We Saw Nuns Kill Children: The Ghosts of St. Joseph’s Catholic Orphanage

By | September 13, 2019

– All I really want is an honest apology, and for them to come face to face with me, tell me these things did happen, honestly, tell me that they
were sorry it happened, and that would they
please, if at all possible, never let it happen to children again? (dramatic music) – How can a person forget
something so awful as abuse? (dramatic music) – [Narrator] Governments
in Germany, the UK, Canada, Ireland, and
Australia have all uncovered horrific abuse at orphanages. But America has never
reckoned with the effects of the orphanage system, even though during the 20th century, more than five million
kids passed through it. Many of them weren’t actually orphaned. Oftentimes, they had young single mothers, or parents who struggled
with alcohol, the law, or simply couldn’t afford to raise them. In the mid-1990s, more
than 100 former residents of St. Joseph’s Orphanage
in Burlington, Vermont, came forward and said they
had been brutally abused, but neither Vermont nor
the federal government pressed criminal charges. If survivors wanted justice,
it would be up to them to try to get it on their own. 28 of them sued the diocese, the order of nuns that ran the orphanage, and the local government
agency that oversaw it. Christine Kenneally is
an investigative reporter who spent four years
researching St. Joseph’s for Buzzfeed News. – The only reason I was able
to learn about this story was because these people in
their 60s and 70s and 80s who have been trying to
forget what happened to them their entire life were
willing to give me a chance, were willing to tell me
their story once more, to see if I would believe them. – [Narrator] Sally Dale
lived at St. Joseph’s from age two to 23, perhaps longer than any other child. She said the nuns there
beat her regularly. – [Interviewer] That photograph
is a photograph of you at a time when you were receiving
virtually daily beatings at the hands of people at
the St. Joseph’s Orphanage? – Yes, sir. – [Narrator] Repeatedly locked
her inside a small container that was kept in the attic. – I could not really sit up straight. I definitely couldn’t stand up, and you really couldn’t lay down flat. – [Narrator] And sexually abused her. – After whatever happened in her bedroom, she’d bring me by the hair, and bring me back to my bed. Of course, before that,
she’s spank me in her room, ’cause, tell me I was a bad girl. In the morning, when we got up, she would have me sitting
on the floor beside my bed, and she would make all
the other kids laugh at me and tell them what a bad
girl I was during the night. – [Narrator] But those aren’t
the most serious allegations. – I saw somebody push
a boy out the window, and I was looking up at the building, and to tell you who the
nun was, I can’t say, but I knew it was a nun, because she had the habit. And he kind of hit, and (smacking). – [Interviewer] Bounced? – Well, I guess you’d call it, it was a bounce, and then he laid still. – [Narrator] Sally also
said she saw a boy drown, after he was thrown off a
rowboat and into a lake. – All I said was, did he drown? – [Interviewer] And who’d you say that to? – To the nun, and she said, oh, don’t worry. He’s going home for good. – [Narrator] Many other
kids from St. Joseph’s told similar stories. This is Ed Duprey, explaining
how he was thrown off a boat. – I was fighting for my life
when I was swimming ashore. – [Interviewer] Did this
happen to other children? – Oh, yes, yes. All the time that I
was there, it happened. Every summer. – [Narrator] Patty Zeno said
a nun named Sister Pricil tried to push her off a windowsill, when she was standing on the outside, washing the window. – Windows were open, probably like this, so that they could hold
you by your ankles, and she just went. (dramatic music) – [Interviewer] Okay. And what happened? – I started to fall. – [Narrator] The survivors who
sued said that for decades, they’d lost hold of their memories, and only recently
remembered the awful things that had happened. Sally said she recovered
her memories of the abuse after attending a survivors’ reunion. – The memories all flowed back me, okay, in 1994, at that first reunion. The idea that childhood
abuse could be repressed and then recovered at a later date was a relatively new and still
very controversial concept. Many experts thought it
was basically a fraud. – The idea of having
repressed memories is a theory which was developed, and which
has never been substantiated. – [Narrator] The nuns’
lawyer, John Sartori, on attorney known as Darth
Vader by some of his colleagues, uncovered a number of inconsistencies in the former orphans’ memories. For example, Patty said she
first remembered the incident with Sister Priscil
when she read an article in the local paper about Sally’s lawsuit. – I went ballistic. – [Interviewer] In what sense? – Literally flew out of the chair, started shaking, crying. – [Interviewer] Was that the first time you had recalled that incident? – Yes, sir. – [Narrator] But Sally said
she and Patty talked about it shortly after the
reunion, two years prior. The question of when the
memories were recovered was just one of the inconsistencies in the former orphans’ memories. Some of the details about the
events they were describing didn’t line up, either, and these inconsistencies cast doubt on the basic credibility
of their testimony, especially since, as defense
attorneys kept pointing out, the events were so far in the past there was almost no way to verify them. Did Sister Priscil
really try to push Patty out of a window? Is it plausible that
Sally could’ve managed to haul her friend back in? (dramatic music) In the course of trying to find out if the St. Joseph’s survivors
were telling the truth, Christine Kenneally tracked
down Sister Priscil. – She hadn’t been in
the order for many years by the time I spoke to her. She was still very loyal to the order. She was proud of her life with the order, she was a proud Catholic, and very committed to her religion, and to her family. Towards the end of her
first interview together, I told Sister Priscil
that I’d heard a story about a nun pushing a girl
out of a second story window, at St. Joseph’s, and she
said, yes, that was me, and then she told me that what
she remembered of that day was that the girl had
stood in the windowsill, cleaning the window, as Sally had said, but that she had fallen, and that when she’d fallen,
Sister Priscil screamed. Sally actually reached
out and grabbed the girl. Sister Priscil said she just
stood there and screamed. She said there was
another nun in the room, and that she didn’t know
what to do about it. For a lot of the time that I’d spent looking into that story, I had the voices of the
defense attorneys in my head the whole time, suggesting
in many subtle ways that maybe this story
actually wasn’t true at all, maybe it had been completely made up. To find Sister Priscil herself, and to have her validate that the incident had, in fact, happened was extraordinary. – [Narrator] Sally’s case was dismissed. A judge said she hadn’t
actually recovered the memories. She’d had them all along, so the statute of limitations
had long since expired. Several other cases were dismissed, too. A few people got settlements. One said the amount was so
small that when she saw it, all she could do was laugh. America still hasn’t really confronted the damage done by the orphanages that housed millions of children, and as for St. Joseph’s itself, it went out of commission in the 1970s, and stood mostly empty for years. Recently, a developer bought it. It’s been turned into condominiums. (dramatic music)

5 thoughts on “We Saw Nuns Kill Children: The Ghosts of St. Joseph’s Catholic Orphanage

  1. RedneckSpaceMan Post author

    Although not definitively proven, it is alledged that The Vatican and countless other RCC structures conceal massive underground tombs of babies and children in vast numbers. Children mudered to maintain silence as well as countless babies murdered by abortion.

  2. Ridiculously Alissa Post author

    Okay……people like to talk about black on black crime in America but what about this….this is BS these poor fucking kids and people SMH Lord God please help them

  3. euli johnson Post author

    It's called white supremacy… They're not going to say sorry…


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