SNAP Launched in Connecticut

By Francis X. Fay Jr.
Norwalk Hour [Norwalk CT]
April 2, 2004

REGION - The founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP) told the Southern Fairfield County Chapter of Voice of the Faithful on Thursday night that speaking out about the abuse she received from a nun was a 'terribly painful' experience.

Landa Mauriello-Vernon of Hamden was a senior at Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden when a nun at the school initiated an intense friendship that led to the abuse on several occasions.

'I kept that deep, dark secret inside me for a decade before I had to get it out,' she told the 45 attendees in the First Congregational Church of Stamford. 'I have discovered that only by speaking out do we take the power back from the abusers.'

The abuse had such a profound effect on Mauriello-Vernon that she had to drop out of college.

'I couldn't concentrate on my studies,' she said.

Now 30 and the mother of two children, one almost 4 years old and the other almost a year old, Mauriello-Vernon said she founded the Connecticut chapter to help others develop the same sense of strength that she now feels.

'I came forward after seeing many others do it, but I fully understand why many abused people have not come forward,' she said. 'They don't want to go through the ordeal of being looked upon as victims. It's a painful process. But there follows a sense of freedom that makes it worthwhile.'

Since she formed the chapter two months ago, it has grown to 37 members, Mauriello-Vernon said. (Interested persons may contact her at

However, she has been unable to convince any of Connecticut's four Roman Catholic bishops to communicate with her.

'I received insensitive replies from three and nothing at all from your bishop (Most Rev. William E. Lori).

During a question-and- answer period, Mauriello-Vernon suggested that the story about abuse by priests and nuns isn't about to go away as some bishops have assumed.

'The recent national survey indicated that most of the abuse occurred 20 years ago, but it doesn't consider the length of time it takes for victims to realize they've been wronged.'

David Cerulli of New York City, who was victimized as a 14-year-old altar boy in Scranton, Pa., and is the new full-time director of the New York chapter of SNAP, explained the process.

'It takes 10 years minimum before you develop any kind of recognition of what has happened to you,' he told the group. 'It was 25 years before I fully realized I was seriously damaged and needed help. I was afraid to extend myself.'

The 54-year-old filed his suit against the Scranton priest in 1989.

Mauriello-Vernon spoke of attending a Sunday Mass at a Rhode Island church where the pastor suggested that some priests have been falsely accused.

'The incidence of false accusation is rare,' she said.

'People don't do it for the money because after expenses for legal representation and psychological counseling, there isn't much left.'

'A prosecutor from Westchester County told our Greenwich-Westchester VOTF Chapter that he hadn't found a single false accusation in all the cases that have come forward over there,' an unidentified woman said from the audience.

Bishops came under heavy fire when the exchange was opened to the audience.

'When you realize that people of God are supposed to help victims of all kinds of problems, how is it that the bishops have turned their backs on the abused and those who would help them' asked an unidentified woman. 'Their behavior has been scandalous


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