Activist Sr. Maureen Turlish Dies

You’re a bold and brazen article. Back in the day, an Irish nun might shame a defiant student with this derogatory phrase. Today, I honor a nun with it. Sister Maureen Paul Turlish was a bold and brazen article for all the right reasons. The Sister of Notre de Namur was a rebel with a cause. She tirelessly advocated for victims of clergy sex abuse and the misled faithful.

Sr. Maureen died on July 18th in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In remembering her today, Kathy and I couldn’t help but laugh. Sr. Maureen was hilarious. Not what one expects when dealing with the horrific and tragic. Her humor was dark, honest and clever. It honored the victims. She was a pistol aimed at clericalism.

Sr. Maureen helped found the National Survivor Advocates Coalition and served on the board of directors for the Delaware Association for Children of Alcoholics and on the steering committee for Philadelphia’s Voice of the Faithful and Catholic WhistleBlowers.


A member of the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, she spoke before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees in support of the 2007 Delaware Child Victims Law which removed all statutes of limitation covering the sexual abuse of children and provided a two-year civil window which remains open for previously time-barred cases. She wanted the same for Pennsylvanians and spoke in Harrisburg.

Her articles on the subject appeared in secular and religious publications and she spoke at national conferences. Sister Maureen was frequently interviewed on radio and tv.

Sr. Maureen leaves a legacy of changed lives, including my own. I know that C4C followers will carry on the fight to protect children and the Church.

Click to read her editorial on the Diocese of Altoona-Johnston. We are sure to learn more if/when the PA Grand Jury Report is released.  “It’s time for diocese to put victims first,” The Tribune-Democrat, March 21, 2017

“Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I, and you are you. Whatever we were to each other that we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone, wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.

Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was,
let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was; there is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.

All is well.”

24 thoughts on “Activist Sr. Maureen Turlish Dies

  1. Another favorite line from the Sisters who taught me was “you lazy lump of protoplasm”. How those words stay with you forever!

  2. It is so sad to hear that Sr. Maureen is gone. I’m sure that she is storming heaven to have the victims avenged. I remember many trips to Harrisburg and the weekly vigils at the cathedral. Those vigils may not have made any big changes but it surely pissed off the hierarchy.
    I hope Sr. Maureen is enjoying her well-=deserved rest.
    Nancy Mortimer O’Brien VOICE of THE Faithful, 501 N. Bethlehem Pike, Apt. J13, Ambler, PA 19002

  3. I wish no harm or her or anyone. But her story is deeper than this. She had a tremendous chance to represent the hurt that those of us who were abused by nuns received. She adamantly refused to take on the nun abusers. She knew it happened and that it was happening and she refused to say anything. It would weaken her case against the bishops and priests I suppose. No, she was a spokesperson for those abused by priests, bishops and brothers. For those abused by nuns she stood silent. She said nothing, I cannot forget that. She was a strong feminist with a hidden agenda and she used the pain and suffering imposed on children by priests and bishops to further her feminist agenda. I am sorry, but that is how I see it. She let many of us down when she refused to acknowledge abuse of children at the hands of nuns and other women in the church. No, it is not as simple as this is being portrayed.

    1. She was a spokesperson for “all” those sexually abused. She stood with us in Minnesota when we fought for “all” victims of sexual abuse. Bob Schwiderski

      1. Unfortunately I cannot say that this was my experience with her. She was most definitely solace for some, maybe even most survivors. But I did not experience her as representing all of us. Children abused by nuns in the Catholic School system I attended were not defended by her that I could see although I asked her publicly to do so on several occasions. She was too hooked into the power infrastructure of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious to take such a stand. I wish her no harm, she did a lot of good but she most definitely did not represent all of those abused by nuns.

  4. Thomas I am sorry that was your experience. I can tell you that Sr Maureen was the person who informed us of the issue of sexual abuse by nuns against younger nuns/noviates, I didn’t see her as someone who stayed silent on abuse by nuns. Also the SOL reform she advocated for in various states would have helped victims abused by priests,nuns,rabbis..ministers….
    Everyone has different experiences with people and our experience with Sr Maureen did not include any feminist agenda using children/victims as pawns. Sr Maureen also assisted/advocated with people abused outside of the Church with nothing to do with priests or hierarchy. When we were with Sr Maureen it was victims and children 24/7 ,with no talk of any other issues in the Church. I appreciate your comment and just wanted to share our experience also.

  5. I am deeply saddened by the loss of Sister Maureen. I met her for the first time nine years ago and for the next eight years at SNAP conventions where I represented NYC Atheists, Inc. She was always very friendly and respectful to me and I enjoyed the few chats we had. I made an attempt to interview her for NYC Atheists’ public access cable TV show, but due to equipment failure, it didn’t happen. My purpose in being there was not to promote an “atheist agenda,” but to allow survivors and their supporters to tell their stories to an audience they might otherwise not have reached. Sister Maureen was to be my only exception because I knew my regular viewers and others would have been interested (if not fascinated) with her philosophical, theological, and spiritual point of view in the face of such monstrous abuse. It would have also illustrated how it is possible for people of fundamentally different points of view can support a cause for the greater good. Alas, it was never to be.

    We are all poorer for her loss yet richer for her contribution to human decency and compassion. My deepest condolences to her friends, family, and the great people at SNAP whose lives she affected in such a positive way.

    I will miss her.

  6. There have been a precious few Catholics who have consistently stood up and stood by the victims of clerics. Sister Maureen was a notable and much appreciated exception. She did her best to live by her theological beliefs and I will be forever grateful for her contribution to seeking justice and truth for those harmed by the Catholic Church.

  7. I have been on enough vigils with Sister Maureen that we were on a first name basis and was very very sad to hear of her passing. She was always very kind to me but she was tough when she needed to be. I have never experienced abuse by nuns I loved the nuns that taught me but I have cousins that were hit with rulers and I know of a friend that was put in a trash can because he had ADHD and the nun was trying to teach him a lesson. His mom pulled him out of catholic school and complained to the Archbishop in NJ. That being said we are all flawed and do the best we can with where we are at with what we can handle. I also understand that its not the nuns blocking justice and helping to protect child molesters on a state level by paying lobbyists millions of dollars but it is the archdioceses around the country doing this. I was reading a quote from Sister Maureen saying a part of her died when she learned of the cover up and blocking of laws to protect children by the AD’s. I had the same experience dealing with my former spouse’s abuser. Part of me died. I will never be the same. The same happened when I learned the church I loved allowed the abuse of so many children. It breaks your heart. What you do with that heart break I believe defines your character and Sister never gave up. For that I will always admire her.

  8. Just clarifying I am not condoning abuse above but just saying we all have our limitations on what we can handle. Many advocates get burnt out and have to take breaks because child abuse is such an emotional issue for so many.

  9. Oh, what a deep and heart-felt loss. Sr. Maureen was my hero. She was a courageous woman and catholic who spoke and stood up for our children. Her presence will always stand out in my mind and heart — vigils, conventions, conversations, letter writing, Harrisburg. I could go on and on. Let’s keep her advocacy alive and up front. It is a wonderful way to honor her spirit. Thank you, Sister Maureen with all my heart.

    Catherine Spoerl
    Mother of an abuse victim, JIm Spoerl (died March 30, 2016)

  10. I only met Sister Maureen once or twice at different rallies in Philadelphia and Harrisburg.She was always upbeat,determined and strong in her efforts on behalf of victims. We will all miss her strength and actions on behalf of victims of clergy abuse. There are many of us who were too damaged by the abuse to find our voice. Sister Maureen was our voice. For that, I will be etenally grateful.

  11. Last Sunday, after receiving an email about Sister Maureen’s death, I offered a prayer for Sister Maureen and SA victims at Mass in a chapel that I often visit on Sunday. At the same time, in my home parish, my fellow parishioners were being informed at Sunday Masses that one of the clergy on staff at the parish had an allegation of abuse and was removed from the parish. So glad I wasn’t there. I would have had to walk out again. This priest was very well-loved and regarded. I can’t imagine how much hurt is involved..

    Lets get this 800-900 page Grand Jury Report out to the people.ASAP. Let’s change the laws in PA to be like Sister Maureen advocated for victims to change in Delaware.

    The bishops and ecclesial church need to get their “thinking caps” on.. make a real plan to restorative justice and to stop hurting the victims (their families and friends) and people in the pews.

  12. Dear Miss Matthews,

    Has our shepherd, Bishop Chaput, made any statement about the Cardinal McCarrick scandal? Perhaps he did and I missed it. On another note, I don’t know why Pope John Paul II was canonized so quickly. He made McCarrick a cardinal when everyone knew he was a predator. The Pope also knew about other abuses in the church. He brought Cardinal Law of Boston to Rome and gave him a prestigious job in the Vatican, all to protect him from the authorities in Boston.

    Thank you for reading this email and I look forward to reading your writings.


    Theresa Kumor

  13. I was wondering the same thing and on saw they just posted articles from other authors about McCarrick. I also read an article online about John Paul 2 and it said towards the end of his life with his illness others in his close circle might have tried to shield John Paul from all the facts and my question is who was calling all the shots towards the end of John Paul’s life if he wasn’t ? But for many years before his decline John Paul was in charge and the question is what did he know ?

  14. It seems Archbishop Chaput has been very quiet on the present scandal. He did make a statement on fb according to a article I just read.

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