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Woman alleges sexual abuse by nun in 1955, as advocates renew call for disclosure

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The advocacy group representing numerous victims of alleged sexual abuse by local clergy or members of religious orders is again calling on state lawmakers to pass the Child Victim Act. They stood outside an Amherst Catholic school where, one woman alleges, she was subject to a mix of verbal, emotional and sexual abuse in 1955.

J. Carroll Becker joined members of Road To Recovery on the sidewalk in front of Christ The King School in Amherst Thursday morning. Becker, 68, says while enrolled in the school in September 1955 she was subject to a mix of verbal and emotional abuse by Sister Pauline Terese. The intimidating verbal abuse, she told reporters, led her on more than occasion to wet herself.

On the third occasion, Becker alleges, the nun responded with additional behavior which Becker described graphically.

"She made me take off my underpants and she raped me with a crucifix, saying this will cure me from defiling God's property," she said. "And then she put a pair of her underwear on me and made me sit the rest of the day in class."

Becker added that Sister Pauline Terese would refer to her as "Betty Wetty" and allow the class to call her the same name. 

Earlier this year, Becker says she met with Diocesan officials as well as Sister Margaret Mary Kimmins, OSF. She said the meeting went for nearly 90 minutes but was generally discouraging, with a lot of chit-chat, comments by Sister Margaret Mary about her wardrobe and, when asked who the nun represents, extending herself to show her height in what Becker says was an intimidating gesture.

She also suggests the Diocese informed her she would not receive financial compensation but was offered counseling. Becker says she was already undergoing counseling and found the offer inadequate.

The Franciscan Sisters of Allegany issued a written statement Thursday afternoon in response to the accusation: "The Franciscan Sisters of Allegany are aware of the allegations of abuse brought forth against a former member of the congregation. The Sister in question left the congregation in 1982 and has since died.

"The Franciscan Sisters of Allegany are committed to respecting the dignity and well-being of each person. We acknowledge the sacred trust we hold because of our vowed life, and the power, influence, and authority that we hold in our ministerial relationships. We declare unequivocally that abuse of any person is unacceptable behavior and violates the rights of others.

"We are currently following our Congregational protocol to investigate the matter. In order to respect dignity and privacy, we will not comment further at this time."

Road To Recovery founder and president Robert Hoatson renewed calls to the Diocese of Buffalo to reveal all it knows about past sexual abuse. He also called to law enforcers and legislators to act.

"(Erie County) DA (John) Flynn, if this isn't cause for an investigation? Acting Attorney General (Barbara Underwood), if this isn't another reason to investigate?" Hoatson said. "Legislators, haven't you heard enough? It's now time to pass the Child Victims Act."

That proposed legislation, which has now stalled in Albany for a dozen years, would allow adults victimized as children to pursue legal action. Currently, the state's statute ot limitations gives victims until the age of 23 to sue.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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