Responding to Sexual Abuse
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious offers its deepest sympathy to anyone impacted by abuse perpetrated by Catholic sisters. We have come to learn, with the assistance of survivors of sexual abuse, that the long-term effects of sexual misconduct are serious and often severe. We believe that women religious need to keep working for the healing of victims and the prevention of further abuse.
Conscious of the sacred trust that public ministry implies, LCWR has given significant attention to the prevention of abuse. The conference asks all members to take seriously the 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 at Georgetown University to design and interpret an inventory related to sexual abuse that asked what practices and procedures LCWR member congregations have in place to address allegations of past member sexual conduct and to prevent future sexual misconduct by members. This inventory was used by LCWR in 2005 and 2008 and sent to all member congregations. The results showed that the vast majority of LCWR congregations have in place policies, practices and procedures for addressing past allegations of sexual abuse and for preventing further incidents of sexual abuse. The inventory also showed that there were some areas that also needed strengthening. In particular, the ongoing education of members was noted as an area for improvement. These institutes were encouraged to utilize the recommendations drawn from this research and to evaluate their own policies, practices and procedures, particularly for responding to an allegation of abuse. We are also aware that other organizations serving religious life such as the Resource Center for Religious Institutes, the National Religious Vocation Conference, and the Religious Formation Conference provide 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.