Communities sound off on clergy sex abuse crisis


Amid abuse crisis, sisters call for healing, changes to church structure

This article appears in the Crisis in the Church feature series. View the full series.
Children's shoes and toys sit on a sidewalk as part of an Aug. 25 demonstration against clerical sex abuse during Pope Francis' visit to Dublin. (CNS / Reuters / Clodagh Kilcoyne)

Several communities of sisters joined the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in issuing statements in response to the clergy sex abuse crisis. (Communities can continue to send statements to

The U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph joined in LCWR's outrage, saying it too is left angry and grieving for the thousands of victims:

We echo LCWR's call to action and insist that church leadership immediately find ways to support all victims, hold abusers accountable, and elevate the voice of victims to deconstruct the culture of abuse that allowed such atrocities to occur.

For too long, the secrets kept by the hierarchy have excluded female voices from taking a critical look at the important issues of our church and from playing a key role in formulating, implementing, and evaluating policies. Women and women religious represent a reconciling force within our divided and grieving church. They have a critical role to play in helping the church and should be sought after by leadership.

Since the 1980s, women religious have taken this issue very seriously and have responded by creating policies and procedures to address allegations of all forms of abuse and have thoroughly implemented those policies legally and pastorally.

The U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph embraces the Gospel charism of unifying love for the healing and transformation of the world. We do this through compassionate listening and amplifying the truths that need to be heard. We will continue to work for unity and healing for the survivors, their families, and our church. We welcome the opportunity to work with our brothers and sisters — lay and religious — to dismantle the culture of abuse within the church and society. 

The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas called for a public airing of the church's failings and for real justice:

As a Catholic faith community, the Sisters of Mercy are appalled by the disturbing findings and scope of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on sexual abuse by priests and by the devastating impact such abuse has on victims, their families and others.

The Gospel demands that the suffering of each abused victim must be felt, heard and acknowledged. This acknowledgement must be visibly and concretely marked by justice as well as compassion. We call on church leaders and others to eradicate the root causes of sexual abuse. We commit ourselves to collaborating in the essential work of healing and transformation that our church so desperately needs.

We share respectfully and gratefully the LCWR Statement on Sexual Abuse by Clergy for prayerful reflection as we thoughtfully discern the ways we, as Catholic sisters, can respond to the pain and suffering of victims of abuse.

[Dan Stockman is national correspondent for Global Sisters Report. His email address is Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.]