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Nuns Group Hears Abuse Accounts

By Caryle Murphy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 9, 2004; Page A11

Officials of a Silver Spring-based organization that represents about 75,000 Catholic nuns have held a private meeting with four women and a man who allege that they were sexually abused by nuns.

It was the first time that officials of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an association of about 1,000 leaders of women's religious orders, formally met with members of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests to hear their personal stories.

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The two-hour meeting, which took place Sunday in Chicago, was organized after group members and their supporters protested outside the conference's offices in July, demanding that they be allowed to address the organization's national convention in Texas in August.

Conference officials agreed to the private meeting with the advocacy group. Among the people at the Sunday meeting was an 82-year-old Milwaukee woman who said she was molested at a convent in 1928.

Landa Mauriello-Vernon, 30, of Hamden, Conn., who told of being sexually abused by a nun when she was 17, said the four conference officials at the meeting "seemed to be very emotional, and I think they listened very carefully. They were very respectful."

Mauriello-Vernon said her group made several recommendations. She said they asked the conference to put information on its Internet home page about the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests; to request that religious orders in the conference do the same; to provide the advocacy group with a complete list of those religious orders and the name of someone to contact when a victim comes forward; and to allow victims to address next year's annual convention and conference workshops on sexual abuse.

In a written statement, the conference said that its officials "take these recommendations seriously." A conference spokeswoman, Sister Annemarie Sanders, said the executive committee of the conference's board would discuss them at its mid-November meeting.

Conference officials "appreciated the opportunity to meet with representatives of SNAP . . . .and hear their personal stories," the written statement added. "We thank [them] for reaching out to us and sharing their insights. . . . 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."


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