The Dark Role of Nuns in Child Sexual Abuse

by | Mar 21, 2024 | Catholic Church

Nuns Sexual Abuse Horowitz Law

Nuns Don’t Just Abuse. Some Enable Abuse

The issue of sexual abuse within the ranks of the Catholic Church has been a headline for many years now. However, a recent Associated Press article has brought to light an equally disturbing aspect of this crisis: the role of some nuns not only as perpetrators of abuse but also as enablers. Yes, tragically, some nuns abuse kids. Tragically, some also ignore or hide abuse by others. And tragically, some punish kids who speak up, thereby deepening their wounds and essentially helping their tormentors. This blog post aims to delve deeper into this grim reality, presenting instances of abuse, the enabling of such behavior by some nuns, and the implications thereof.

Instances of Nuns Enabling Abuse

The sexual victimization of boys and girls by Catholic nuns has sadly re-emerged in recent news, painting a grim picture of reality within certain sectors of the Church. Not only have there been cases where nuns have directly abused children, but alarmingly, some have taken a step further into the dark by either ignoring, hiding, or punishing those who dare to speak up about the abuse they’ve suffered. Let’s look at a couple of examples where nuns have played a significant role in enabling abuse.

Ignoring or Hiding Abuse

Here are two instances in which nuns essentially enabled abuse by others by looking the other way or doing nothing when they saw or suspected child sex crimes:

 Fr. John P. Kavanaugh Case: In a lawsuit filed in 2019, it was alleged that a boy was sexually abused by Fr. Kavanaugh of the San Francisco Archdioceseover more than three years. Despite telling two nuns and his teacher at the time, no actions were reportedly taken.

• Fr. Herman J. Lammers Case: Fr. Lammers of the Louisville Archdiocese stands accused of molesting at least 34 boys at an orphanage. While church officials settled with almost all plaintiffs, many stated they had informed nuns about the abuse, but their complaints fell on deaf ears, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. At the same orphanage, two nuns- Sister Frances Howard and Sister Stanislas Kotska Willett – were also accused of abusing kids.

By Punishing Those Who Reported Abuse

Here are two instances in which nuns reportedly punished youngsters who reported abuse:

• Fr. Edward F. Ward of Maine: After a nine-year-old altar boy was reportedly abused multiple times by Fr. Ward, he claimed to have informed the school’s principal, a nun. Rather than offering support, she apparently responded by slapping him and accusing him of lying.

• Fr. Ross A. LaPorta of Maryland: A boy’s report of molestation by Fr. LaPorta to a nun resulted in physical punishment rather than the needed help and support.Fr. LaPorta also reportedly abused a 12-year-old girl. While the priest molested her, her teacher, the nun, allegedly stood in the bedroom doorway observing. In another case, Fr. LaPorta allegedly met one of his victims through Fr. George Loskarn, who also abused the boy.

Nuns Abusing in Cooperation with Predator Priests

Tragically, there have been instances where nuns have not only failed to protect the innocent but have actively participated in their abuse, either directly or in concert with predator priests. Here are two instances in which nuns have abused in concert, in cooperation or collaboratively with predator priests:

 Fr. Raymond P. Hebert of Louisiana, and Nuns: A lawsuit from 2019 alleges that Hebert, along with three nuns and a lay employee, abused a boy. The case was later settled for $325,000.

Fr. Sean L. Rooney reportedly abused a boy in his teens in New Orleans. Another equally horrific account involves Sr. Alvin Marie, allegedly participating in the abuse of a teen boy by fondling him in the shower when drying him off.

Lesser-Known Cases of Nuns Abusing Children

While the abuse perpetrated by priests has dominated headlines, there are also nuns whose alleged crimes have received far less attention. Here are a few nuns who have reportedly sexually victimized children but whose crimes have gotten little public attention:

• Sister Cheryl Porte of Louisiana: After being determined to have committed “inappropriate sexual behavior” against a girl, she was barred from being around children. Despite this, her movements across various states raise concerns about oversight and accountability within the Church.

• Sr. Francis Marie Yokum of Maryland: Identified among 156 individuals by the Maryland Attorney General as accused of abuse, her absence from the Baltimore Archdiocese’s list casts a shadow over the Church’s commitment to transparency.

• Sister Alexis-du-Sacre-Coeur of Maine: Accused of abusing a boy in Maine, her activities have largely remained under the radar due to the refusal of the bishop to publish names of accused clerics.

• Sister Rosemarie of the New York Archdiocese was accused in a 2019 court filing of repeatedly sexually abusing a girl on Staten Island. Her accuser also said she was physically abused almost daily by the nun and Sisters Agnes, Helen, Juanita, Philip-Marie, and Mrs. Hartman.

• Sister Mary Juanita Barto of Queens is accused of repeatedly abusing a girl at a high school, on school buses, at a Long Island convent, and at retreats in upstate New York. A lawsuit against her was filed in 2020 and settled that same year. 

• Twins Sister Gertrude Marie Hagan and Sister Alvin Marie are both accused of abusing kids at Madonna Manor, a Catholic home for troubled children. Sister Alvin Marie also worked in Mississippi, and Sister Gertrude worked in Texas.

• Sister Martin Marie was accused of child sex crimes and for beating a boy who tried to tell her about being raped by notorious Louisiana perpetrator Fr. Gilbert Gauthe.

Many followers won’t be surprised that notoriously secretive New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond refuses to put these nuns’ names on his list of credibly accused abusive clerics.)                                    

The Diocese of Portland Oregon, apparently has the second-highest number of accused nuns, including: 

  • Mary Eucharistica
  • Mary Freddrick
  • Jeanne Clare Frolick
  • Mary Luke
  • Genevieve Marie
  • Patricia Mary Anne


The examples cited above are a heartbreaking reminder of the deep-seated issues within some quarters of the Catholic Church. It’s crucial that these stories come to light, not only for the sake of justice but also to prevent future abuses. The silence and inaction of some, coupled with the direct involvement of others in abuse, underscore the urgent need for reform and accountability within the Church.

As we grapple with these revelations, it’s important to remember the survivors and the immense courage it takes for them to come forward. Their stories are a call to action for all of us to ensure that such abuses never happen again. It’s time for the Church to undertake rigorous measures to protect the innocent and ensure that those who are supposed to be caretakers do not become predators or enablers of abuse.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and other clergy. If you need a lawyer because a member of a religious organization sexually abused you, contact us today at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.