[Silver Spring, MD] The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) recognizes that there have been incidents where Catholic sisters have sexually abused persons entrusted to their care. These actions are horrific and we join with women religious throughout our country who deeply regret the suffering that has resulted for the survivors and, often their loved ones as well. We are grateful for the courage of the survivors who have come forward. Because of them, our own understandings of the long-term effects of sexual misconduct have expanded and deepened. We agree with the survivors who are calling upon women religious to keep working for the healing of victims and the prevention of further abuse.
Conscious of the sacred trust that public ministry implies, LCWR acknowledges that all leaders of communities of Catholic sisters have an obligation to provide appropriate ongoing education for their members in the areas of sexuality, sexual abuse, and appropriate professional boundaries. In consultation with a team of professionals who have worked extensively with victims of abuse, LCWR created a bibliography of written materials, speakers, websites and AV materials that could be used for the continuing education of women religious. LCWR continues to stress that its members and their congregations make every effort possible to prevent all sexual exploitation of children and young people.
In addition, LCWR engaged the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University to design and interpret an inventory related to sexual abuse. This inventory was used by LCWR in 2005 and 2008 and sent to all member congregations. These institutes were encouraged to utilize the recommendations drawn from this research and to evaluate their own policies, practices and procedures. LCWR also worked with partners in the healthcare and legal professions to identify and develop additional resources to assist member congregations in strengthening their policies, practices and procedures where needed.
The hope, on the part of LCWR, is that these efforts will lead to justice and healing for survivors, those accused, and all those affected by abuse. LCWR and its members are deeply committed to responding justly and compassionately to allegations of past misconduct and to preventing future incidents.
We encourage persons with grievances involving allegations of sexual misconduct by a woman religious to approach the individual religious congregation involved. We believe that it is at this level that true healing can begin.
Sister Annmarie Sanders, IHM | Director of Communications
Leadership Conference of Women Religious