Seven File Lawsuit Alleging Abuse By Priest, Two NunsJul 16, 2004 | The Courier-Journal Seven people sued a local order of Roman Catholic nuns yesterday, alleging sexual abuse by a priest and two nuns at an Anchorage orphanage run by the order in the 1950s and 1960s.
The lawsuit names the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth as the defendant and alleges abuse at the St. Thomas-St. Vincent Orphanage, which closed in 1983.
The plaintiffs include five biological sisters who say they were sexually molested by Monsignor Herman J. Lammers, a resident chaplain at the home. One sister also says a nun, Sister Mary Ann Powers, abused her.
A sixth, unrelated plaintiff also names Lammers, while a seventh accuses another nun, Sister Mary Alma Stuecker, of sexual abuse.
Lammers previously was accused in two lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville in 2002 that later were settled.
Barbara Qualls, spokeswoman for the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, based in Bardstown, Ky., said she could not comment on pending litigation.
Lawsuits give only one side of a case and are not evidence of wrongdoing.
Other than the previous lawsuits naming Lammers, Qualls said the order was unaware of any allegations of sexual abuse at the orphanage or by the three people named in the suit, which was filed in Jefferson Circuit Court.
Qualls confirmed that all three named in the suit worked at the orphanage and since have died.
The five plaintiffs who are sisters accused Lammers of actions ranging from fondling to forced intercourse.
Helen Martine Edwards said she was 9 when the seven siblings entered the orphanage in the 1950s. Two of the siblings are not part of the case.
Edwards said Lammers later impregnated her, and she suffered a miscarriage when she fell from a windowsill onto a concrete floor while cleaning windows at the orphanage.
Edwards said her sisters lost touch with each other but made contact in the past year, when they learned that Lammers allegedly abused the five sisters.
"I thought I was the only one he was doing it to, and I (thought) as long as he was doing it to me he wouldn't do it to anybody else," said Edwards, now of Dallas. "The nuns knew. They all knew."
Her sisters who also joined in the lawsuit are Myrtle Darlene Kustes, Ann Wilson, Alicia Lynn Sinnott and Carol Ann Gilbert. The other plaintiffs are Dorothy Richardson, who accuses Lammers of abuse, and David V. Summers, who names Stuecker.
Lammers worked as director of Catholic Charities from 1939 to 1976. Catholic Charities owned the orphanage from 1952 onward, and it was operated by the Sisters of Charity.
Lammers died in 1986 at age 79. The archdiocese has said it had no record of any complaints before he was named in lawsuits.
Pope Pius XII gave Lammers the honorary title of monsignor in 1955, and the Catholic Orphans Society board honored Lammers in 1965. Lammers also served on various civic and right-to-life groups.
Most abuse cases in the Catholic Church have focused on abuse by priests, rather than nuns. But earlier this week, the advocacy group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests issued a public call for women's religious orders to take stronger action on abuse in their own ranks.
Only one of the more than 250 lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Louisville in the past two years alleged abuse by a nun, and the plaintiff's lawyer dropped that case late last year after concluding it should not go forward.
The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth includes about 600 nuns working in the United States, India and three other countries, Qualls said.