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January 19, 2011



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November 3, 2010

Quite frankly, now and again I run into a valid and worthy¬†article that’s reference on a website I don’t feel comfortable directing people to. So, here’s a place for you to reprint pertinent text from articles and then LINKS to the SOURCE article so you don’t have to embarrass yourself by identifying with, say, Orangutan feet fetishists.

Nuns as sexual victims get little notice
By Bill Smith Of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
01/05/2003 (Edited down highlights)
Already shaken by a yearlong sex abuse scandal involving priests and minors, the Roman Catholic Church has yet to face another critical challenge – how to help thousands of nuns who say they have been sexually victimized.

A national survey, completed in 1996 but intentionally never publicized, estimates that a “minimum” of 34,000 Catholic nuns, or about 40 percent of all nuns in the United States, have suffered some form of sexual trauma. Some of that sexual abuse, exploitation or harassment has come at the hands of priests and other nuns in the church, the report said. The study, recently obtained by the Post-Dispatch, indicates that the victimization often has had devastating psychological effects on the women. Many of the nuns said they were left with feelings of anger, shame, anxiety and depression. Some said it made them consider leaving religious life, and a few said they had attempted suicide.

“These women have been the stalwarts of the church for centuries, and a significant percentage of them have been victimized as a result of the structure of the very institution to which they have dedicated their lives,” said study co-author John T. Chibnall, a research psychologist and associate professor at St. Louis University.

Another of the researchers, Ann Wolf, said she believes it is vital that the Catholic Church recognize the problem. “The bishops appear to be only looking at the issue of child sexual abuse, but the problem is bigger than that,” Wolf said. “Catholic sisters are being violated, in their ministries, at work, in pastoral counseling.”

The survey is the only national scientific study dealing with the sexual victimization of nuns in the Catholic Church, according to its researchers. Despite the scope of its findings several years ago, no further studies have been done, they say.

One woman wrote that after a priest fondled one of her breasts during confession, she remained so upset that she did not return to confession for the next 18 years. Another wrote that as a young girl, her uncle, who also was a priest, insisted on touching holy oil to her genital area “to keep me safe while dating.” Later, her superiors forced her to attend religious retreats with the same uncle, she said. Still another wrote that a priest-therapist treating her for severe depression encouraged her to become involved in “sexual experimentation.” The woman said she later began a relationship with another nun.

Study is kept quiet
Findings of the study were published in two religious research journals in the spring and winter of 1998 but have never been reported by the mainstream press. Researchers agreed not to prepare a press release about the findings because a national women’s Catholic group, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, believed that the information would be sensationalized. “It was like this: ‘We don’t wash our dirty laundry in public; we’ll take care of it,'” Chibnall said.

The SLU study is the result of a 15-page survey returned by 1,164 nuns representing 123 religious orders throughout the United States. The large majority of nuns surveyed were highly educated; more than 9 of 10 who returned questionnaires had at least a college education.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the group was not aware of the nun survey and had not addressed the issue. That group, headed by Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, has taken a leading role in the debate over new policies in the wake of the priest sex abuse scandal.

Researcher Wolf, who now works in Catholic education, said few nuns have come forth publicly to talk about their experiences. She said that is no surprise. Many may feel shame or guilt and recognize they could have a lot to lose if they come forward. “These women have to ask themselves what are the benefits and what are the costs,” she said. “The church is the only corporation in town.”

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