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Spotlight Report

Nun placed on leave after abuse allegation

By Walter V. Robinson and Sacha Pfeiffer, Globe Staff, 11/14/2002

A Dominican nun who has served in five parishes in Greater Boston for the past 34 years has been placed on leave after being accused of sexual misconduct with a fifth-grade girl in an Indiana classroom 40 years ago.

Sister Ann Daylor, 67, director of religious education at St. Mary's Church in Georgetown in northeastern Massachusetts, appears to be the first nun to be removed for such an allegation this year. About 300 priests nationwide have been removed this year because of sexual abuse allegations.

Sister Norah Guy, the Eastern regional coordinator for the order, the Dominicans of St. Catharine, Ky., said in an interview yesterday that Daylor denied the allegation when she and Sister Joye Gros, the order's president, met with Daylor last week. The complaint was made to the Indianapolis Archdiocese on Oct. 30.

The Rev. James M. Carroll, the pastor of St. Mary's, where Daylor has been assigned since 1994, said parishioners had not been told about the allegation. In addition to supervising religious education for 650 children, Carroll said, Daylor was also his principal assistant in the one-priest parish.

''She's a wonderful woman. Everyone likes her,'' Carroll said in an interview yesterday.

Under the order's decade-old policy governing sexual abuse allegations, Guy said, Daylor was placed on administrative leave until the order completes its investigation.

But how the Dominican order will be able to determine Daylor's guilt or innocence is uncertain. Guy said the alleged victim has no interest in taking legal action.

According to Guy, the alleged victim, now apparently in her 50s, told the chancellor of the archdiocese that the incident occurred after school in a classroom at the Sacred Heart Elementary School in Jeffersonville, Ind.

The woman who made the complaint reported that Daylor misbehaved only once. Guy said she is uncertain what allegedly happened. It was reported to the order, she said, as an ''incident of sexual misconduct.''

''It was reported to us that Sister Ann's behavior was interpreted as having sexual overtones,'' Guy said.

Susan Borcherts, the spokeswoman for the Indianapolis Archdiocese, said the complaint was made to Suzanne Magnant, the chancellor of the archdiocese. Under the archdiocese's rules, Borcherts said, the incident was reported to civil authorities and to Daylor's order.

Borcherts said she could not make public any details of the allegation.

Gros, the order's president, was rebuffed when she contacted the alleged victim, according to Guy. ''The accuser at this point doesn't want us to talk to her,'' Guy said.

She said the order has confirmed that the alleged victim was a fifth-grade student of Daylor's during the 1961-62 school year.

Her order, she said, is committed to the care and protection of children. ''We don't want anyone, especially a child, to be hurt or to be in pain. But now we have our own sister in pain. We're in an awful place, and we don't know how to remedy it.''

Daylor could not be reached for comment yesterday. Since her return to Massachusetts in 1968, she has been assigned to St. Patrick's in Lynn, St. Joseph's in Belmont, Sacred Heart in Lowell, Sacred Hearts in Haverhill, and the Georgetown parish.

Guy said the allegation is the first against a nun of her order, which is one of several different orders of Dominican nuns. It has about 350 nuns, with 83 of those serving in Massachusetts.

Cases of sexual abuse by nuns are not unknown, but are rare.

A.W. Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist and former priest who has treated hundreds of abusive clergymen, said the few accusations against nuns tend to grow out of alleged incidents in institutional settings - such as orphanages - rather than in parochial schools.

In an interview yesterday, Sipe also said that sexual abuse of children by nuns is often more subtle than the more aggressive - and sexually more obvious - advances made by abusive priests.

Jeffrey R. Anderson, a Minnesota lawyer who estimates he has handled several hundred cases involving sexual abuse by religious figures, said only two of his cases have involved allegations against nuns.

In the larger society, specialists estimate that women account for about 5 percent of adults who sexually abuse minors.

The National Catholic Repoter, in an article last week, reported that there have been about a dozen lawsuits in the last decade charging nuns with sexual misconduct.

In Australia this summer, an order of nuns disclosed that it had paid tens of thousands of dollars to settle claims by more than a dozen women who alleged they were physically and sexually abused by nuns at a Brisbane orphanage in the 1950s.

Several years ago, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, a Minnesota-based order, settled a lawsuit over alleged abuses by a nun at a Mankato, Minn., grade school during the 1970s. In Kentucky last month, a former nun filed a lawsuit alleging that she was sexually abused by three Benedictine nuns in the 1950s and '60s, beginning when she was a teenager. Additional allegations against nuns have been settled in Vermont, Michigan, and New York.

In the Vermont cases, the church settled claims brought by more than a dozen people who alleged that as children they were sexually abused at a former Burlington orphanage. In total, more than 100 former residents of St. Joseph's Orphanage, which closed in 1974, have alleged they were either physically or sexually abused decades ago by nuns, priests, or orphanage staffers.

Walter Robinson can be reached at wrobinson@globe.com.

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 11/14/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.


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