Nuns on the Run? New Child Sex Abuse Lawsuits Filed Against Catholic Nun
by Jim Kouri, CPP
Two new lawsuits have been filed against the Franciscan Sisters Order, which is headquartered in Rochester, Minnesota. As with the sex abuse cases brought against Catholic priests, the alleged sex abuse in these cases was homosexual in nature.
The lawsuits, filed in Olmsted County, MN stem from the sexual abuse of two girls by Sister Benen Kent. Last year, another lawsuit was filed against the Order by a California woman who was also abused by Sister Benen Kent.
Karen Britten and Patricia Schwartz claim they were sexually assaulted by their piano teacher, Sister Benen Kent, while the two women were young children at Saint Juliana's parochial school in Chicago. Kent was assigned to that parochial school from 1963-1967.
Karen's abuse allegedly occurred during her weekly piano lessons at the St. Juliana's convent from 1964-1967, beginning when Karen was just 6 years old. Last May, Karen's sister, Christine Bertrand, filed her own lawsuit against the Order for her alleged abuse by Sister Kent. Karen is a 47 year old mother of two. She is married and works as a nurse in the Chicago area.
Patricia claims she was abused beginning in 1967, during overnight visits to the Order's Mother House in Rochester, MN. She was 13 years old when her abuse began. The abuse continued until approximately 1969. Patricia is a 51 year old mother of two young children. She resides in the Minneapolis, MN, area with her family.
The plaintiffs say that none of the them knew that any of the others were being sexually assaulted until many years later. In 2002, they approached the Order, seeking healing and reconciliation for the wrong done to them. They asked Sister Delore Rockers, the President of the Order, for outreach to other victims and reforms to prevent further abuse to children.
For their own healing, they requested information about Kent's background and were told false information by Sister Rockers. They were never able to speak with Kent directly, and she eventually died in June 2003, more than 9 months after the women asked Rockers if they could meet with Kent. Rockers has been named as an individual defendant in Britten's case as a result.
"She is part of the reason there needs to be change in how this problem is handled," said
Britten. "She didn't do very well with us at all."
Information provided to the women by the Order as a result of Bertrand's lawsuit has shown that Kent was transferred from her Chicago assignment to the Mother House in Rochester, MN, so that she could be given psychiatric treatment at the Mayo Clinic in 1967.
Documents also show that her mental health treatment began before the 1967 hospitalization. In 1972, Kent was returned to another parish where she continued to teach music to students until the 1990s. Deposition testimony has also yielded that parents confronted Kent for the sexual assaults of their daughters before Kent was assigned to St. Juliana's.
Kent made her first vows as a Franciscan Sister in 1935. She worked at multiple parishes during her 67 year tenure as a nun, in Southern Minnesota, Chicago, and Nebraska. The suspected number of known victims of abuse by Kent is more than 5 women.
"It is my hope that the issue of nun abuse will finally be dealt with," said Britten.
"I want other victims of Sister Benen to know that I'm doing this and that they are not alone. I thought I was the only one for so long. I hope other victims will come forward and get the help they need and deserve."
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.