Group Rallies, Accuses Nuns of Abuse

By Susan Hogan
The Dallas Morning News [Dallas TX]
August 19, 2004

Outside the Fort Worth Convention Center on Wednesday, a group of adults said that as children they were abused by Catholic religious leaders. The difference this time is that they say their abusers were nuns.

They rallied outside the center because Catholic nuns meeting there today through Sunday declined to allow them to address their convention. Instead, the nuns have set up a small private meeting in Chicago on Oct. 3.

"Nearly all of our members have indicated a willingness to address this issue," Sister Constance Phelps, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, said in a statement. "However, we did not believe the assembly offered an environment conducive for listening and dialogue."

The conference, which represents 73,000 U.S. nuns, is conducting a joint meeting with the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, which represents 21,000 priests and brothers belonging to male religious orders.

The convention will focus on fostering peace and includes sessions on terrorism, domestic violence and serving as missionaries in places of violence. The keynote speaker is Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland.

A prayer vigil has been scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Fort Worth Water Gardens to protest the death penalty.

"But they aren't dealing with sexual violence or abuse at the hands of sisters," said Landa Mauriello-Vernon, 30, of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "They want to meet in a small confined setting and not in a public forum."

She said she was abused by a nun as a teen while attending an all-girls Catholic academy in Connecticut. She said more than 100 of SNAP's nearly 5,000 members say nuns abused them.