Lawsuit Alleges Sexual Abuse in '60s by Nun

By Cathleen Falsani
Chicago Sun-Times
June 7, 2006

A Chicago area woman has sued a religious order of Roman Catholic nuns in Minnesota for sexual abuse she says she suffered at the hands of one of its members at a Chicago convent in the 1960s.

Karen Britten, 47, says she was abused by Sister Benen Kent, a nun from the Franciscan Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis, Congregation of Our Lady of Lourdes (better known as the "Rochester Franciscans,") during weekly piano lessons at St. Juliana's convent in Chicago from 1964 to 1967. Kent, who died in 2003, was assigned to St. Juliana's from 1963 to 1967, the suit says. Britten's sister, Christine Bertrand, 51, of California, filed a lawsuit against the Rochester Franciscans last year for alleged abuse by Kent.

2 other women also sue

A third woman, Patricia Schwartz, 51, of the Minneapolis area, also filed a lawsuit against the Rochester Franciscans on Tuesday, alleging that Kent sexually abused her from 1967 to 1969.

Schwartz, who like Britten and Bertrand, took piano lessons from Kent at St. Juliana's convent, says the alleged abuse began during overnight visits to the order's motherhouse in Rochester, Minn., and continued for two years.

The women claim the Rochester Franciscans were aware of allegations against Kent and sent the nun for psychiatric treatment at the Mayo Clinic in 1967, but failed to warn parents of allegations against Kent. Attempts to reach the Rochester Franciscans for comment were not successful.

According to attorneys for the women, Kent made her first vows as a nun in 1935 and worked at parishes in southern Minnesota, Chicago and Nebraska during more than 67 years in the order.


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