But the evidence had been kept secret, and there was so much more. Still, the list of victims was growing, and so was the list of abusers. For the plaintiffs, it was also a cruel one. Warsaw’s zoo … Not until the day he made the four-hour drive to Middletown, Connecticut, to meet Sally Dale. Taking control of the moment, he delivered an impassioned speech praising all the sacrifices the nuns had made. Widman followed it straight up to the top floor. Of the six nuns named, three are reported to now be dead and the whereabouts of the remaining three is not clear, the report stated. She had told someone else that she had been beaten and banished to a terrifying attic. He told the children that regardless of how the case was decided, they had spoken their truth, and that was the victory. But he was the one child whose death was not in dispute, having been featured at the time on the front page of the local paper. It happened at a power station after Millette “crawled under a high tension wire and made contact through metal helmet.”. Could you spare it? Widman’s idea was to argue that the sheer scale of abuse made it impossible that those in authority did not know. Mary didn’t cry, however. If the Burlington plaintiffs won, it could create a precedent and encourage civil cases at a massive scale. Given all that, it was remarkable how few times plaintiffs blew up. The women had worked so hard, laboring through the day and sitting up till dawn with the children if they were sick. The plaintiffs would need to call on each other as witnesses, but if each case was tried separately, they would have to return to the court and tell each story perhaps a dozen times, in front of strangers, an experience that many of his clients would find unbearable. Zeno now has dementia, her daughter told me, so it was not possible for me to speak with her. The Burlington Free Press reported that according to church officials, 100 people accepted the payment, for abuse they said they suffered. But Anna Salter, an expert in the psychology of predators and victims, testified that it was common for a child to be attached to someone who abused them, and that what tended to come through with recovered memories was the overall narrative — not necessarily all the specific details. He continued, “We got beat all the time for stupid stuff. Traveling back and forth from Florida for a week or two at a time, Widman drove through Vermont in search of St. Joseph’s alumni who might join the plaintiffs or serve as witnesses. Only two made it out. Best known as one of the founding acts of the early San Francisco punk scene, the band went through a number of hiatuses and periodic reunions, lineup changes, and changes in style. Quinton especially remembered a little girl called Michelle, who was only about 4 years old, was said to have a brain tumor, and was often bruised and marked from beatings. Many years later she reported the incident to the local sheriff’s office and to the tribal police department but, she said, even though the detective from the tribal police department accompanied her to the site, he said there was no physical evidence to go on. Lawyers are “risk managers,” he explained. The Albany case had one crucial difference: Orphanage survivors had managed to get a police investigation. Sally didn’t dare ask any more questions. Then she left. But I found two death certificates for babies from St. Joseph’s that he himself had signed. White and his colleagues traveled around the state, and eventually the country, encouraging different agencies to work together, and educating mental health workers and teachers about how and why to report abuse. Sally’s face creased with deep pain when she spoke of the boy who was pushed from the window, of the boy who disappeared into the lake, and of the boy who was burned beyond recognition. And they were pulled out of the orphanages where they had lived and moved into mental institutions. The news comes one year after 33-year-old nun Roxana Rodriguez made headlines across the globe by birth to a baby boy. Eventually White decided to convene a big gathering at the Hampton Inn in Colchester, Vermont, on the weekend of Sept. 18, 1994. They belong to an order of paganism called "Roman Catholicism". Has the truth surrounding his death been covered up?” It ignited the same kind of angry, dismayed chaos that was engulfing Burlington. My parents heard the same story. Bishop Angell, who testified that it was “unthinkable” in his day that a priest might assault a child, was the one who oversaw Foster’s case. The next time he tried it, the headstrong girl spilled the soup in his lap. Kimberly Murray, an assistant deputy attorney general in Ontario who led the Missing Children Project, told me about former residents who recalled witnessing other children beaten to death or pushed from a window. Sally pointed out her scars for the camera. But when Irene looked, she gasped. On the video, Sally recalls looking up to the fourth floor. Rob told me that for many years Sally had a bucket list of places to visit: Las Vegas, Disneyland, the Grand Canyon in a helicopter, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty. At every opportunity the defense lawyers called the orphans’ claims, some of which dated back to the 1940s, “ancient,” “antediluvian” and “impossibly stale.” “Some claims were already stale before the onset of WWII!” went one memo from Sartore. As with any cold case, the more time that passes between a crime and its investigation, the more likely it is that evidence will get corrupted or lost, that details will blur, that witnesses will die. Sally Dale received an invitation. Plaintiffs said as many as 160 individuals, who had been at the orphanage from the 1930s to the 1970s, pursued the bishop’s offer. She put me on her bed and started to touch me all over, I was so afraid but would not make a sound so she would get mad and [unclear] me. But overall, the documents — those that were publicly available and those that were withheld from Widman — lent credence to what the plaintiffs, and in particular Sally, said had happened to them, and to the children who didn’t make it out alive. I met Robert Widman at his house in Sarasota, Florida, on a balmy day in spring 2018. Some women had died, and others simply could not be found. Postal Service’s new parcel service to make a very special delivery: their infant son. “Could she have thrown somebody out of a window, and the body was spirited off and dismembered and people danced around the fire and who knows? Most of them found it excruciating to sit in front of a bunch of fancy opposing lawyers and tell the story again and again, as it was subjected to hostile scrutiny. I can relate a few anecdotes from my time at a convent primary school. Sister Fernande de Grace described herself as a “lively nun” who liked singing and playing guitar with the children. The names by which the St. Joseph’s plaintiffs knew them often applied only to their years of service. The group sat outdoors and ate a delicious fish dinner, and had a civil discussion about the case. A man spoke about the Bible and turning to God in times like these, and two therapists said they were available for anyone who wanted to talk. Because I was going to finally straighten out shit that happened to me all my life and should not have never happened. Another accident-prone...? It was the word of Sally Dale against the word of the church. When at last I reached her, she said that Eskra had died nine days earlier. Children given up for adoption as babies are trying to trace the mothers who say they were pressured by Catholic nuns … The back of the now-closed St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Burlington, Vermont. In one convent when the Mother Superior and her assistant tried to protect the younger nuns with outstretched arms, they were shot down. Father Devoy was also the priest whose body, plaintiffs claimed, lay in an open casket at the orphanage. Sally Dale’s case was filed in the US District Court of Vermont on June 13, 1996. They had asked why she was engaged in the litigation, and she said that she was tired of carrying the church’s baggage. She continued to serve as a witness — but for the plaintiffs. Barquin’s sense of reconciliation with the church proved to be a powerful one. She took me by the hand and brought me to her room. But she still had the statue. Yet Widman asked her about records he had obtained showing that she had hit a boy so hard that he was sent to the hospital. Sister Priscille had it out for her, she said, because she had once reported her to Vermont Catholic Charities, which had an office next door. No. No matter where they had come from, many of the children didn’t know where they were going until the moment they turned around and discovered that whoever had brought them there was gone. Twice, Sally watched them rub onions in Mary’s eyes. It took years — decades — for these survivors of St. Joseph’s to undo that indoctrination, to learn to trust their own perceptions, to reclaim their own experiences. Gentle and immediately likable, he was 47 and recently retired from his job as a corrections officer. They could have offered proof that residents who didn’t even know each other faced the same tortures — and more importantly, that people in charge should have been aware of the problems. You get down there and you lap it up. When I first came across the horrifying tales about a boy who drowned and a child who froze, I turned the page...only to find that the next 50 were missing. Some of the appalling claims date back half a … I mean, all I remember is he would abuse us, he’d abuse somebody every night, every single night that he worked.” Greene added, “And as far as how often, I don’t know. Widman and his band of orphans posed a profound threat, and the church was going to bring all its might to oppose it. In his fiery deposition, Dale Greene talked about what it was like to see St. Joseph’s, which had once been so closed off to the world, become vulnerable to odd incursions — from counselors and social workers who came to check up on things, and even from Greene’s own mother, who turned up one day, drunk and shouting that her child was being harmed. There was another child, a boy, who she heard had run away from the orphanage with his cousin. The nuns were, according to Worth, welcome and trusted by East End families. Huestis was off to one side when a nun came in, picked up a little satin pillow, and put it over the baby’s face. Greene had had enough. I also found another death certificate for a baby girl, who died shortly after a breech birth. 1. Three women recalled that a girl was placed facedown over a desk and beaten. All the women remembered that the nun pulled out some matches. Sally was neither combative nor timid, often simply polite, answering, “No, sir.” “Yes, sir.” “No, sir, not really.”. The woman had been 5 at the time. The facts were lost in the mists of time. Those five — Fathers Foster, Bresnehan, Devoy, Emile Savary, and Donald LaRouche — ruled over St. Joseph’s during most of its final 39 years of existence, meaning that during all that time, there were only three years in which the priest in charge of the orphanage did not turn out to be an accused abuser. Everywhere there were orphanages, everywhere children were institutionalized, there seem to be stories in living memory of dead and missing and even murdered children. Pope Francis, for the first time, acknowledged the sexual abuse of nuns by priests and bishops, including a case in which some clergy used women as sex slaves. “You don’t understand, it’s — this is fucking frustrating.”. Here was Sally herself with Sister Peter, the mother superior, and Bishop Brady. The stories made the front page of each local paper, but not a single person I interviewed from either case seemed to know about the other. Their struggles had been chronicled in a book, Les Enfants de Duplessis, by the sociologist Pauline Gill. She had no problems, and she had never touched a child in anger. As the stories tumbled out, former residents melted down in the meeting room and in the hotel’s hallways. One girl had milk for the first time at St. Joseph’s and thought it was the most delicious thing she had ever tasted. She ended the conversation promising to call him back. But Sally was still there to see what happened next: The nun reached through the window frame and shoved Patty hard. Baker testified that he had been molested and abused and emotionally devastated when he was at St. Joseph’s, and he was tired and extremely angry with the whole process. As it was happening, she heard a baby cry. The few times that orphanage abuse cases have been litigated in the US, the courts have remained, with a few exceptions, generally indifferent. The first of those chaplains was Father Devoy, the one who Sally said pulled down her underpants. She was one of 15 children in a Quebec farm family. He has not worked for the Sisters again. During the day, she went about her business, and at night, lying there in the darkened dormitory, she tried to go right to sleep. “We had permission to kick the children,” she said. The woman had been 5 at the time. They didn’t remember any abuse. He lodged a complaint in the US District Court at Brattleboro, Vermont, on June 7, 1993, seeking damages for Barquin’s injuries from physical, psychological, and sexual abuse at St. Joseph’s Orphanage 40 years before. Duplessis observed that orphanages received only half the amount for each resident that hospitals and mental institutions received. She said no, at first, then she said she knew of one such nun. She didn’t know what it was. We’ve got information there, and we’ll move on.’”. Much like Philip White, Widman didn’t immediately form an opinion as to whether Barquin was telling the truth, but he thought it was worth exploring further. He died in 1963. It was happening in Albany too, with survivors of an orphanage called St. Colman’s Home. In the end, the Community’s bishop did what even the Luftwaffe couldn’t do – drive the nun-midwives out of Poplar, in 1978, after raising the rent on their Mission House. Most of the memories hadn’t come flooding back until the reunion, but over the years, small bits of the larger story had leaked out. Or rather, buried. We called him John Divine.’ Asked if her work made her feel broody, she says, ‘You go through a time when you have to question whether you have a vocation for the religious life or have a call that may involve marriage and children.’. And you guys here are representing people that you know nothing about. A power line had sent 33,000 volts through his body. I knocked at the Quebec apartment that was listed for her, and found a tiny, birdlike 88-year-old with a huge smile on her face. Some of the plaintiffs dropped their cases. Eventually the handle of the paddle snapped, so she got another paddle and used that one until she was finished. About the burning? Where had they come from? He told her that he didn’t care about spelling or anything like that, he just hoped it might help her sort things out. Once the doors of St. Joseph’s had shut behind them, the children played a part in a strange, private theater, with many actors but no audience. The inquiries focused primarily on sexual abuse, not physical abuse or murder, but taken together, the reports showed almost limitless harm that was the result not just of individual cruelty but of systemic abuse. Retired lawyer Robert Widman at his house in Burnsville, North Carolina. The stories haunted me, but despite the many resonances with tales from different orphanages, I found some of them just too much to believe. Again and again, they learned that their firsthand observations were not valid. He asked Sartore if he would settle. White’s team developed a way for children to testify on closed-circuit TV so they wouldn’t have to tell their story in front of their abuser. As the seconds ticked by, I felt I was being sized up, inspected for weak spots. He told his clients that he could not advise them what path to choose, but if anyone wanted to settle, he would help. (I was unable to obtain any of the documentation for the settlement.). They were forced to eat their own vomit. Adds Pam Ferris (Sister Evangelina, below), ‘I just thought, “Whoopee! “So if he did it 10 or 20 times, this would have lasted 10 or 20 weeks, is that right?”. Across thousands of miles, across decades, the abuse took eerily similar forms: People who grew up in orphanages said they were made to kneel or stand for hours, sometimes with their arms straight out, sometimes holding their boots or some other item. Five laymen who worked at the orphanage were also accused or convicted of child sexual abuse. But when she got her settlement check and saw the paltry dollar amount, she laughed out loud. he asked her. But when the nun lifted it up, its limbs dangled. “Maybe,” he said. They would put the little kids on them sometimes just to sit but others they would stand them on it and then push them and of course sometimes there little legs would get caught between the wall and radiator and the little kids would really scream and cry. But the defense never offered an accounting of who had died and how, except in a few narrow instances when forced to. His caller asked him if he was looking for Elaine Benoit. Her husband was nearby. Two years ago I stood in a church at St. Mary’s Mission in Omak, Washington, with a woman who had grown up in the mission’s residential school. She managed to put God’s plate down without spilling anything, but when she turned to walk away, Father Devoy put his hand under her skirt. In January 1913, one Ohio couple took advantage of the U.S. The judge ruled that the statute of limitations barred her claims of emotional and physical abuse. We weren’t trying to convert the people, but simply treat them as unique human beings, with love and respect.’. They had been born into local families, Catholic French Canadians but also English or Irish Americans and in a few cases African Americans or Abenaki, Native Americans of the region. Borsykowsky gave a quick and unequivocal no and didn't respond to written questions I sent him afterward. What he remembered most was looking up at the sky from under the water and seeing “that patch of light as you're going down.”. She just knew that she didn't like it. And I told her I was telling the truth, that I didn’t do it. And as hard as it would still have been, in that era, to convince jurors that a priest could be a sexual predator, making that argument about a nun was going to be much harder. That was the last time Sally saw Mary, although a short while later, one of the older girls announced that Mary had it made. The stories I read of dead children at St. Joseph’s were just as brutal. Horde also discovered that within the previous year another of the nuns had had an illegitimate child, the father this time being a married man from Oxford. They were dangled upside down out windows, over wells, or in laundry chutes. This was the first piece of evidence I found in the church’s own documents that corroborated the abuse that so many residents of St. Joseph’s testified they had endured. Over the years, many people handed me folders, briefcases, boxes, and loose bundles of papers. Old nuns are extremely hard to track. Widman was stunned. She wasn’t allowed to walk down the street. Sally explained many times that she didn’t think her memories had ever been entirely lost, but maybe they were hidden. someone there said. Was he a victim of a brutal institutional environment? Only then did I begin to understand how much information had not been disclosed to Widman and the St. Joseph’s survivors, and how much less than the whole truth the Burlington clergy had told under oath. She regretted it. If the victim could not offer proof that they had reported the abuse to someone in authority, then those in authority were not responsible. It argued that it could prejudice a jury to hear stories from such a long timespan. In a report, the institute said Foster had “severe sexual issues” and decades of behavior “unbecoming to a priest.” By the time of the deposition, St. Luke had advised that Foster should have no unsupervised contact with minors. Sally told Sartore that when she was quite little, she had done her very best to be good for a whole week, and for once it had worked. A medieval monk seduces a nun, who becomes pregnant and has an illegitimate baby. In isolation, any one account could be more easily picked apart and cast into doubt. Eventually, the elderly residents left. They didn’t have children of their own, and they didn’t know how to handle them. I told him that I had found evidence that supported a lot of what she said. Death records over a 19 year period showed that a quarter of all babies born at the institution were recorded as having died within the first 12 months of their life. “I can't answer it,” she said. It was a lovely day that turned into a beautiful evening. Here was the problem with her ribs from where the nuns pounded her with their fists and it was so hard to breathe. One recalled that the girl had struggled and cried; another remembered that all the girls cried; one believed that she herself had spoken out, but that no one else said a word. In the archives of the Burlington Free Press, however, which only recently came online, I stumbled across a 1943 article, which reported “an unheralded visitation” by Father Devoy at the meeting of the Catholic Order of Foresters at the Hotel Vermont “with a boy from the orphanage.” Devoy explained to the surprised foresters that he and the boy had come to the hotel because the boy was very interested in forestry. She couldn’t tell. Many of the orphans went on to marry, and to have children and grandchildren, without letting on that they had spent any time in an orphanage. A nun's story: sex, affairs and priests you can't refuse Sister Mary, who left her Catholic congregation in Kerala 13 years ago after 40 years of nunhood, is likely to raise her storm with her book on the church. They were also, he said, a dry run for the combat of a trial, a chance to see how witnesses would present, whether they would cry, whether they seemed genuine. He threw himself into the discovery process. But today I know we don’t have permission.”, Again Priscille’s English became difficult to follow. Father Foster said he attended Devoy’s funeral but did not remember any children there. It was a freezing day in January 2016 when I passed through a long-locked door and first set foot into what had once been St. Joseph’s Orphanage. For every one of those he represented, White sent a letter to Bill O’Brien, the church’s attorney. One woman thought the nun had a whole box of them. The services they offered were important, though they had not changed a great deal over time—home births and minimal medical intervention were still the norm, especially in Season 1. It was a smart strategy. Joseph Barquin contacted Robert Widman, a well-regarded lawyer near where he lived in Sarasota, Florida, whom he’d heard of from a friend of a friend. Kellie, I am not offended at all and am glad that you asked. But whenever Sally or another orphan told Widman about witnessing a death, his silent reaction was that there were no bodies, no witnesses, and no proof of any kind. If you smile, the whole world smiles with you.”. The brothers who she said abused her down at the lake — how did she know they were actually men rather than boys from the other side of the orphanage? He and the attorneys at Langrock Sperry & Wool had been working on a theory they called the “dirty institution.”. Then, and in subsequent conversations, she told him about the little boy who was thrown out of a fourth-story window by a nun. One woman recalled lying in bed at night, as a child, listening to old souls trudge up and down the long hallways making “screaming and moaning and scraping sounds.” She realized only later that the terrifying sounds came from old folks pushing a chair in front of them, like a walker. ‘The bishop and the archdeacon weren’t very interested in us by then,’ says another former nun-midwife, Sister Margaret. First picture of nun who had baby when she didn't know she was pregnant (and named it Francis, after the Pope) The 33-year-old woman is nun with order of the Little Disciples of Jesus And it wasn’t a nice place. Later she described Sister Jane as an oppressive and abusive figure. When they were bad, they were pushed, dragged, and blasted up the stairs to sit alone and scream into the void. Of the six nuns named, three are reported to now be dead and the whereabouts of the remaining three is not clear, the report stated. A jury would have been as skeptical as I was. 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