CLEVELAND — Decades-old abuse allegations against the Catholic Church came to the fore on Tuesday. A national organization is supporting people who claim they suffered severe abuse as children at the former Parmadale children’s home in Parma.
Dr Robert Hoatson and Carolyn Mason held a press conference on Tuesday to talk about his time in Parmadale in the 1960s. You may remember Carolyn from the News 5 investigation which broke the news of the physical abuse allegations against some nuns in Parmadale.
RELATED: ‘I was scared’ – Women say they were beaten and abused by nuns at the Parma children’s home in the 1960s
Hoatson founded Road to Recovery, Inc. in New Jersey. It is a non-profit group that helps victims of abuse with their complaints against the Catholic Church.
“And the Church claims to be, it seems, the most moral institution in the world and it acts in the most immoral way when it comes to this issue,” Hoatson said.
CALLS TO RELEASE ALL DIOCESE OF CLEVELAND RECORDS
Hoatson called on the Catholic dioceses in Cleveland to release all records they hold against all priests, nuns and laity.
News 5 has reached out to the Sisters of Charity and the diocese to ask for their side of the story.
A statement from the Sisters of Charity read, “All aspects of the process are confidential…and the process is not over. Their full statement can be found at the end of this story.
The Diocese responded Tuesday evening after our story aired, saying the Diocese reported one of the victims’ allegations to the Cuyahoga County District Attorney, Cuyahoga County Child and Family Services, and the diocesan review committee, which investigates the allegation. You can also read the full statement from the diocese at the end of this story.
Meanwhile, News 5 investigators have new information about the child abuse allegations. Since the airing of this story, efforts have been made to provide advice to former children of the Parmadale Children’s Home. There was also an open investigation and even talks about restitution.
“Reading these is very moving,” said Debbie Demming, who was part of our original investigation. She told us about the messages she received from others who were also in Parmadale as children in the 1960s.
PEOPLE REACH OUT AFTER STORY SPREAD
“Hello, Debbie. I was moved to tears,” read a message Demming received. “I remember the beatings vividly.”
Another person wrote, “I and many of my friends were beaten badly for no reason.”
Another person said, “A lot of tears seeing the others come forward broke my heart.”
Demming first came out publicly with News 5 Investigators last month about allegations of serious emotional and physical abuse by nuns in Parmadale. She specifically focused on Sister Myra Wasikowski and said the nun stripped and beat her, left scars on her head and punished her in a disgusting way.
“If you didn’t eat your food or got sick at the table, she would make you eat your vomit,” Demming said during our first report.
Carolyn Mason has shared similar stories of abuse, and she too has heard of people who were once children in Parmadale.
“I’m not just one,” Mason told us. “I think I counted about 25 [people who got in touch] so far on Sister Myra alone.
COUNSELING OFFERS, WORDS OF RESTITUTION
Since the publication of our story, Mason and Demming told us that they had been in contact with the Sisters of Charity. This group offered to provide free advice and talked about the compensation process.
“Have you ever mentioned restitution?” we asked Demming.
“I haven’t. They talked about it first,” she replied.
“They said, ‘Put a number on it,'” Mason said. “What number to ask for four years of a child’s life? And then the recurring problems of each year that go back? she added crying.
“How do you say, ‘Okay, $2 million will take that away.’ It probably won’t happen,” Demming told us.
CONCERNS ABOUT THE HIRED INVESTIGATOR
The women said the Sisters of Charity had assembled a committee to review their claims and hired an investigator. He was an employee of the Ohio Attorney General’s office who obtained special authorization to conduct the private, outside investigation. Women told us they were concerned about this because the Attorney General’s office is supposed to hold organizations accountable and not have one of its own employees working for the organizations in question. We asked the Auditor General’s office about this. He said, “no comment.”
CLAIMS OF CRITICISM TO ADVANCE
The women also said the Sisters of Charity and others told them they should not have made the abuse allegations public.
“The only lady [from Sisters of Charity] said I never should have gone to the news,” Mason said.
“Would you be where you are now if you hadn’t spoken publicly with News 5?” we asked.
“Probably not. Probably not. We would be back to square one where we have always been,” Demming replied.
Now that their stories are known, they want the nuns to speak out.
“I’m sure there are still nuns who were in Parmadale who are alive and aware of what happened there,” Demming said.
They want more people who were kids in Parmadale to come forward publicly.
“You can close that door on him,” Mason said. “End that part of your life so it doesn’t haunt you.”
They also encourage people like those who contacted Demming to speak out publicly.
“Sister Myra was so evil,” she read in her posts.
“She asked a girl to put out cigarettes on my arm,” another wrote.
“(We were) not only threatened but abused,” Demming read aloud. “And the aftershock continues.”
Here is the full statement from the Sisters of Charity:
“The investigator hired by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Augustine has experience in these delicate situations and was recommended by the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. We hired the investigator after learning of an individual’s allegations of abuse while receiving care at the former Parmadale Children’s Village in St. Vincent de Paul.
The investigator has our full cooperation and operates independently in the investigation of this matter.
Protecting the most vulnerable is at the heart of our healing ministry. Hurting people, especially children, goes against all the values we stand for. If the allegations regarding the old Parmadale facility are true, we will take all possible steps to ensure this does not happen again. The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland has extensive policies, training, education, compliance, and other related issues for child protection.
As this remains an active investigation, we will have no further comment at this time.
Below is the full statement from the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland:
The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland takes very seriously allegations of sexual abuse of Ms. Mason by an unidentified priest in Parmadale in the 1960s. The Diocese reported the allegation to the Cuyahoga County District Attorney, Child Services and to the family of Cuyahoga County, and the Diocesan Board of Review, which is investigating the allegation.
The Diocese’s dedication to child protection is embodied in its policy for the safety of children from sexual abuse and demonstrated through its awareness raising, abuse prevention training, screening, reporting of allegations to civil authorities and its independent review commission to investigate allegations. The Diocese’s policy and practices have been audited by an independent auditor annually since 2004, and each year the auditors have found the Diocese to be in compliance with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and young people.
In keeping with its commitment to share appropriate information with the public, the diocese has published on its website a list of the names of diocesan clerics who have been removed from office following child sexual abuse or against whom the subject of a complaint based on an allegation of child sexual abuse.
The diocese continues to pray for Ms Mason and for anyone who has experienced or been affected by child abuse. Anyone who suspects a cleric has committed child abuse should report their suspicions to law enforcement and the Diocese’s Confidential Response Line by phone at 216-334-2999 or by email at email@example.com.