CBS News January 2, 2019, 7:38 AM
“The secret not yet told”: Women describe alleged abuse by nuns.
Catholic bishops from across the U.S. are gathering Wednesday for a weeklong retreat on the clergy sex abuse crisis at a seminary near Chicago. Organizers said the retreat, which was requested by Pope Francis, will focus on prayer and spiritual reflection and not policy-making.
The gathering comes as CBS News has also learned of several cases involving nuns accused of sexual misconduct. The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests – or SNAP – said it doesn’t keep count of sexual abuse allegations, but CBS News’ Nikki Battiste has spoken with several women who recently reported misconduct, ranging from forceful kissing to molestation, all carried out by nuns.
When Trish Cahill was 15 years old she said she confided in Sister Eileen Shaw at a convent in New Jersey. Cahill said she told Shaw things she’d never revealed to anyone about her now-deceased uncle – a priest – whom she claims sexually abused her, starting at age five.
“I would have done anything for her. I would have died for her,” Cahill said. “She gave me everything that was lacking that I didn’t even know I was lacking. I was so broken. She filled in all those pieces.”
She now describes that process as “grooming,” saying Shaw plied her with drugs and alcohol while teaching her how to have sex with a woman.
“I’m with my friends during the day. And I’m with this pedophile nun on the evenings and on the weekends, and in the summer,” Cahill said.
The Catholic Church has been plagued with high-profile abuse scandals but “pedophile nun” is a phrase many people have probably never heard before.
“That’s really a shame. Because there’s a lot of them out there … it’s the secret not yet told,” Cahill said.
Mary Dispenza is trying to change that.
“The demands of chastity and celibacy are unrealistic demands for many of us,” Dispenza said.
Dispenza, a former nun from another congregation, remembers what happened when a superior summoned her to her room.
“I knelt down right next to her and she kissed me all over softly, my face … and I want to say, ‘Oh but it wasn’t bad,’ but it was. And I’ve carried it with me until today,” Dispenza said.
Through her work with SNAP she said she would occasionally hear about abuse or cover-ups by nuns but since the publication of a grand jury report identified hundreds of pedophile priests in Pennsylvania, at least 18 people have contacted her to share stories of abuse by religious sisters.
Asked why we haven’t heard much about abuse by nuns until recently, Dispenza said, “A lot has to do with the culture of nuns which are, they are very, very private by nature.”
Cahill reported her abuse to the sisters of charity of St. Elizabeth in 1994. The congregation paid her a $70,000 out-of-court settlement.
“They had canon lawyers on retainer just for people like me. Shut her up, pacify her, tell her you love her and you’ll pray for her, and send her on her way,” Cahill said.
In a statement, the congregation told CBS News, “The case was investigated immediately when it was reported in 1994 and a settlement was reached that was mutually agreed on by all parties. We believe that the Sisters of Charity acted in a responsible manner.”
We reached out to Sister Eileen Shaw who Cahill said she continued to see for years as an adult. She hung up on Battiste.
The Sisters of Charity removed her from her role as a grade school principal but reports she remains a nun. They’re providing her with food and housing while restricting her from outside ministry. In the meantime, Cahill said the settlement she signed wasn’t enough to help her deal with a lifetime of trauma. But she hopes that her voice can help prevent this from happening again.
“That this is the beginning of many, many times more that I get to speak and I get to educate, and I get to, possibly, prevent this from happening to anyone ever again,” Cahill said.
Cahill said she believes other nuns had to have known what was going on with her. She’s struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, along with alcohol and drug addiction that she said began with her abuse. The Sisters of Charity said they’re willing to meet with her to address her continuing concerns.
Many of us believe, rightly or wrongly, that there are more male than female paedophiles in the world?
I have met many victims of male paedophiles. I have only met one victim of a female paedophile.
He was about 10 at the time and a neighbour – a married woman – used to sexually abuse him in her kitchen.
It has had a long lasting affect on him. He is in his early 30s now.
I attended a nuns primary school from the age of four. I never witnessed sexual abuse – but I did witness regular psychological and physical abuse perpetrated by the nuns. They seemed to really enjoy beating children up.
I think that many of them were sexually frustrated and children reminded them of what they would never have.
I’m sure there are many cases out in the world of nuns sexually abusing children.
46 replies on “PAEDOPHILE NUNS”
Of course there were female religious abusers. I went to an all lay school for 3 years in the 70’s and some of the abuse – physically, mentally and emotionally was horrendous at times, including from female teachers. I then went to a boarding school for 3 years and never encountered any abusing religious. Ever but some lay staff, including women were very tough in approach. Stories of such abuse by lay teachers have yet to surface. Saying this is not to minimise the damage done to any person by a female religious abuser. Any abuse inflicted on any person is morally reprehensible and deserves condemnation, irrespective of the background or profession of perpetrator. If we read the history of female religious orders in the USA, generally their contribution has been and is very significant in health care, education, mission outreach, empowerment of women through education, political activism and self development. Many female religious orders are leaders in climate change action groups, liberating the poor out of their poverty, providing drug rehabilitation programmes, social activism on behalf of homeless and vulnerable people. Many religious are high achievers and have equally produced very highly qualified and respected leaders. It would be sad if their work is overshadowed by the abuse some may have inflicted on others. But all victims/survivors must be given justice, truth and support.
A lot of the activities you describe eg political activism, campaigning on climate change are lay vocations, nothing to do with their founder’s vision and intent and it’s no wonder they lack vocations.
Spot on! Since the sixties, especially in the USA, a lot of “feminists” with superficial, leftie causes have been attracted to what is meant to be a religious life. They threw off wearing anything, including crucifixes, which might denote a religious aspect to their “mission” and used others’ money to indulge their pet hobbie horses. Many groups are just ngo’s – except probably easier to get into! They use the title of ‘sister’ to legitimise their overt political campaigning. They are not concerned with eternal things but their own personal agendas. Venezueala how are you!
12.31: You obviously haven’t a clue about the connection between caring for the earth and climate change and the leadership which religious women particularly give: you obviously haven’t read anything about the role of religious women in the USA in promoting opportunities and equality for women: you are ignorantly unaware of the role of religious women in fighting against human trafficking, poverty, homelessness and injustices right across the world. The orders founded in the previous centuries may lack vocations: that’s part of the evolution of religious organisations. They change. Would be interesting to know how many vocations your Diocese has or how many you may have inspired!!!
@2.59 Typical. When we are formed correctly towards Christ and the values of Almighty God, as a CONSEQUENCE of that we automatically treat the World and other people in a proper manner. Going off on tangents about female rights including access to abortion, climate change, unrestricted immigration etc while wearing a pussy hat is not what the Church’s mission is. We are to be transformed INDIVIDUALLY from within and our behaviours change as a consequence of that. Telling people that they are hard done by and that the world has to change but not them is not bringing them good news.
Nun run schools in the USA no longer teach the gospel. Nuns there are mere social and political activists, and I do mean ‘mere.’
You display a very poor theology of baptism and an even poorer one of religious life.
@ 12.31 the deficiency is on your side. If you think Christ came to usher in a political system or a worldly utopia or a hippie commune then you debase His sacrifice. Poor catechism. You are putting the cart before the horse. Any chance of a rebate on your own theology classes? “Nuns on a bus”, ” Vote for Hillary”, “Open borders” – putting your faith in clay idols I’m afraid. A load of SJWs – and all would wet themselves rather than fearlessly proclaim Jesus Christ as full God and full man – goodness, someone might be offended; and that would never do. Compromised mush. Fix your pussy hat, it’s gone crooked.
Last comment was for Five forty one.
US-religious style, right-wing expressions of faith and belief like yours don’t make much sense and are irrelevant in this part of the world.
And how do you know this, ‘Northern Curate’?
My sister was taught by nuns and regularly tells of their wickedness and beatings? Why was it that men and women in religious orders felt that they had a right to beat children ? I remember being afraid to tell my parents when I was beaten by Christian brothers for fear that my parents would not believe me. They had been conditioned to believe that anyone wearing a dog collar or a habit were God’s chosen ones and were incapable of carrying out any evil deed. Nuns and priests, Christian brothers possessed great power over us and knew how to abuse it. Looking back it’s easy to see just how much control they had over Ireland. Their power had been given to them by the state and they had zero fear of retribution. What is shocking is that they totally abandoned Christ to embrace this power and they carried out systematic abuse of all kinds. Normal Sexual desires are a common amongst all men and women. For the Vatican to deny their clergy the right to marry is neither scriptural nor is it healthy. However this can never be used as a reason for the sexual abuse carried out by clerics. It takes a really screwed up sicko to abuse anyone let alone a minor. It is telling, though, that the RC church has attracted a disproportionate number of abusers into its ministry. I can only deduce that this is because (a) they have access to young people and (b) they feel secure within this organisation to carry out their abuse without recourse to civil law. These people, many of whom remain in ministry, are not followers of Christ but a band of abusers protected by a corrupt church. If the RC church has any hope of survival (which I doubt) it must give up its abusers, its cover up merchants and it’s enablers.
1.55: I went to schools staffed by lay people, both primary and secondary in the 60’s/70′ and the physical abuse by some teachers, including women, was horrendous. You could never tell your parents because they would have agreed it was deserved. I loved study and education but it was marked by memories of physical and emotional abuse at times. My sisters went to a convent school and they have good memories of the nuns who taught them. Yes, some were strict, like lay staff but they received a good education out of which they gained worthwhile professions. We must remember that physical punishment was the norm in the 50’s/60’s and 70’s. Very wrong but it was approved. All abuse in any era is totally unacceptable and can never be justified.
Likewise. I attended a lay, all girls primary in the sixties and an all girls secondary led by nuns in the seventies. The physical and psychological abuse was from the lay female primary teachers. No physical chastisement whatsoever in the nun-led school. The nuns were the mildest mannered teachers of all.
Clerical celibacy is Scriptural. I suggest that you read what Jesus said on the question.
Clerical celibacy most certainly is not scriptural. Provide your sources.
Really? Clerical celibacy is scriptural? Chapter and verse! ‘Clerical’ in the sense you mean it (bishop, priest, deacon) is a post-biblical category.
The Pastoral Letters speak of an episkopos as ideally being the husband of (only) one wife.
I imagine parents knew full well what went on, but they were (completely) powerless to do anything about it. All they could do, was hope for the best. (I am not Irish or Catholic but the same thing happened to me in 1950s primary school.)
You are absolutely correct.
Pat, thank you for publishing this. It is no right that the gender biased erception continues. Perhaps I might add the oservation that in child abuse responses it is all too often that religious sisters are appointed to investigate. The bishops use them to present an image of an independent investigator. In truth they are best placed to cover up for their own kind.
In my life I have had to deal with Sr. Colette Stephenson and Sr. Breege O’Neill. Neither seemed focused on justice or truth. Both were willing to disregard evidence without viewing it and both were will to ignore the need to contact witnesses… all process gaps where such gaps might help the church cover up abuse.
I’m sure women can be just as mixed up as what men can. Is there something in church society that tends to bring adverse sexual tendencies to the surface hi
Sexual abuse by women happens of course.
I was sexually abused as a six year old boy by a woman. She was our childminder. She also physically abused me.
She was nothing to do with the Church at all. She (the childminder) had no religious affiliation whatsoever.
She was just a crazy cruel bitch who got pleasure from the bodies of little boys.
Some nuns too were crazy cruel bitches. Many others were/are very kind and do/did great good.
Human nature, males and female, let’s face it, is pretty screwed up. Some women need no lessons from men when it comes to abuse and exploitation.
Consider for a moment the horrendous misscarriage of justice suffered by Nora Wall, formerly Sr Dominic of the Sisters of Mercy. The jury in her trial was biased against her following hostile media coverage. Rather like the Cardinal Pell case.
The lay teachers in my primary school in Fermanagh in the 1970s were, in most cases, physically and psycholigically brutal to pupils. We also had Mercy sisters and Presentation brothers and the pupils much preferred to be in their classes. Some of the sisters were especially kind.
These trajic stories will not be repeated because the Mercy sisters etc have renewed themselves out of existence.
Apart from the traddy orders, which strongly attract the young, convents are basically old folks homes, where sisters are in lay clothes in genteel retirement. There are no more teaching nuns.
I remember reading in the Furrow an article by a Faithless Companion of Jesus nun (in her seventies lol) who said that the nuns were the only part of the Irish church to fully implement Vat II.
That went well, didn’t it? I was in Maynooth at the time and remember thinking “thanks for the controlled experiment, sisters!”
I was taught by Nuns in the 1980s/90s …. lovely people: kind and caring. I wonder was my experience rare tho? So many stories of nastiness and horror. I wonder am I one of the lucky ones or is this the majority experience?
In the 1950s some nuns were terrible. My brother who was just 4 was caned for fidgeting. One little girl was twiddling with her plait as she worked and the nun came over and cut it off. I have met some very impressive, intelligent, gentle nuns since then. Carmelites nuns just beam good will at one and all. Yes you can be lucky or unlucky.
All these problems will persist and reform is dead unless it begins with the Pope himself. Among others, we’ve had Bishop Barros, Fr Inzoli, Mgr Ricca (about whom this permissive Pope said “who am I to judge”), McCarrick and liar Wuerl.
A fresh skeleton in the papal cupboard emerges in the shape of Bishop Zanchetta, a Francis crony and his very first episcopal appointment. Francis gave him a plum Vatican job and diplomatic immunity and now he’s accussed of the usual.
Too bad at 3:51.
Francis is here to stay. May God preserve him and enlighten and forgive you.
Sound Vatican teaching on the biblical basis of clerical celibacy:
Magna’s joined us. It must be chucking out time in the Kozy Club, lol.
Magna will of course provide an infallible exegisis and demonstrate how his is the only credible truth. Unless then, the truth is that it is precisely those who are uniquely “concerned about the affairs of the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:32), those to whom it has been given to “renounce marriage for the sake of the kingdom” (Matt. 19:12), who are ideally suited to follow in the footsteps of those who have “left everything” to follow Christ (cf. Matt. 19:27)—the calling of the clergy and consecrated religious.
Thus Paul warned Timothy, a young bishop, that those called to be “soldiers” of Christ must avoid “civilian pursuits”: “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier on service gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him” (2 Tim. 2:3–4). In light of Paul’s remarks in 1 Corinthians 7 about the advantages of celibacy, marriage and family clearly stand out in connection with these “civilian pursuits.”
An example of ministerial celibacy can also be seen in the Old Testament. The prophet Jeremiah, as part of his prophetic ministry, was forbidden to take a wife: “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place’” (Jer. 16:1–2). Of course, this is different from Catholic priestly celibacy, which is not divinely ordained; yet the divine precedent still supports the legitimacy of the human institution.
Are you also the poster at 11:49?
Nowhere in Scripture does God obligate his followers to be celibate.
Clerical celibacy, and celibacy among religious, is an obligation, not an option.
You did not provide one, single scriptural source to justify obligatory celibacy on Jesus’ followers, much less on those who are priests and religious.
Your post was a waste of your time, and, more importantly, a waste of mine. 😆
I forgot to add, you smug Roman Catholic clerical bastardo, that Mary herself was married to Joseph and in this wsy served God perfectly.
Show me an alleged, exclusively human priestly celibate who has done likewise. 😆
Magna is Bob on as usual. Love to meet him in person. Very few on here apart from Bishop P have any common sense or clue. Keep up the good work both 👍
Do you believe in Mary’s perpetual virginity?
5.20: Magna, you smug, arrogant, self righteous, miserable bastardo! You’re the most obnoxious commentator on this blog. Your abusive behaviour, always drink fuelled, is hate fillled, dangerous and totally unacceptable. Get some moral grip or compass to guide you.
Wasn’t Peter married?
Are you suggesting that Jesus was holding up the abandonment of family as a supreme way of honouring God? If you are, you are spiritually sick.
Nowhere in the Gospel does the God of love suggest such an unloving thing as family abandonment.
The words attributed to Jesus by the author of Matthew (not, incidentally, Matthew the Apostle) are more reasonably understood as an invitation (not an obligation) to put God first, even above family and friends. This is not a call to abandon them physically, or in any other way, but to do the right thing morally by God, even against others’ moral preferences. For example, if a family member steals something and asks you to help conceal it (as a member of my family did years ago), you should put God first and refuse…as I did…even if this brings opprobium down upon you.
6.28 I like Magna.
Is your post addressing me?
If it is, my answer is ‘yes’.
Poor exegesis. Where to start?
The blog has yet again been taken over by the truculent attention-seeker, just as the discussion was getting interesting.
Ah well, tomorrow’s another day. Arrivaderci until then.
You’re a sore loser. Not an attractive trait.