as if “male-male” and “female-female” sexual relations are somehow different.

    Might it be that those who wish to cover up the predatory behavior on the part of sisters, advancing patriarchy as the major argument, are themselves being disingenuous, that is, decrying what homosexual priests have done but not what homosexual sisters have done because to do so would negatively impact their political/theological agenda? Patriarchy is not the issue; homosexuality is.

  26. avecrux says:

    Lee – I think you are missing the crucial point here.
    An article was just written for NCR. This article is called “Compromised hierarchy needs relational wisdom of women”. Newsweek ran an article entitled: “Catholics: Time to Break Up the All-Male Club”. Maureen Dowd wrote an op ed for the New York Times called “A Nope for Pope” (a nun for Pope). All were using abuse perpetrated by a small minority of Catholic Priests to criticize the all-male Priesthood, instituted by Christ. Dowd maintained: “If the church could throw open its stained glass windows and let in some air, invite women to be priests, nuns to be more emancipated and priests to marry, if it could banish criminal priests and end the sordid culture of men protecting men who attack children, it might survive.” Total non-sequiturs. Father Z is just giving us hard evidence that this attack that faithless people (if you attack any article of Faith, you do not have faith) is completely unwarranted and reveals it for the agenda it is.

  27. shane says:

    a very good blog by a Baptist abuse victims campaigner:

  28. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    Somewhat off topic but I went to the website of the Sisters of St. Joseph Boston (LCWR types and proud of it). Looking at “The Faces of Summer,” the protests for peace and against human trafficking — seriously, will this order last another decade? How can even the NCR take these rantings seriously?

  29. Lee says:

    Avecrux writes

    “Lee – I think you are missing the crucial point here.”

    Well, if instead of trying to defend the celibate priesthood, etc, we raised the ante exponentially by pointing out that the virtually the whole society is sick and getting sicker by the minute, and that we have the solution to that problem, we will have changed the ENTIRE discussion. The focus will no longer be on the celibate priesthood, but on the hypersexualization of all of western civilization.

    TJerome mentions public school teachers. Do a google search on “sex abuse” combining it with the following terms: “sixth grade teacher” “soccer coach” “chess coach” “swimming coach” practically any mentor whatever.

    Judging from having lived into two different locales recently, my guess is that virtually every small town newspaper in the country has had its own series of stories of sexual abuse. It’s truly pathetic. You weep for the victims. At the same time, the perpetrators lives and those of their families are being destroyed also. The entire society is going down. Visit some of the sexual addiction sites, and you will find testimonies of many people who feel they are being carried away by forces over which they have no control and who are begging and praying for help.

    This is the situation to which we should be responding with everything we’ve got. In other words, rather than let the New York Times, The National Catholic Reporter, Newsweek etc. set the agenda, we should take the discussion to a whole new level and put them and the entire kingdom of darkness on the defensive.

    [This blog entry, however, has a point. You are pressing a different point… a good point, but a different point. Let’s stick to the point of this blog entry.]

  30. Sandra_in_Severn says:

    Abuse is abuse is abuse, does not matter if it is a priest, rabbi, preacher, minister, lay-leader, sister, brother, monk, nun, stranger, teacher, nurse, physician, dentist, woman, man, (should I continue?); it does not matter what title or identification, someone with “power” over another, uses that person like an animal or an object. The abuse comes in many forms, physical, mental and in turning the child into a sexual “object.”

    There is “evil.” There are evil people. There are people that some how, might not know better. But abuse of innocent children occurs REGARDLESS of religious belief, faith, creed, and sexual orientation or marital status.

    Has the modern age become Sodom and Gomorrah once more?

    Having women ordained, WILL NOT CHANGE THIS. Having married priests WILL NOT CHANGE THIS.

    I want to say something, but fear it sounding like blasphemy than an earnest prayer for intercession and mercy.

  31. In response to the monk, this is the first I have heard of wearing clerical garb being associated with homosexuality in the seminary, was it a policy that came out of Vatican II to encourage the clergy not to wear the collar or habit? (this is a sincere question) I guess I am just a simple guy and think that if you dress the part your more likely to act the part or remember what your part is. Since there are no studies linking the wearing or not wearing of clerical dress to abuse I certainly don’t think it would hurt. Gestures and traditions tend to enhance and reinforce our behaviors.

  32. Norah says:

    I was educated by the Mercy sisters in Australia and not once was I physically or sexually abused or witness any physical or sexual abuse.

  33. TNCath says:

    Well, it’s about time! And, sad to say, where the majority of the abuse by priests were homosexual in nature, the same was true amongst sexual abuse of children by nuns. This also raises the question of homosexuality that is often quite perceptible in LCWR religious orders of women.

  34. TNCath says:

    P.S. Mother Clare, are you taking notes?

  35. ray from mn says:

    I have no doubt but that women did abuse children, both male and female.

    Whether they did it in the same percentages as did men is to me open to question.

    Where are the complaints and the lawsuits? The female religious orders may have resisted internal audits of the problem. But lawyers with a sniff of profit wouldn’t be swayed by that.

    Of course, many of the smaller orders don’t have much in the way of assets these days. That may have discouraged lawyers where profit trumps justice.

    But I won’t jump on the “parity bandwagon” until more evidence begins to appear.

  36. The-Monk says:

    Ray from MN: The question is: “Why are there no lawsuits?” That’s an easy one to figure out…if you want a church of goddesses.

  37. Supertradmum says:
    This study states that only .04% of paedophiles caught have been women (USA)
    This study states that 69% of sexual abuse found in schools, involve teachers and staff members, including coaches, bus drivers, etc.

    There is a new study from Princeton. about which I heard something on EWTN ,which I could not find, which indicates that up to 25% of sexual abuse of children involves pubulic school educators and staff, compared to 1% to 2% from Catholic priest or male religious.

    I had sixteen years of education under nuns and although I knew of priests who were homosexuals and having relations with college male students, I knew nothing of nuns involved, although there was lesbianism in the Catholic College dorm where I lived. When I tried to talk to a nun about it, she was truly shocked and denied such a thing could happen at the college. I would bet the .04% is closer to the truth than media reports.

    If there is any nun-related abuse, it is those nuns who were informed by little children @that father was doing naughty things@ and the nuns did not believe the children. I know of three Catholic children where this happened. The priest is now dead and the now-grown-up children still Catholic, although nothing was done at the time.They did not sue their diocese.

  38. chloesmom says:

    These news items are no surprise to me. As a student in the 50’s and 60’s, I ran afoul of two Sisters of “Mercy” who made my life pure hell, particularly in the final year of high school. Math was my weakest subject — my brain was not “wired” that way — and this woman simply could/would not understand how I could do well in everything else, but just barely get by in Math. She went out of her way to constantly critique my work — in front of the entire class — and predicted that I would not pass the finals. I did — and very well, except for Math, which I just barely squeaked through. My parents, good Catholics that they were, took her side entirely, and it required a great deal of time before the after-effects of this abuse went away. I’m 63 now, and there are still times when this comes to mind. I’m also sure that there are many other examples. I heard horror stories from fellow students in other classes about another nun who got her jollies from humiliating students via emotional abuse. These women have a lot to answer for — and (sorry for the length of this post), the “sisterhood” of lay women, as the feminists talk of it??? Don’t get me started! Women can be just as vicious and cruel as men when it comes to dealing with those of us who are “different” in any way. The original sin of Adam and Eve continues to manifest itself in life, centuries after they were driven out of Paradise for their disobedience and pride. “And the beat goes on ….”

  39. TNCath says:

    The-Monk: “The question is: ‘Why are there no lawsuits?’”

    Oh, there have been lawsuits. This particular one, however, was settled out of court:

    And then there was another which was the subject of a book:

  40. Monica says:

    Lee, your points are sound. You didn’t misunderstand a crucial issue in the least.

  41. Thank you, chloesmom: Because you are lay woman you can say thiswith some credibility…I believe this is at the crux, if you will, of “why there are no law suits” and why people cannot admit that women, much less women religious in habits, could be guilty of any kind of abusive behavior.
    If you check out bishopaccountability, or some such site, there ARE women religious included in those either accused credibly or actually found guilty of some kind of abuse.
    The “holier than thou” stance of the LCRW et. al. is a true Pharisaical pose (and they sling mud at the Pope, the Bishops they don’t like, priests and any man they can hang any kind of accusation upon)…and the hysterics from the “visitation”; you’d think we’d brought out the stake and kindling and were burning witches (I mean, heretics!)…insane!

  42. Maltese says:

    A good friend of mine was born in Argentina, and his parents emigrated here because they are brilliant, and learned English by watching sesame street. Now his mom is a professor at a major University, and his dad works for a major company. They both work in statistics.

    Now, here is my point. I know there was some sexual abuse by nuns and priests before Vatican II, but I know for a fact the figures skyrocketed after the Council ended.

    But here is my main point, related to by friend-story, supra. I think the Catholic Church needs to hire some serious-gun (ie PHD level) stataticions to look into ‘what went wrong’ with the Church after Vatican II.

    Because, frankly, the Church is a wasteland among the rank-and-file out there; the average mass out there would probably make any of the great Saints vomit…

  43. TJerome says:

    Maybe the reason these “nuns” don’t get the same press as the priests, is because they are usually the allies of the forces of darkness, the New York Slimes, etc. Why would the Slimes highlight their misdemeanors when they are aiding and abetting the liberal, secular agenda the Slimes loves like “healthcare reform?”

  44. Personally, I have no problem believing that women religious are capable of physically abusing children. I’ve written about this subject in the past. The first grade teacher at my school in the early to mid 1960s, administered by the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, held children down and beat them on a regular basis. (One of them was beaten nearly every day.) More than one of my classmates wet themselves out of sheer terror. She got away with it too. Her then-younger contemporaries have had a stranglehold on the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for decades now. There are signs that this may change under the new archbishop. But I wonder if any of my former schoolmates, some of whom were traumatized by the experience, will ever see justice.

    If we can get them to stop dancing around the Earth-Mother-Goddess-Spirit-Rising Tree long enough, maybe we can ask them before they scurry behind their lawyers.

  45. Norah says:

    If some of the members of the LCWR abused children isn’t it logical to say that some of the members of the CMSWR also abused children?

    I think it is a fallacy to say that because members of a religious order no longer wears a habit or prays in community or lives in a convent then they probably abused children while giving a pass to sisters who do all of the above.

    Before we start throwing stones lets wait until complaints are made and taken to court. Let’s not give a verdict in advance of the facts. For all of those who have related horror stories in this thread, take your claims to the civil authorities.

    Maltest, I don’t know where you live but I seriously doubt that the average Mass would make a saint vomit. Some Masses of the Ordinary Form have problems but I think that the problems are in the minority and most are said according to the rubrics.

  46. TonyLayne says:

    A couple of people have brought up The Vagina Monologues and its original depiction of a lesbian molestation as “good rape”. That kind of story is overwhelmingly reiterated within the gay subculture, especially the rationalization and romanticization of the events.

    Jim Hoft over at First Things published last December a sickening set of extracts from a suggested school reading list put out by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which “safe schools czar”(!) Kevin Jennings helped found. (Disturbingly, Pres. Obama hasn’t thrown him under the bus. What is he making our schools safe for?) The extracts are full of such pseudo-romantic bulls***; many of them cross the line into homoerotic pornography.

    Hypocritically, there are a few voices in the infotainment industry that aren’t sure that adults having sex with minors IS a problem (save when it involves Catholic clergy). I doubt the LCWR will get the kind of press attention the media bestowed on scandals involving priests because the point is to remake—or destroy—the Catholic Church, not protect children. The media has shown for some time now that they’re quite willing to turn blind eyes to the less attractive dealings of groups and power blocs (or, in the case of the LCWR, wanna-be power blocs) who epitomize their social and political values.

    Pray, work, vote. And keep your boob tube turned off. Those seem to be the only answers.

  47. mfg says:

    Maltese: Read Index of Leading Catholic Indicators: The Church Since Vat 2 by Kenneth C Jones. You want stats. They’ve got stats. Read it and weep. On another note: I guess I was born in the right year: 1930. I never personally experienced, or saw with my own eyes, or heard from another, of any physical (not even a ruler on knuckles) or emotional or sexual abuse by a religious, man or woman. I had 14 years of Catholic education. My children had at least 12 years each. Additionally I asked my children ( in 2002 when they were adults) if they knew of any abuse. They said No. My boys said: The only thing Father ever asked of them was to get the candles lit and count the house. All of this happened in the belly of the beast, Southern California, and most of it in Hollywood. Some of the nuns I have better memories of than others. Some of them I absolutely loved. Even today I have priest friends, secular and religious, dating back 55 years. We’ve enjoyed many evenings out and they always wore clericals. I guess it’s all in who you know.

  48. avecrux says:

    Norah – I think Fr. Z is pointing out a fallacy. Some of the LCWR sisters, and others like them, maintain that Priests, because they are men, abuse and cover up the abuse of children – while giving a pass to women simply because they are not men.

    The Church has made a definitive statement regarding male-only Priesthood. To knowingly fight against that and advocate the ordination of women is a grave evil – it defies the Church’s teaching authority and causes scandal. To do so with full consent would be a grave sin. Obviously, we cannot judge the inner state of another’s soul, but we can say that when someone is not in a state of grace, lots of bad things can happen to lead them further and further away from God. Those who obstinately persist in heresy may not have the necessary graces to assist them at times of temptation.

    There may be very holy women who do not wear a habit or live in a convent – to say that that, in and of itself, means they probably abused children would be unfair. But, I don’t think that, specifically, is being critiqued here. What is being critiqued is the use of Priestly scandals to falsely elevate women to the level of some sort of special, “enlightened” sex as a gateway to advocate for female “priests”. Are there communities of the LCWR where this is tolerated or encouraged? THAT is the question. I am not aware of any community in the CMSWR – or anything published by one of their sisters -that would speak of women this way or advocate for women “priests”.

  49. Ed the Roman says:

    Mr. Hand, I’ll chime in.

    Father Neuhaus nailed it perfectly: it’s a fidelity problem.

    As to why it’s possible to claim that this is a homosexual problem, that’s not hard when you look at how many of the victims are young boys, young girls, teenage boys, and teenage girls. As far as number of victims goes, one of these groups is not like the others; one of these groups, doesn’t belong.

  50. Scott W. says:

    Fr. Maciel being compared to Our Lord

    Actually, the most strident about holding Maciel and his follower’s feet to the fire were the orthodox Catholics, precisely becuase it was a first-order betrayal by a man leading a double-life. Dissenters were only interested in it as far as its usefulness as a stick to beat the Church. Nothing said so far demonstrates that all-male hierarchy is objectively harmful (notwithstanding the confusion between infallibility and impeccability). And as Ed said, there is no contradiction between it being a homosexual problem and pedophilia. It’s both/and because the majority of abuse is between an older clergy and a younger post-pubescent male–something which is objectively wrong, but society at large is increasingly going “meh” on as long as it is not a priest.

  51. Henry Edwards says:

    Maltese: I think the Catholic Church needs to hire some serious-gun (ie PHD level) stataticions to look into ‘what went wrong’ with the Church after Vatican II.

    Is the particular technical expertise you cite really needed in order to understand what happened? Or isn’t it to be expected that if people want to do it, and are told it’s no longer a sin, then many will go right ahead?

    Indeed, in the moral vacuum that followed the widespread collapse of faith in the post-Vatican II years, the attitude that “if it feels right, it is right” was widely promoted — especially in seminaries and religious orders, I’m told, though I was in neither and hence cannot claim personal knowledge of this.

  52. RecoveringFeminist says:
    There is another dissenting nun who seems to fly under the radar of potential spiritual corruption by the name of Sr. Fran Ferder of the FSPA order, which is in a long line of dissenting orders Ferder, along with her cohort in potential soul abuse, Fr. John Heagle, frequently publishes her dissenting and possibly heretical writings against the Catholic Church. Both Heagle and Ferder have the same mailing address in a very tony, ocean-front section of Gleneden Beach, Oregon. How is it that a diocesan priest from LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and a nun from an order of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, spend so much time in Oregon? Thank God for God!

  53. LarryD says:

    Zowie! is right.

    I’ve linked to this, Fr. Thanks for the great information and detail.

  54. I noticed this great comment onthe blog Acts of the Apostacy:

    “It makes me wonder if there is more to the Apostolic Visitation than meets the eye.”

    Rem acu tetigisti.

  55. avecrux says:

    Thank You, Recovering Feminist.
    I found an interview with Fran Ferder, FSPA which is certainly on topic.
    California Catholic Daily, August 21, 2008. Yes, she posits all this male patriarchy stuff we see in the articles Fr. Z mentions, and here is an interesting quote: Sex is “bigger” than genital behavior, Ferder said, who noted that “children need to learn age-appropriate sexual anatomy and physiology and prevention, but I’d like to see it more in the context of relationships.” The Church, she said, has to give more positive messages of sexuality. “We need to redesign, rearticulate the whole theology of body touch, body exploration,” she said. “Ordinary genital self-touch can be very important and can help children come to reverence their bodies, to know them.”
    I would not want this woman ANYWHERE NEAR my children!!!
    Could you imagine what media fodder it would be (and justifiably so) if a Priest had said this?

  56. avecrux says:

    BTW – you may want a link to the whole disgusting article:
    Title: “A good way to scare and control people”
    Nun who says Church’s teachings on sexual morality result of “patriarchal dominance in the hierarchy” leads retreat in Danville

  57. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    As long as Recovering Feminist brought up individual dissenting nuns, let me add the name of Sister Jeannine Gramick, one of the founders of New Ways Ministry, a homosexual advocacy group. After she was silenced by the Vatican, Sister Gramick left the School Sisters of Notre Dame to become a Sister of Loretto. The Sisters of Loretto are founding members of the LCWR. She’s also on the board of a women’s ordination group. Here’s some background on Sister Gramick:

  58. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Sorry for the cliche, Jack Hughes, but I feel your pain. So much filth has come to light, and at times it is more than the heart can bear.

    I have learned about things done by men I knew, and things allowed to happen by men I trusted, and am compelled to cry: “Why God? Why?”.

    It is sin and stupidity. The results of our redeemed, but still-shattered nature.

    Yet I know that my Redeemer lives, and that “where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” Romans 5:20. In spire of ourselves, this is Christ’s Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

    As for the sisters, they made the audacious claim that their female sex prevented them from committing or participating in such abuse.

    Pride goeth before a fall.

  59. irishgirl says:

    When I worked in the local Catholic bookstore, I saw books by Fran Ferder…not that I would have read any of that stuff…but if I was a mother, my reaction would be the same as avecrux!

    Boy, this sewer really needs a full flushing-out! It’s disgusting!

    As someone else has already said: Mother Clare, are you taking notes on this?

  60. Peggy R says:

    I concur completely. Every time I’ve read an article about the saintly superiority of the women religious who approve abortions and the like vs the evil chauvinistic male hierarchy, I’ve been disgusted by those false claims to moral superiority. Yes, some women religious abused children, sexually as well. SNAP has a chat page and a few articles on that. It’s not just about abusive priests, sadly for the Church. I think this will hurt the Church, but it must be revealed and faced. These women religious need to get back from “beyond Jesus.” These orders need radical reform back to original charisms or to be terminated. These women certainly do not need to be ordained or included in the hierarchy. They have not proven themselves morally superior to the male clergy.

  61. JohnE says:

    I’m surprised the NCR has not yet suggested the obvious solution of the women religious abuse problem: Let men be nuns and sisters! Oh yeah, I guess that was part of the priest abuse problem.

  62. Peggy R says:

    What case are some commenters at NCR talking about when they claim the entire priesthood wanted a 27 year old mother of 4 to die along with her unborn baby? Of course, I know that this is an untrue statement, but what true story are they skewing and lying about?

  63. LarryD says:

    PeggyR – I believe they are talking about the situation in Arizona where the sister on the board approved the abortion due to “the health of the mother”, and Bp Olmsted said that by doing so, she had ex-communicated herself.

  64. Randii says:

    I think finger pointing is inapproriate as in – see the liberal nuns are compromised too.

    Sad fact is this corruption in the institutional church spans progressive groups like the LCWR and traditionalist/conservative groups like the LC. And, it seems, everyone in between.

    I recall reading that some sisters leaving Mother Terasa’s group in India have horror stories of their own to tell.

    The bottom line is folks are voting with their feet and leaving or thinking about leaving the church. Try as we might, you don’t find this pervasive corruption in any other religious institution. Look at the Mormons – they work and have worked intensely with young kids for years and no problems. Why? If someone mis-steps thay get reported to the local ward bishop and are quickly excommunicated.

    Compare that to the likely derailing of Pell because he is too rigourous in what he’d do to guarantee good bishops are appointed. Again, nothing will change.

    It’s gotten so bad that some Catholic groups are using this impending exodus from the church as a fundraising tool. That is despicable IMO but I just got such a the sky is falling please donate letter from the Catholic Resource Center. Inexcusable!

  65. It is time for a mid-course clarification comment:

    Liberal LCWR types, who are at war with the bishops over who gets to speak for the Church and who want to force a fracture in the Church’s discipline (celibacy) and teaching (male priesthood), claim that they – women with their “relational wisdom” – would make better priests than men, because – and here is the slimy irony – women wouldn’t abuse children.

    SNAP disagrees and has been trying to engage the LCWR for years.

    The LCWR is in denial and won’t have anything to do with SNAP.

  66. Scott W. says:

    The bottom line is folks are voting with their feet and leaving or thinking about leaving the church.

    Actually, you will find that folks are voting with their feet from parishes that are precisely of the LCWR ilk. Faithful parishes are either holding the line or growing.

  67. Thomas S says:

    The Church can’t win the PR battle when it comes to sex abuse by women religious. If She comes down hard on them it’s just another sign of oppresive patriarchy. If the Church leaves it to secular authority and media to clean it up She will have simply orchestrated another cover-up to protect Her own power.

    The world’s hatred of the Church is centered on the Priesthood. And it’s centered on the Priesthood because the world hates the High Priest Jesus Christ. The attack is demonic in origin, whether or not Satan’s useful idiots know it.

    The Faithful, both lay and ordained, need to just keep plugging along. In the end those who would use the Church to expand their own power and fulfill their own perverse desires, and those who would try to capitalize on the resulting scandal to further a heretical destruction of the Church, will both lose. Satan will lose. The Church’s victory is already secure.

    In the meantime, avoid the sin of despair.

  68. JulieC says:

    I’m not so sure this is entirely a post-Conciliar problem. I remember my Grandmother (who was a child at the turn of the century) having a visceral fear and hatred of nuns because of the terrible physical and mental abuse she suffered while living at a convent boarding school in Nebraska for a few years when her mother became ill.

    I suspect that the lives of religious women was very difficult and repressive before the Council, and some, as in all walks of life, were very messed-up individuals. I really believe reform was needed, but of course, things went too far.

  69. DHippolito says:

    The problem with nuns is the same problem with priests and archbishops: a heightened sense of entitlement that discourages any sense of transparency or accountability, and the lack of any procedures to redress legitimate, moral grievances. Those who receive excessive deference will behave as if they deserve it…which means that they’ll behave as if they really are above the people they claim to serve.

    This isn’t a “traditionalist” problem. This isn’t a “modernist” problem. This isn’t even a Catholic or a Christian problem. Just read any NT portrayal of the religious authorities in Christ’s day.

    Human nature doesn’t change much, even after 2,000 years….

  70. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Human nature never changes, which is why the Church will exist until the end of time.

    When I was a seminarian various nuns would lord their “enlightened” gender over us. I recall the sister who decried the “macho Church,” and many others who were nice to me as a person but who >>loathed<< the fact that I was preparing for ordination.

    It always struck me as strange that they derided the sacramental priesthood while craving it at the same time.

    I do not revel in the sins of their members or the sufferings of their victims. I am, however, glad their hypocrisy has seen the light of day.

  71. JulieC says:

    I think you’re correct, DHippolito, that this problem has to do with human nature and the perennial temptations of possessing power over others who are vulnerable. No doubt when traditional morality and structures were in play, those temptations are easier to recognize and curb with the frequent use of the sacraments.

    After the Council, when everyone was liberated from the traditional morality and a more structured spiritual and liturgical life, those temptations were much more difficult to control.

    That being said, I do believe that the way women religious were treated before the Council was in many cases, unduly repressive. In many situations, sisters in schools, hospitals and parishes were treated like second-class citizens. In our own diocese, for example, the Dominican nuns, before the Council, were required to teach in the schools during the year, and they spent their summers cleaning the seminary from top to bottom, with hardly a break in between.

    I know this is a holy cow, but their traditional habits, as lovely as they seemed, must have been incredibly confining. Modifications were long overdue.

    If more attention had been given to improving conditions for the Sisters before the Vatican Council, I really wonder if there would have been such a huge feminist revolution among the nuns after the Council. There has to have been a very good reason why they all left. Revolutions aren’t always unjustified.

    One thing is certain: the Church has suffered greatly from the mass exodus of Sisters after the Council. In some ways, their leaving is what caused the collapse of the Catholic schools, the Catholic hospitals, and may have even been responsible for our modern dysfunctional parishes where lay people run everything and the poor priests basically hide themselves away in the rectory.

    I’ve often wondered how different things would be in the Church if the Sisters were still a familiar, visible presence in our communities and neighborhoods.

    That’s just my take on it, of course.

  72. TJerome says:

    “I know this is a holy cow, but their traditional habits, as lovely as they seemed, must have been incredibly confining. Modifications were long overdue”

    JulieC, except that, new orders of traditional nuns have opted for traditional habits.

  73. JulieC says:

    I’m actually speaking of slight modifications of the traditional habit. I’m not talking about nuns who wear their habits as a pin on the lapel of their power suit!

    The contemplative orders, like the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, may still wear the original habits, but other orders who are out in the world are opting for slightly modified habits like the Sisters of Life and the Dominicans of Nashville.

    If you’ve never seen them, these Sisters have a long habit but with a much simpler veil without the wimple and stiff starched collars of yore. They even have a LITTLE bit of hair showing which I personally consider a lovely touch.

    Compare, if you will, these two pictures:
    Sisters of Life:

    Sisters of St. Joseph (before Vatican Council II)

    The habit adopted by the Sisters of Life is a splendid example of taking the traditional habit and adding some common sense modifications. However, as you can see in the photo of the Sisters of St. Joseph, that was a no-nonsense habit and must have been quite confining and uncomfortable. No doubt those Sisters did their penance and saved many souls, but was it really necessary for them to endure such mortification, especially those who worked in schools and hospitals?

    I still maintain some reasonable adjustments were long overdue for women religious.

  74. catholicmidwest says:

    “Let’s just assume that what is asserted about why men who become abusers go into the priesthood and religious life is equally true about women who become abusers go into religious life.”

    I absolutely agree. What better place for a woman with odd fascinations about children than in a habit, teaching in a school full of children, with the protection that cultural ideas about nuns would provide? It’s the very same setup priests had, except even more secure.

    Stephen Hand,
    Don’t you realize that many married people are capable of acts of perversion, and marriage offers them a cover? Homosexual behavior is a definition, not a thought. Having sex with someone of the same sex is the quintessential homosexual act, whether you wear funny clothes and talk with a falsetto or not.

  75. catholicmidwest says:

    I’m not really sure I know what sisters do anymore. Why do we still have them????

  76. Supertradmum says:

    Dear catholicmidwest,

    If we had sisters of old, in good trad orders, our hospitals would be truly Catholic and not compromising with contraception and abortions, our schools would be truly Catholic and also, not going bankrupt, our girls would have beautiful examples of celibacy and brides of Christ, who serve the Church, etc.

    Thankfully, such as the great order in Ann Arbor, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist and the Sisters of Life, as well as Mother Teresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity, among many others, we have these examples.

  77. JulieC says:


    I’m old enough to remember a few traditional nuns who were a wonderful influence on me as a child. One was a retired Dominican teaching sister, Sr. Virgilius, who taught us catechism.

    If traditional Sisters were still in the schools and parishes, I don’t think we’d be having such a deep crisis of faith. Not only could they have kept the Catholic school and hospital systems intact, but I really believe they were a great help in keeping parish life vibrant and healthy.

    If you think of the typical parish now, there are a few priests with lay people running everything. There is no counter-balancing feminine spiritual influence. It’s like having a single-parent family where Dad is in charge. The priests, for the most part, have done a very credible job trying to hold things together, but the Sisters are a vital missing ingredient. They were the glue that kept the parishes together and nurtured and encouraged the people, like spiritual mothers.

    I think the Church has suffered terribly from their loss.

  78. catholicmidwest says:

    Actually, Julie, that’s the point of Fr. Z’s original post. Not all “women” are people you want nurturing anybody. Some of the sisters, it turned out, were perverts.

  79. catholicmidwest says:

    I still don’t understand what most sisters do. They don’t teach children or nurse patients nowdays, for the most part. And in the interim, the whole structure of the teaching & nursing professions, in and out of the Catholic church, has changed. Perhaps you’re not aware of it, but young nuns weren’t very well trained for the classroom or hospital room in the old days; they just threw them in there. Some of them–more than anyone wants to admit–weren’t very good at all at these things. No one can get away with that now, not even religious orders. I’m not sure there’s a place for many sisters in these professions anymore.

    I have no idea what many existing sisters do, other than basically live on a legacy and take up space. The only sisters I ever come into contact with anymore deserve to be avoided like the plague. We have an aging motherhouse here, and many of the sisters affiliated with it here are raving dissidents.

    [Perhaps a very small exception to my question “what do they do” exists for those who are in the few orders with a solely contemplative charism–we really need them to pray for us in a disciplined way. But those few are seldom seen in public, and at any rate form a minority of all the sisters there are.]

  80. Jerry says:

    re: Stephen Hand – “so celibacy is not the problem because married people molest children in similar numbers? Then how is it possible to claim that this is a homosexual problem? Sounds like you’re trying to have your cake and eat it too, Father, or did I miss that post?”

    The vast majority of minors abused by priests were male, as were the priests (obviously). These, then, would be homosexual acts, no?

  81. catholicmidwest says:


    Priestly sex abuse was about 80% priest on boy.

    Child sexual abuse by married individuals is largely man on girl.

    That’s how.

  82. catholicmidwest says:

    It’s very likely that part of the time (although I’m sure not all of the time), the very same thing that prevents a person from marrying also prevents them from abusing across gender lines.

    Catholics need to absolutely and strictly control who enters the priesthood and religious life. It must be absolutely ascertained why they enter the life and don’t choose to marry. Those who don’t exhibit complete unswerving devotion to religion and the hard work it entails should be turned away. Seminarians & postulates have got to be put to work, hard difficult well-supervised work, alongside their studies.

    I see this morning that there was a raid on an archbishop’s house in Holland this morning by the police, and they cited a child abuse investigation. This is bold, and according to the pope, even worse than what went on during communist occupation in eastern Europe. The pope is decrying it as an abuse, and right he should.

    But I will tell you this: The church is in for a lot of the same and the general population will back the police–here, in Ireland, in Belgium, in Germany and in a lot of places. We are no longer believed on this topic. It’s our own fault too. The church has been completely negligent every single step of the way. We allowed homosexuals and lesbians into orders, and then when they acted out, we protected them. We still protect them. There are many of them still speaking from pulpits and convents. Some of them are bishops. There are many of them still on the payroll. It has to end. If they can’t shut the hell up and strictly behave to the letter, then they need to go. Or the church will pay and pay and pay.

    The church has dragged its feet for many years about taking care of its internal problems, apparently hoping they’ll just go away if they ignore them. As a result, there are at least 10 enormous seething crises that are in progress. The child abuse thing is just one of them. I’ve been saying for many years that it’s always true that when you owe, you pay now or you pay later. If you pay later, you pay more. It looks like the church has decided to pay later on every one of these crises. But it has to stop somewhere. These crises are not going to just go away. They’re not. They must be addressed and dealt with.

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