Iowa Abuse Victim Calling for Church Reform

By Shirley Ragsdale
Des Moines Register [Iowa]
August 17, 2006

An Iowa survivor of sexual abuse by a nun will take part in a news conference today calling for reforms to prevent abuse by clergy.

Steve Theisen of Hudson will participate in a SNAP press conference at 2:30 outside the Leadership Conference for Women Religious national assembly convening in Atlanta.

The Leadership Conference is a canonically approved organization that serves as a support system and corporate voice for leaders of orders of Catholic sisters in the United States. The conference has about 1,000 members who represent about 95 percent of the 73,000 women religious in the nation.

Theisen, Iowa director for the Survivors Network for those Abused by

Priests, will join six clergy abuse victims in the demonstration. Theisen's claim that he was sexually abused by a Dubuque area nun was found credible in a diocesan investigation, but was rejected by the sexual abuse committee of the Dubuque Archdiocese.

At the press conference he will be joined by others who allege they were molested by nuns, a former Catholic nun and SNAP national director David Clohessy.

At the news conference, six victims of sexual abuse by priests and sisters will:

• Discuss reforms they seek to prevent future clergy sex abuse.

• Try to hand deliver a letter to Leadership conference officials urging

them to let victims speak at the national meeting.

• Ask the conference to work harder to find and help men and women who have been sexually abused by nuns.

"They'll also prod anyone who experienced, witnessed or suspected abuse by nuns and other Catholic officials to come forward and get the help they need and deserve," Clohessy said. "We will encourage people to contact secular, not church officials."

The group is hearing from more and more abuse victims, according to Clohessy.

"Victims are concerned that, despite the considerable public attention given to priests' sex crimes and bishops' complicity, child sexual abuse by nuns remains largely hidden," Theisen said. "It is even more difficult for any victim of sexual abuse by a nun to come forward."


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