Woman Recalls Episodes of Clergy Abuse
Saturday December 2, 2006 9:01 PM
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Aformer nun who says she's haunted by her memory of being molested by apedophile priest as a young girl hopes a landmark settlement by theArchdiocese of Los Angeles will help her heal.
MaryDispenza, 67, no longer calls herself a Catholic, no longer attendschurch and doubts she will be able to reconcile the abuse with herfaith.
``Everythingthat I knew, all my identity, was wrapped up in the church in one wayor another. I was just lost,'' said Dispenza, who lives in Bellevue,Wash. ``I felt we both lost: the church lost me and I lost the church.And we both had invested a lot in each other for all those years.''
Sheexpects to receive $1.33 million as part of the $60 million thearchdiocese said Friday it would pay to settle 45 sexual abuselawsuits, the largest church sex abuse settlement since 2004. Thepayments cover cases from periods when the nation's largest archdiocesehad little or no sexual abuse insurance - cases before the mid-1950sand after 1987.
The agreement should be completed by early next week, said Ray Boucher, the plaintiffs' lead attorney.
For years,Dispenza said, she repressed the memory of her abuse at the hands ofthe now-defrocked Rev. George Neville Rucker, also accused of molesting37 other girls over three decades.
Rucker,now 86, was criminally charged in 2002 with 29 counts of molestation,and pleaded not guilty. The charges were later dropped after a U.S.Supreme Court ruling overturned a California law that erased thestatute of limitations for filing criminal molestation cases.
Rucker'sattorney, Donald Steier, said Friday he would not discuss the allegedabuse but was glad Dispenza was able to settle the claim ``and put itbehind her.''
Dispenzasaid she was a 7-year-old girl in 1947 when Rucker reached down herpanties and fondled her after she had wandered into the darkenedauditorium of her Roman Catholic primary school.
After heabused her, Dispenza says, the young priest held her hand as he walkedher to the back of the auditorium. She washed her hands beforereturning to her mother, and didn't tell anyone what had happened formore than 40 years.
``I wentinto this little bathroom and I remember washing my hands, washing andwashing. As a 7-year-old, I think I thought that would clean me orsomething,'' she said in a telephone interview. ``That's where I leftlittle Mary for many, many years. I just detached and split.''
Dispenzaworked for six years at St. Alphonsus School in East Los Angeles, thesame school where she says Rucker abused her, and joined a convent fora time.
She wasworking in the Archdiocese of Seattle in 1989 when she had to take aworkshop on clergy abuse and began to remember what happened.
``It was like, 'Oh my God, this happened to me and I need to take care of it,''' she said.She told her father about the alleged abuse when he was on his deathbed, but her mother never knew.
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