Women Religious Not Mentioned in U.S. Bishops’ Policies

Click here to read: “Judge: Sisters need to investigate abuse allegations,” by Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, August 9, 2013


“The files from the orders of women religious concerned two sisters who are deceased. The files did not mention sexual abuse or detail any accusations against the sisters. Although the files do not indicate reports against the sisters, they are believed to be the first released in the Los Angeles cases concerning sisters or nuns.

Their release, Merz said, highlights the fact that women religious are not specifically mentioned in the procedures adopted by the U.S. bishops since 2002 to deal with accusations of abuse against clergy.

While 194 of 195 of U.S. dioceses have agreed to abide by the policies set in place in 2002 in the bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, those procedures, Merz said, do not address sisters “at all.”

11 thoughts on “Women Religious Not Mentioned in U.S. Bishops’ Policies

  1. Well I just hope the hierarachy doesn’t decide to make the nuns the scapegoat. Knowing their mindset, that’s a great diversion from” their holy priests who can do no wrong”. The nuns will be the temptress’s to lure the unsuspecting.
    I couldn’t bring up the article, so I didn’t read it and this is just me thinking.

  2. “All the stones need to be turned over.” (Judge Merz)

    It would seem that some stones are harder to turn over than others. It’s as though the nuns have placed a spell on us. Wrapping our heads around sexual abuse in the hands of nuns and their silence in the face of knowledge about clerical abuse is difficult. Why? Why is it so hard for us to confront the role nuns played in the sexual abuse of children? What are your thoughts and insights on this?

    I think that the few posts this discussion has generated so far is testimony to the paralyzing effect nuns have on us when it comes to their role in the sexual abuse crisis.

    Sr. Maureen, can you offer a reflection on this?

    Thank you.

    Kate FitzGerald

    1. “Why is it so hard for us to confront the role nuns played in the sexual abuse of children?” (Kate)

      Kate, the whole sexual abuse issue is so specialized. I know something about priests abusing children because I lived among them. The only thing I know about Nun abuse is that during a 4th grade Catechism class a nun pulled my ear so hard I still remember hearing it crack. I’m lucky I don’t have a cauliflower ear.

      I simply don’t have enough knowledge to give an intelligent opinion on the role nuns played in the abuse of children.

      That being said, I like going for the “head of the snake,” the Bishops. Get them and the whole house of crime comes down.

      1. drwho13, what I know about nuns and my experiences with nuns are two different things. What I know about nuns is that, were they permitted, they would use their brains, brawn, and gospel values to bring the Church into the 21st century. But my experiences with nuns in the 12 years I attended Catholic schools (50’s and 60’s) were distinctly mean, punitive, fear-inducing, threatening, and riddled with incidences that were physically and emotionally inhumane and cruel. I know this may not be the truth for others educated by the nuns and in other decades. But it’s my truth and the truth of my 13 brothers and sisters all of whom attended Catholic schools and Catholic prep/boarding schools. Pondering what I know about nuns and recalling my experiences with nuns has always made me feel torn, split, divided, unsure, vacillating…

        Kate FitzGerald

        1. Thanks Kate. Now I know why my parents threatened me with Catholic school if I didn’t shape-up!

        2. I grew up in Catholic schools in the same time frame. I had IHM sisters and yes there were a couple of older ones that did not spare the rod and spent serious time sharpening their tongues. What was almost universal though was the fear all us children had of any of the sisters calling our parents. They were always right, we were always wrong, and punishment at home, usually worse, was the rule of the day.

          When it comes to sexual abuse by nuns, the learning curve is blocked because of the gender stereotyping inherent in Catholic theology about sex and women’s gender roles, and the fact women actually do abuse far less than men. The additional problem is too many people still refuse to see sexual abuse as a power/authority issue rather than an issue of sexual deviancy. This will all change but it’s going to take a lot more time.

        3. Kate: I too went to Catholic Schools in the fifties and sixties. I was taught by nuns and lay teachers in grammar school. After that , I was taught by priests and male lay teachers. The nuns that I was taught by ran the gamut of being mean and cruel to being extremely caring women. The priests who taught me were much the same. I have mentioned this before. The first person I went to for help after the abuse was the nun who taught me in sixth and seventh grade.Unfortunately, she wasn’t in the convent that weekend. As a child when I asked to do something with my friends, when my parents said no, I would ask why. The standard answer was: “Because I said so”. I believe that this was the way nuns have been treated then and now. It amazes me that women have made great strides in society. They are CEO’s of many of the largest companies in this country. In a few years we may have a female president. But the Catholic Church still treats women in that paternalistic, middle ages way. When anyone asks why ,the answer is the same that I received as a kid:”Because I said so.”

          1. Jim, long ago you posted how you first went to the convent to report your abuse to the “special” nun who taught you in sixth and seventh grade and how she was not there. I did not forget that. It made a huge impression on me. Many times I have thought about it. Many times I have tried to put myself in your young shoes in order to feel what you must have felt– hurt, devastated, alone, scared, confused, abandoned. Those, and/or others, are feelings that no child should ever, ever, have to experience. I am so sorry about what happened to you, Jim.

            Kate FitzGerald

        4. I went to school in the 70s and 80s 16 yrs of catholic school. For the most part the nuns I had were very kind they really cared about their students. I was very lucky in my high school years to have gone to Archbishop Prendergast High School those were some of the best years in my life. Sad thing is there were predator priests there at the same time but good thing was we did not have much contact with them they didn’t teach mostly just said mass.

  3. One time in 8th grade a nun was teaching us about the Church. Among the things she said was: “The Church is where we all rest in the palm of God’s hand.” The implications were numerous and lofty. We all felt warm and fuzzy.

    Were that incident to occur today, I would raise my hand and inform “Sister” that the Church is being investigated by the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child AND, most recently, by the UN Convention Against Torture.

    “Sister, are you sure the Church is at all like or close to the palm of God’s hand? Get a grip. Maybe the Church is more like the fist of God’s hand.” (There goes my grade in religion.)


    Kate FitzGerald

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