Lawsuit Says Plaintiffs Were Sexually Abused By Nuns

By Dina Kaplan

(LOUISVILLE, July 15th, 2004, 6:30 p.m.) -- For the first time in Kentucky, a lawsuit claiming sexual abuse has been filed against nuns. Six women and one man say they were sodomized and molested by nuns while they were children at a Catholic orphanage. The alleged abuse began when the children were as young as four years old. WAVE 3's Dina Kaplan reports.

The lawsuit filed July 15 contains allegations of horrific abuse from children living at a Catholic orphanage. The attorney for the plaintiffs, Bill McMurry, says the alleged abuse took place in the '50s and '60s at the St. Thomas/St. Vincent Orphanage in Anchorage -- which no longer exists.

"One of these plaintiffs actually became pregnant and miscarried as a result of forced sexual intercourse," McMurry says.

The plaintiffs say they were raped and sodomized. Some of the alleged abuse even included animals. Five of the plaintiffs were sisters: former orphans, who were reunited only months ago. McMurry says "in their discussions about the childhood experiences at the orphanage, each of them came to realize that all of them were victims of horrendous, unspeakable childhood abuse."

The lawsuit mentions abuse by a chaplain and two nuns, all of whom are now deceased. But the plaintiffs are holding the nuns' employer responsible -- the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, an international sisterhood based near Anchorage.

Sisters of Charity of Nazareth spokesperson Barbara Qualls told us they just learned about the lawsuit, but said "any allegation is to be taken seriously and any memory is to be treated with compassion."

One of the plaintiffs, David Summers, spoke with us by phone about the alleged abuse. "I would cry and no one would hear me." Summers says a nun repeatedly sodomized him with a crucifix. "The nun was a sick person, I believe -- she sang while she did it."

Summers said he had tried to suppress memories of the abuse, but they still haunt him. He decided to file a lawsuit after recently reading that the nun passed away. About the same time, the five sisters reunited and also decided to come forward.

McMurry suspects there are many more victims who have not yet come forward.

Online Reporter: Dina Kaplan

Online Producer: Michael Dever