Catholic Order of Nuns Settles Claim by Three Who Say They Were Abused

By Pat Pheifer
Star Tribune

September 25, 2008

An attorney for the Franciscan Sisters adamantly denied the allegations, saying that the $400,000 payment was agreed upon to avoid protracted litigation.

Three women who say they were sexually abused as children in the 1960s by a Roman Catholic nun say they hope to find peace when they meet today with the current and former leaders of the Franciscan Sisters, based in Rochester.

St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson announced Thursday that two lawsuits, filed by Christine Bertrand of Sierra Madre, Calif., and Patti Schwartz of Minneapolis, were settled recently. A third filed by Bertrand's sister, Karen Britten of Chicago, was dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired, Anderson said.

The women said Sister Benen Kent abused them when she was their piano teacher at St. Juliana's parish in Chicago and when their parents took them to visit her at the order's mother house in Rochester, where Kent was transferred in 1967.

Informed the superior

The women alleged that the order's leader at the time, Sister Delore Rockers, knew Kent was mentally ill and should have known she was a danger to children. The women said they told Rockers about the abuse in the early 2000s but nothing was done. Kent died in 2003.

The settlement calls for a $400,000 payment to Bertrand and Schwartz, and for a "healing mass" and a private meeting today with Rockers and Sister Tierney Trueman, the order's current president.

Tom Wieser, an attorney for the nuns, said the Franciscan Sisters vehemently deny any wrongdoing. The order agreed to the settlement and its conditions to avoid protracted and expensive litigation, he said.

"The bottom line is the Franciscan Sisters are trying to find every possible way to achieve healing and resolution and allow everyone to move on peacefully and successfully," Wieser said.

Bertrand said she and Schwartz will split the settlement proceeds with Britten.

"We started this journey together and we'll continue it together," she said.


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