Protest focuses on nuns in abuse
By WILLIAM GRADY
Tribune staff reporter
Published on 10/04/2004
Members of an advocacy group for victims of clergy abuse told their stories
Sunday in Chicago about being sexually molested by nuns.
Landa Mauriello-Vernon, the Connecticut director of Survivors Network of those
Abused by Priests (SNAP), said the group, which passed out leaflets about the
issue outside a Catholic church on the South Side and held a private meeting
with representatives of women's religious orders, wants the public to know that
some nuns have sexually abused children.
Most public attention has been on the male clergy in the sexual-abuse scandal
that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church in recent years.
"Knowing that there are other victims out there has given me courage and faith,"
said Mauriello-Vernon, 30, of Hamden, Conn., who says she was in high school when
she was molested by a nun.
Mauriello-Vernon and others distributed leaflets outside Corpus Christi Catholic
Church, 4920 S. King Drive, after a morning mass and then met at a hotel with
officials of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The group, based in
Silver Spring, Md., includes about 1,000 leaders of orders of nuns in the U.S.
SNAP members were rebuffed in August when they sought an opportunity to speak at
the conference's convention in Ft. Worth, Texas. Instead, they were offered a
meeting with its leaders.
Mauriello-Vernon said after the meeting that conference leaders listened to her
group's stories and promised to respond in November to SNAP's requests. Those
include adding information about SNAP to the conference Web site in an effort to
reach other victims and inviting SNAP members to speak at the conference's next
"The issue of sexual abuse, by anyone, is abhorrent to us and we are fully committed
to the healing of those who have been wounded by abuse, particularly abuse by members
of congregations of women religious," said Sister Annmarie Sanders, a spokeswoman for
Another of the accusers is Steve Theisen, 52, who says he was sexually molested by a
nun while he was a student in the 1960s at a parish elementary school in Dubuque, Iowa.
SNAP members distributed leaflets outside Corpus Christi because Theisen, who now
lives in Hudson, Iowa, said the nun who abused him, a member of the Sisters of St.
Francis religious order, was assigned to the parish in the mid-1950s.
Sister Dorothy Heiderscheit , president of the Sisters of St. Francis of Dubuque,
said Theisen's charges were investigated by the congregation and the Catholic Archdiocese
of Dubuque and found to be unsubstantiated.
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