It is hard for many people to accept that women are also sexual abusers of children. And it's probably harder for some to realize that there are Catholic sisters who commit such heinous crimes. But we know of at least 1,000 cases recorded in this country which must be dealt with.
The most prominent organization of American nuns , the LCWR (Leadership Council of Women Religious) is in the spotlight right now because it is under investigation by the Vatican. Although the LCWR enjoys strong support from American Catholics in this struggle, there is an embarrassing problem for the nuns on another front: for over ten years, SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) members have asked to speak to their general assembly at LCWR's annual conference. These are victims of childhood sexual abuse by nuns. The survivors want to tell their stories and to offer preventive strategies to the religious orders. But, since 2003, LCWR has refused to allow this. No clear excuse is ever offered, beyond "This is not the venue. "
For details, I refer to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests:
"For at least eight years, victims of child-molesting nuns and members of SNAP have repeatedly urged America's largest organization of nuns to expose the truth about child sex crimes and cover ups by women religious. But the LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious) continues to essentially rebuff us and them.
Now more than ever, since they're being attacked by bishops like we have been (and are being), nuns should be sympathetic to our plight. It grieves us to have to keep prodding them to take long-overdue, simple steps to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded. But how can we do otherwise?"
Contact: Steve Thiesen, Iowa SNAP Director and SNAP Board Member
Selections from A SNAP chronology:
2002 - LCWR refuses to participate in USCCB’s “Policy for the Protection of Children”
August 24, 2002 - LCWR National Board issues statement on sexual abuse
June 12, 2004 - Nun survivors meet for the first time in Denver at SNAP Conferenc
July 13, 2004 - Hand-delivered to LCWR and USCCB from nun survivors regarding Plan of Hope, Respect, and Open Healing. Also requested nun survivors be allowed to speak at LCWR-CMSM Joint Assembly in Ft. Worth. To date, we received no answer from USCCB.
August 5, 2004 - Letter to LCWR from SNAP expressing dismay over their decision not to let us speak
August 9, 2004 - E-mail to National Review Board to intervene on our behalfAugust 13, 2004 - LCWR Press Release: Response of LCWR President Sister Constance Phelps, SCL saying we can’t speak in Ft. Worth
August 19 to 22, 2004 - Joint LCWR – CMSM Assembly in Ft. Worth, TX. Nun survivors attempt to attend event but are refused.
October 3, 2004 - Meeting with LCWR Leadership in Chicago
November 22, 2004 - LCWR letter to SNAP refusing to work with SNAP members who are survivors of sexual abuse committed by nuns and sisters
August 2, 2005 - Not allowed to speak at LCWR National Conference in Aneheim, CA; we are present – we delivered letter
August 17, 2006 - Not allowed to speak at LCWR National Conference in Atlanta, GA; we are present – we delivered letter
August 24, 2007 - LCWR contacts us to meet to talk but LCWR does not provide an agenda after numerous requests; Not allowed to speak at LCWR National Conference in Kansas City
September 19, 2007 - LCWR responds to SNAP, denying all five requests
August, 2008 - LCWR rebuffs us via letter; SNAP holds night-time vigil
October 9, 2008 - SNAP meets with Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious in St. Louis; requests are denied
February 23, 2009 - SNAP asks to speak at the LCWR conference in New Orleans
March 26, 2009 - LCWR denies all of SNAP's requests
August 11, 2009 - Not allowed to speak at LCWR Conference in New Orleans; we deliver letter
August 14, 2010 - Not allowed to speak at LCWR Conference in Dallas; we are present
August 16, 2011 - LCWR National Conference in Garden Grove. We are present
It appears that the sisters are heeding the same legal advice that American bishops have followed: they continue to deliberately ignore the victims and their horrifying stories. A pastoral approach offered with compassion, one expected of religious women, has been replaced by an arrogant dismissal. People who have always admired sisters are confused and disappointed.
We can, however, always expect miracles! Your support for the survivors can best be expressed by writing to LCWR's President, urging her to to re-visit the topic with love and compassion:
Sister Carol Zinn SSJ
8808 Cameron Street
Silver Spring MD 20910
Let's hope that this is the year that the LCWR's leadership .....
(A) reaches out to their supporters with an honest explanation of their hostility to the victims and a declaration of a change of heart, moving forward, and
(B) offers a warm invitation to the SNAP members who are victims of nun-abusers to speak to
the general assembly in August, 2014.