Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Speak Out
Pennsylvania grand jury report leaves Catholic Sisters “sickened and ashamed”

Springfield, Ill.—Today the leadership of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield released a statement addressing the scathing report from the Pennsylvania grand jury regarding the extent and brutality of clergy abuse of minors and the bishops’ cover-up of the crimes.

In conjunction with a comprehensive statement from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which follows, the Springfield Dominican Sisters’ statement reads:

We mourn the suffering of too many victims of the abuse of clerical power. We stand in solidarity with all who have suffered, and pray for their healing.

May the healing balm of the Spirit embrace all persons experiencing anger, shock, grief, or disillusionment over this wound in the Body of Christ.

We wait in hope and work to hasten that day—suggested by Cardinal Blase Cupich and Pope Francis—when the hierarchy recognizes the necessity for reordering church life. Cardinal Cupich has written that “the clericalist mindset, responsible for so much of the scandal, must be purged from church life.” As Pope Francis said in his letter to the People of God on August 20th “To say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism.”

“We mourn deeply with the victims of clerical abuse and their loved ones,” said Sister Rebecca Ann Gemma, prioress general of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield. “We recognize the critical nature of this moment in the history of the Church and pray that it will be a powerful time of transformative change.

“Our sisters continue to pray for—and work for—a healing restoration of the Body of Christ—a healing that descends upon the Church like the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost when Mary and the apostles of Jesus gathered in the upper room,” she added, referencing the biblical book of Acts.

The Dominican Sisters’ leadership team is comprised of Sister Rebecca Ann and four councilors: Sister Barbara Blesse, Sister Kathleen Cour, Sister Kathlyn Mulcahy, and Sister Kathleen Gallagher. They are members of LCWR and have served in roles of leadership for LCWR on the state and national levels.

“Together with sisters throughout the United States who are members of LCWR, we tell the world we are ‘sickened and ashamed of the church we love, trusted, and have committed our lives to serve,’” said Sister Barbara Blesse, quoting the LCWR Statement. “’We weep and grieve with all who over the decades have been victimized by sexual predators within the faith community and feel their pain as our own. We recognize that the damage done to many is irreparable.’”

Also with LCWR, the Dominican Sisters of Springfield stand in solidarity with the vast majority of Catholic priests who are not guilty of these unconscionable acts. The LCWR statement recognizes “That the vast majority of priests have not committed abuse and are suffering greatly because of the actions of some of their brothers. We offer them our prayer and support as they continue their ministries in these very challenging times and as they too struggle to understand the complexity of factors that led to this deplorable situation.”

“We know many priests, deacons, and brothers for whom this is truly a difficult time,” said Sister Rebecca Ann. “I pray all members of the church can find a ‘peace beyond all understanding’ and the healing and reconciliation we so desire, and so urgently need,” she added.

The Dominican Sisters of Springfield are part of a worldwide Dominican family, the Order of Preachers. For more than 800 years, Dominicans have preached the Gospel in word and deed. The Springfield Dominicans were established in Jacksonville, Illinois, in 1873 and relocated to Springfield in 1893. Today, thousands of Dominican sisters, nuns, priests, brothers, associates, and laity minister in more than 100 countries around the world. To learn more about the Dominican Sisters of Springfield visit springfieldop.org.

LCWR Statement on Sexual Abuse by Clergy

August 20, 2018

[Silver Spring, MD] The recent news detailing the extensive and sometimes brutal sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests in the United States has left us at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious sickened and ashamed of the church we love, trusted, and have committed our lives to serve. We weep and grieve with all who over the decades have been victimized by sexual predators within the faith community and feel their pain as our own. We recognize that the damage done to many is irreparable.

Sexual abuse is a horrific crime, and the horror is so much worse when committed by persons in whom society has placed its trust and confidence. Equally difficult to comprehend is the culture within the church hierarchy that tolerated the abuse, left children and vulnerable adults subject to further abuse, and created practices that covered up the crimes and protected the abusers.

We call upon the church leadership to implement plans immediately to support more fully the healing of all victims of clergy abuse, hold abusers accountable, and work to uncover and address the root causes of the sexual abuse crisis.  We believe that the work to implement the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and its subsequent revisions has been an important and effective step in addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy. We have watched the Conference of Major Superiors of Men diligently work to assure the protection and safety of children and youth and applaud its efforts. However, it is clear that more serious action needs to be taken to assure that the culture of secrecy and cover-up ends.

We also call upon church leaders to attend to the severe erosion of the church’s moral standing in the world. Its members are angry, confused, and struggling to find ways to make sense of the church’s failings. The church leadership needs to speak with honesty and humility about how this intolerable culture developed and how that culture will now be deconstructed, and to create places where church members can express our anger and heartbreak. We call on the leaders to include competent members of the laity more fully in the work to eradicate abuse and change the culture, policies, and practices. We are committed to collaborate in the essential work of healing and transformation that our church so desperately needs.

Finally, we recognize that the vast majority of priests have not committed abuse and are suffering greatly because of the actions of some of their brothers. We offer them our prayer and support as they continue their ministries in these very challenging times and as they too struggle to understand the complexity of factors that led to this deplorable situation.

Contact: Sister Annmarie Sanders, IHM, associate director of communications, asanders@lcwr.org