Abuse Survivors Group Seeks Meeting with Nuns

By Doug Gross
The Associated Press, carried in Macon Telegraph
August 17, 2006

ATLANTA - A group whose members say they have suffered abuse at the hands of priests and nuns is asking a national association of Catholic sisters to let them address the group and to cast more light on what they call an underreported problem - sexual abuse by nuns.

Members of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests protested briefly Thursday outside the Hyatt Regency Atlanta hotel, where the Leadership Conference of Women Religious is holding its annual assembly.

The network wants a chance to speak to the roughly 800 nuns attending the six-day assembly and for the conference to do more to find and help those who have been sexually abused by nuns.

Mary Guentner, of Milwaukee, says she was sexually abused by a nun who was her teacher at a Catholic high school.

While sexual abuse cases involving priests have made headlines throughout the world during the past decade, she said, cases involving nuns have remained lower-profile and are more likely to be swept under the rug by church officials.

"If there's anybody in the world you would least expect, it's a Catholic nun," she said. "Our concern is that the orders have done nothing; they've really been able to hide behind all the publicity about priests."

SNAP members say they are aware of more than 400 cases of abuse by nuns in the U.S. and estimate that thousands more have gone unreported.

In a written statement, the LCWR's officers said they share the group's concern for abuse victims and desire to prevent future abuse. But they said their assembly is not the proper place to address the issue.

"Persons with grievances involving allegations of sexual misconduct by a woman religious need to approach the individual religious congregation involved," the statement says. "We believe that it is at this level that true healing can begin."

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious is a church-approved, Catholic organization designed as a support network for nuns in the United States.

The group's roughly 1,000 members are the leaders of their religious orders. There are about 73,000 nuns in the U.S., according to the group.

Conference officers met privately with SNAP members at their assembly three years ago, said conference spokeswoman Annmarie Sanders.

The conference runs ongoing education programs on sexual abuse, worked with Georgetown University on a survey of prevention policies at U.S. orders, and works with health care and legal groups to help member congregations improve their anti-sex abuse activities, the statement says.

David Clohessy, director of the survivors network, said that's not enough, saying the association's policies amount to "sitting back and hoping the phone doesn't ring."

"Jesus didn't sit around and craft policies and procedures," he said. "He actively went out to the people who were hurting and helped them."


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