Sisters of Nazareth deny sexual abuse allegations

Woman alleges rape by priests and nuns forcing her to eat her own vomit

A woman has told the North’s Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry that while in the care of the Sisters of Nazareth   as a child she was raped by two priests, sexually abused by two nuns and  forced to eat her own vomit.

A woman has told the North’s Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry that while in the care of the Sisters of Nazareth as a child she was raped by two priests, sexually abused by two nuns and forced to eat her own vomit.

 

The Sisters of Nazareth have denied claims by a 65-year-old woman that while under their care as a child she suffered serious abuse.

The woman, now living in England, has told the North’s Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry that while in care as a child she was raped by two priests, sexually abused by two nuns and also forced to eat her own vomit.

The woman said when she was 10 or 11 and in care in Nazareth House in Belfast, she was sexually assaulted while attending confession.

A priest dragged her into the sacristy and raped her, she said. After the alleged assault, the priest told her she “was not worthy” and made her “beg for forgiveness”, the witness told the 92nd day of the inquiry on Monday.

She said the priest told her she “had the devil’s eyes”.

The witness also said when she was 14 she told a nun of this alleged rape, but the nun called her a liar and slapped her face.

The witness also described an incident when she was allegedly forced to eat her own vomit by nuns.

She further told the inquiry that from the age of 7 or 8 she was sexually abused by two nuns - abuse that went on for about four years.

The witness said she could not name any of the people involved in the alleged rape, sexual abuse and forcing-feeding incidents.

Strongly denied

The Sisters of Nazareth in response said that over the course of the inquiry some of the allegations against them had been admitted, but they strongly denied these claims against them.

They said children were never force-fed, and that no other witness had made such sexual allegations against Nazareth House nuns.

The woman also alleged that at the age of 14 she was raped for a second time by a second priest, in another incident after confession.

A priest who would have said Masses and heard confessions at Nazareth House around that time told the inquiry in a statement it would have been “inconceivable” that the rape could have happened without witnesses having seen it. He denied any involvement.

A 77-year-old man also alleged at the inquiry in Banbridge, Co Down that as a boy in care he was struck on the hands more than 60 times by a nun wielding the handle of a hurley stick.

The man, who was in care with the Sisters of Nazareth at Nazareth Lodge in Belfast from 1945 to 1953, when he was aged between 7 and 15, described what he said was his worst experience.

He recounted how he fought a psychological battle with one named nun by refusing to show pain even though he was allegedly hit at least 66 times on the two hands.

The witness said he was struck after he was wrongly accused of damaging a jotter by biting into its cover.

‘Fighting a battle’

He said he lost count after he was struck for the 66th time. He said he was counting the strikes because “I was fighting a battle in my head” with the nun.

Describing what he was thinking and feeling at the time, he said, “I can’t say [to the nun] I done this because I had not done it. Actually I did not feel the physical pain because I felt, ‘I am going to win this, I am going to win this’.”

The witness said in the subsequent weeks he lost five finger nails as a result of the alleged beating.

The Sisters of Nazareth in a statement said that the handle of a hurley stick was never used to mete out punishment.

The witness also cited several incidents where he was allegedly beaten by another named nun, whom other witnesses have accused of physical abuse.

A third witness, a middle-aged man, alleged that he had been beaten by two members of the domestic staff, but that he had never been beaten by the nuns at Nazareth House.

“I think fondly of the nuns. I am grateful for the care and support I got from them,” he told the inquiry.