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Nuns Deny Requests By Abuse Victims Group

By Caryle Murphy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 10, 2004; Page A16

An association representing 75,000 Roman Catholic nuns has rejected a proposal from a victims advocacy group designed to encourage people who were sexually molested by nuns to come forward and get help.

The proposal was presented to officials of the Silver Spring-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella group of women's religious orders, by representatives of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) when the two sides met privately in Chicago on Oct. 3.

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The proposal included five requests of the conference: place information about SNAP on the conference's Internet home page; request that individual religious orders in the conference do the same; provide SNAP with a list of those orders and names of contacts to call when a victim comes forward; allow victims to address next year's annual convention; and allow them to speak at conference workshops on sexual abuse.

Conference officials responded to the requests in a Nov. 22 letter, saying the group's efforts had heightened "our awareness of the long-term effects of sexual misconduct by women religious." But, the officials wrote, they could not "meet their specific requests in the manner . . . indicated."

"We've repeatedly taken the initiative to talk with the" conference, said Landa Mauriello-Vernon, 30, of Hamden, Conn., a spokeswoman for the group that met with the nuns in Chicago. "But at every juncture, they've been resistant. They seem determined to repeat the same cold, bureaucratic and ultimately hurtful patterns we've seen in so many bishops."

A spokeswoman, Sister Annmarie Sanders, said the nuns group has taken steps to deal with sexual misconduct by its members and is being responsive to SNAP's proposals in its own way.

"We've heard SNAP's desire to have their voice heard by our members, and we're responding to that," Sanders said. "But we're not doing it in the specific way requested by SNAP."

She provided a list of measures taken by the conference, including workshops on pastoral and legal responses to allegations of sexual misconduct. The list showed plans for a survey of how orders deal with allegations and an educational video.

SNAP contends that the number of victims of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic nuns is greater than disclosed and that many victims are not being helped.

The Chicago meeting was arranged after SNAP protested outside the conference's offices in July, demanding to address its national convention in August, a request that was denied.


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