This story from the Chicago Tribune is an offering of some detail in what one nun tried to do to protect children from abusive priests, and is another, in a long line, of sad commentaries on the Church’s inexplicable failure to protect children.
The trove of Chicago Archdiocese records recently made public tell of her first encountering an allegedly abusive priest in the 1970s when she was a young, inexperienced principal at a Northlake parish school. After her pleas for his dismissal were ignored, she eventually resigned in disgust.
A decade later, after another priest with a history of sexual misconduct was reassigned to serve as a college chaplain, leaders moved him again “due to difficulties with (Sister) Peg.”
(See documents on Sister Peg’s reports of alleged priest abuse.) http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-chicago-archdiocese-memos-alleged-priest-abuse-20140228,0,6233685.htmlpage
The files describe the sister later warning church officials about questionable behavior of three other clergymen. Despite frequent references to her, the records do not give her religious order or say what happened to this outspoken woman. So the Tribune set out to find her.
An important clue surfaced in a 1964 story in the newspaper’s archives that detailed how sisters from the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary served as principals at some archdiocese schools, including one in Northlake.
Sister Peg was eventually found in a west suburb, living with 19 other sisters, many of them elderly, in a convent with limited finances.
She has struggled for five decades to come to grips with her experiences, but Sister Peg still has a resilient faith and a deep hope that healing is possible. She is still haunted by the past and harbors regret — that she didn’t do enough, demand enough. But she prays the church has learned it’s a grievous sin to protect abusers.
Experts say Sister Peg’s efforts were courageous and rare, especially for that time. Little was known decades ago about pedophilia, and priests were considered beyond reproach. It was virtually unheard of for a member of a women’s religious order to challenge the institutional power of the church.
Finding Sister Peg was just one hurdle. She has never spoken publicly of her struggles to be heard amid the silence that enveloped the abuse crisis. She wasn’t especially eager to now.
“Nobody is interested in stories about old nuns,” she said. And besides, what good did it do, she asks. The two priests she had the most contact with were recycled to other parishes, where abuse allegations later arose, a story repeated often in the documents. That stinging truth continues to pain her.
She reluctantly agreed to answer questions about the files — now public record — in the hope it may encourage victims who are suffering in silence to come forward and “begin to be healed.”