Former Parmadale orphan details allegations of abuse by nuns and priests that caused a lifetime of psychological damage

WKYC-TV, NBC - 3 [Cleveland OH]

February 22, 2022

By Dave "Dino" DeNatale and Emma Henderson

“I was trying to follow all the rules, but it was just hell.”


 A woman who was an orphan at the former Parmadale facility is speaking out, detailing allegations of physical and sexual abuse by nuns and priests that has caused her a lifetime of psychological damage. 

On Tuesday in Westlake, Carolyn Mason held a news conference and recalled several traumatic incidents that she alleges took place at Parmadale while living there from age 5 through 8. 

Among the stories shared by Mason:

  • She claimed she was physically abused by a nun. Citing an example, Mason says when she got sick from eating, the nun made her eat her own vomit because they ‘don’t waste food.’
  • Mason says she was a bed-wetter and if an incident happened, she was made to stand the entire night with her underwear over her head while the sheets were being soaked.
  • She remembers a nun who would beat kids with chains. 
  • Finally, Mason says she was also sexually abused by a priest.

“I was trying to follow all the rules, but it was just hell,” Mason said.

Mason says she was given a letter from Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine asking that she undergo a full psychiatric evaluation. The letter reads in part: “I regret that you had to complain about one of our sisters who has been deceased for several years, and allege she caused you personal emotional harm. In order to fully understand the extent of that harm that may have resulted and was related to your time in your care and its impact on your full emotional health, this evaluation would be helpful and would provide support for any financial consideration we may be in position to offer you.”

“The allegations that we’re aware of date back to the 1960s and involve a sister who is now deceased. While at this time we cannot confirm any other details, we are determined to learn the facts,” Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine wrote in a statement. “If the allegations regarding the former Parmadale facility are true, we will take every step possible to make sure this does not happen again. The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland has extensive policies, training, education, compliance and other related matters forthe protection of children.”

Parmadale Children’s Village of St. Vincent de Paul opened its doors on State Road in Parma in 1925 for orphan boys aged 6 to 16. It became a co-ed facility in 1947, but would later move from being an orphanage to a residential treatment center. The facility closed its doors in 2014 and demolition on the property began in 2018.

Mason was joined at the news conference by Robert M. Hoatson, Ph.D., co-founder and President of Road to Recovery, Inc., a non-profit charity based in New Jersey that assists victims of sexual abuse and their families.

Both Mason and Hoatson are encouraging those people who share similar experiences at Parmadale to go directly to police as opposed to Catholic Charities or the Diocese.

Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine says that the investigator it has retained “has experience with these sensitive situations and was recommended by the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. We hired the investigator after learning of one individual’s allegations of abuse while receiving care at the former Parmadale Children’s Village of St. Vincent de Paul. The investigator is receiving our full cooperation and is operating completely independently in investigating this matter.”