Abuse by Nuns is Making News – Take Action Now

Hi friends,

I want to alert you to a segment on The Abuse of Children by Nuns that will air on CBS Morning News on Tuesday, October 23rd at 7:30 am on your CBS channel. I and others from Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) are featured in the program.
The abuse of children and others by religious women (nuns) has largely remained under the radar.  The “Me Too” movement and the Internal investigation into clergy abuse and cover ups in Pennsylvania has really changed that. More and more survivors who were abused by nuns are waiting to be heard and visible. They, too, want their abusers exposed and justice to be served.
If you are a survivor of abuse by a nun, or a friend of someone harmed by a nun, please contact me, or share my contact information. 
Thanks so much for your support.

Apology should be followed by action

spiral of stained glass windows

Apologies are not enough

When you’re wronged, it’s nice to hear the words, “I’m sorry, please forgive me.” I learned that much in Catholic school — a long, long time ago. I also learned that apology alone is never enough. We need to mend what we break and promise never to do it again.However, Pope Francis doesn’t seem to remember this core lesson of his own Catholic school education. If he did, he’d be taking steps to help mend all the lives that have been broken by the devastating impact of clergy sex abuse.

Survivors in Chile wanted Bishop Barros removed from his high place of honor. That is why they told their stories of pain and anguish.

After the apologies, survivors want action

All survivors want to hear words of apology. But they want those words followed by swift and bold action to stop the damage. As the damage to my church spirals out of control, I want to hear Pope Francis say, “After reading testimonies from survivors of clergy sex abuse, I am removing Bishop Barros, Bishop McCarrick and others from their role as Bishops. Bishops, be on alert – I’m not going to let this happen again.”That would please me.

How about you? Would you like to hear that something substantive is going to be done to stop this scourge?

What do you think the faithful should do about this? How can we take action to make our leaders take action?

Local Author Festival, Island Books Sept 23rd

Book Festival Time!

On Sunday, I’ll be appearing at one of my favorite places, Island Books, on Mercer Island, for their Local Author Festival. Come by, hear about my memoir, SPLIT and share your own story. Have a snack with  me and several other local writers whose work you’ll want to know about.

  • Matthew & Wendy Woerner
  • Kristin Jarvis Adams
  • Craig Holt
  • Lawney Reyes
  • Ashton Macaulay
  • Peter Adum

There will be a gift certificate giveaway too. Bring a friend, join the fun!

Sunday, September 23, 2018 – 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Island Books
3014 78th Ave SE
Mercer IslandWA 98040




The Power of Book Groups

sitting on a stack of booksBook groups are everywhere. You can hardly throw a Kindle these days without hitting one.

And some of those book groups are amazing.

My spouse, Mary Ann’s group has been meeting for almost twenty years, and they have a notebook to prove it.

The notebook would be a bookseller’s dream. It’s plum full of juicy summaries of hundreds of books read – the good, the bad, and the ugly. These folks don’t mince words. They are experienced, sophisticated readers, and tough critics. They have no shame, and have read enough to earn the right to be picky. They know good literature when they see it.

It goes without saying that I have great respect for book groups. Their opinions and ratings of my memoir, Split: A Child, A Priest, and the Catholic Church, have been invaluable to me. I have discussed Split with readers in bookstores, homes, and once, in a pub. I should do more of those pub discussions!

Books Open Minds, Book Groups Open Voices

My latest book discussion was in my friend, Bobbie’s home. She’d gathered an informal group of brilliant, funny, curious, and well-read women. Their questions were fresh and creative, and their thinking took my understanding to higher levels.

My book concerns so many issues – the Church, child sex abuse by priests, the role of women in the Church, patriarchy, celibacy, viability of marriage, intimacy, shame, arrested sexual development, relationships to priests, and the deeply rooted shame and self blame that remains in boys abused by clerics. With the added activism of the #MeToo movement, there was even more to talk about.

After living with these topics for so many years, it’s wonderful to listen to others talk. I never cease to learn from book groups.

Thanks to the many book groups whose members have made my life better.

Want to join a book group? There are lots of ways to find them.

Here are a few:

Check with your local library. Book groups often advertise on library bulletin boards.

MeetUp lets you search for local groups.


On MyBookClub you can sort groups by focus.


Virtual, and many other kinds of groups are listed on Goodreads.


Happy reading and discussing!

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

HB1155 – Eliminate the Statute of Limitations

girl hiding her faceLet’s Work Together to Eliminate the Statute of Limitations

As survivors of sexual abuse, most of us can attest to the fact that the criminal act of sexual assault, especially of a child, can take years and years to uncover. Because my abuser was a priest, the trauma overwhelmed me. I buried the truth until I was 52 years old.

That fact makes most interesting the subsequent fact that the Catholic Church and other institutions have spent millions of dollars lobbying to keep statutes of limitations in effect across the country.

These efforts to keep the statute of limitations in place do not protect children, youth or vulnerable adults. Such efforts protect perpetrators and organizational coffers, not sexual assault victims.

This is why I applaud Rep. Dan Griffey of Olympia, in his efforts to do the right thing in initiating HB1155 to end the statute of limitations on sex offenses.

Let’s get behind HB1155 and be the 18th state to eliminate the statute of limitations as regards sexual abuse. Allow rape victims to pursue charges at any point after their attack.

The full title of the bills is: Making felony sex offenses a crime that may be prosecuted at any time after its commission.

You can read the text of the bill, follow the progress of the bill through the legislature, and add your comments to the discussion at House Bill 1155.

Please join me in supporting passage of this bill to protect the rights of abuse victims. The heinous behavior of sexual predators must end.


This post concerns the effort in Washington State to abolish the statute of limitations on reporting of sex offenses. Other states have similar projects.  If you’d like to know more about what’s going on in your state you can start with the articles on the SNAP network website.  Here is a list of articles about ending the statute of limitations in various states.



How Investigating Abuse Might Win an Oscar and Fix the Economy

multicolored spotlights academy awards

Survivors in the Spotlight

Tomorrow morning, 11 AM eastern time, I’ll be featured in a segment of CNN Money, during Sunday’s CNN Reliable Sources.

As an activist for ending the epidemic of abuse in the Catholic Church, I’m often interviewed for news stories. But this is new for me, being interviewed for a piece about the financial world. In all my years of activism on behalf of survivors, I’ve never considered that I might be involved in something that can impact a part of our economy. But you can never know all the places your work might have an effect.

The journalism sector has taken a huge hit in recent years, with print journalism almost disappearing as news reportage and consumption have moved online. Punditry, opinion, and spectacle have overtaken research and objectivity as the primary foci of many news reporting organizations.

Spotlight: Investigative Journalists as Heroes

But objective newspaper, radio, and television journalism do still exist. And thanks to the movie Spotlight, and a talented cast that includes Rachael McAdams, Liev Schriber, Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo, investigative journalists in particular are inspiring a new generation of students. With any luck, the film will also remind us that this vital work is worth paying for.

Many, many activists and whistle blowers are always working to get word out about injustice and malfeasance in various areas of American life. Every now and then, one of those gets the attention of someone who can help do something about a problem. Spotlight is about one such event, when a group of investigative journalists took a source and a story seriously enough to dig below the surface, shine a light into very dark places, and find out exactly what was going on.

A Chance at the Academy Awards

The segment airs tomorrow, February 28th, the same day as the Academy Awards ceremony. That’s important, because Spotlight is nominated for six of those awards, including Best Picture.

Spotlight is that rare film that deals with both the worst of people and the best of people and lets us know that we hold the keys to the solution for so many of our problems. While box office blockbusters, and blustering candidates can seem important as they take up all the oxygen in the room, they are only spectacle and show, with no substance.

Spotlight was not created to be that kind of blockbuster. But it is a blockbuster of another type, it provides heart-stopping drama and edge-of-seat suspense about whether real victims, of real crimes, will be vindicated, and real criminals held to account. The Atlantic called Spotlight  “an emotional juggernaut”, and that’s certainly the way it affected me.

The cinematic drama continues Sunday night, when the truth of Spotlight goes up against a stellar array of fictional films, including The Martian and The Revenant, for best picture of 2015.

The Real Drama

And meanwhile, the real drama of priests and sexual abuse continues in our churches, our courtrooms, our Archdiocese, throughout the Catholic Church hierarchy, and all the way up to the Pope. Will abusive priests, and the bishops who cover for them ever, finally, be held to account for their ongoing crimes against innocent children?



Tune in to CNN Reliable Sources tomorrow morning, Sunday Feb 28th, 11 AM Eastern Time. 8 AM Pacific Time.



Behind the Friendly Smiles and Soothing Words


See that nice man, holding the little girl’s hand?

That’s the priest who abused me and thirty other children.

father michael cody, smiling
Father Cody, photo from bishopaccountability.org

See this friendly smile?

That belonged to the late Father Michael Cody, whose name was among 77 abusive priests just released by the Seattle Archdiocese.

The Church is Still in Denial on Abuse – Unsurprising, yet Shocking

For anyone who’s seen Spotlight, the amazing film about breaking the story of abuse in the Boston Archdiocese, the fact that what happened in the Seattle Archdiocese mirrors what happened in Boston, is unsurprising.

The fact that all of the abuse, subterfuge and protection is still going on, and that the Archdiocese continues to want to keep abusive priests out of the hands of law enforcement is nothing short of shocking. How is it that the church is still in denial on abuse?

Last week I was interviewed about the release of the names of Seattle area abusive priests by Bill Radke of KUOW. Click the link for the article and audio of that talk.

Why Does the Church Deny it has a Very Specific Problem?

My favorite line from the article:

In response to a Church spokesman who downplayed the number of priests who abuse, attorney Michael Pfau said:

“I would like to see this Archdiocese – and all the Catholic archdioceses – stop saying things like, ‘This is not a Catholic problem.’”

Sexual abuse is very much a Catholic problem, for the simple reason that the Church continues to assume that priests, at least 4% of whom are proven to be sexually twisted, are safe around vulnerable children.

Six Decisions to Make for Happiness and Success

cover of the power of responsibility a guide to happiness and success by joelle casteix

Did you know happiness and success are your


For many who have been abused – by a priest, or any other authority figure – feelings of happiness and success can be hard to come by. Abuse can take the foundation out from under you, leaving powerlessness and helplessness as the norm. I struggled for years after my abuse to find my own sense of strength, power and joy.

To help survivors and anyone struggling to feel whole, my friend, and fellow survivor, Joelle Casteix, of The Worthy Adversary, has just published, The Power of Responsibility: Six Decisions That Will Help You Take Back Happiness and Create Unlimited Success.

Reading and Passing the Word

I’m currently reading The Power of Responsibility and learning a lot. I’ll be reviewing the book on Amazon and I’ll also posting a full review here on Mary Dispenza in the next couple of weeks.

The Power of Responsibility is not a book about survivors, or specifically for survivors. It’s for anyone who wants to be happier, stronger and more successful. But it will be extremely helpful to those dealing with the after-effects of abuse.

So join me, jump on this opportunity to grab a copy and read about the power of responsibility – something we can all profit from. The Kindle edition is just 99 cents this week. After you’ve read it, leave a comment here to let me know how it helps you. I look forward to discussing Joelle’s book and her ideas for how we might all find power in taking responsibility for our success. And pass the word about this great resource to anyone you know who might be seeking to increase their own sense happiness.

Helping Children Avoid Abuse

Those of you with children will also want to check out Joelle’s previous book The Well Armored Child, an excellent guide to giving your child the tools he or she needs to avoid abusive situations and people. There’s nothing more important than to help coming generations avoid becoming victims.

For more information on Joelle, her work and her books, visit TheWorthyAdversary.com.

SPOTLIGHT – THE film to see now

Survivors Network of those abused by Priests flyer for Spotlight film

The SPOTLIGHT is on abusive priests

Here’s a handy reference from SNAP, highlighting some of the statistics about Priest Abuse in the Unites States.

SNAP prepared these flyers just in time for the opening of SPOTLIGHT, a movie I emailed my readers about a week ago. For those not yet on my mailing list (you can subscribe here) I’ve appended a copy of that email at the bottom of this post.

The idea is to print these flyers and make them available at the theater during showings of the film. Here’s the printable version from the SNAP website. But of course you can also use the information on each card and take action before you see the film. There’s a hotline number for help right on the front. And on the back, you’ll find out how to donate to help SNAP in their work of eradicating priest abuse and holding abusive priests accountable under the law.

SPOTLIGHT is entertainment done right

SPOTLIGHT is an important film about a team of journalists breaking the story of priest abuse in the Boston Archdiocese. It opened in several cities on November 6th and has been highly praised by film critics and viewers alike. This weekend it opens in the rest of the country, and you should go see it.

I was in the trenches, fighting my own personal battle against the ravages of priest abuse, at the time this story broke so it’s all very emotional for me. Some of the events I wrote about in my memoir, SPLIT, took place at the time in which the SPOTLIGHT story is set.

Now here’s the reprint of that message from SNAP.


An Important Message from SNAP director, Barbara Dorris

Opening this Friday, November 6th, a highly acclaimed film called Spotlight will be shown across the US. It mentions SNAP, features an actor who plays New England SNAP founder/leader Phil Saviano and shows that SNAP played a big role in helping Boston Globe journalists investigate and expose clergy sex crimes and cover ups in Boston.

The paper published some 600 articles on the subject in one year, eventually exposing 249 predator priests in just one archdiocese.

Spotlight will re-focus millions of people’s attention on clergy sex abuse and cover ups. It could help bring other victims forward, victims who may still be trapped in silence, shame and self-blame. And it could help prod other journalists to look again, or look deeper, at this continuing crisis.

Please help us use this opportunity to get help for more victims and expose more cover ups.

Here are three quick and simple ways you can help:

  1. Please send these links to all your friends, family and contacts today. Urge them to see the movie and circulate this information:
  1. If you have a Facebook page or use other social media, please post both the trailer and the review there.
  2.  Please send the trailer and review(s), with a short note, to any reporter or editor you may know at your local newspaper (or elsewhere). Encourage them to write about it and/or review it.

If you can do just a little more, here are three other ways to help:

  1. Please call the newspaper, ask who their film critic is, and send the same material directly to that journalist, urging him/her to review the film.
  2. Please consider contacting journalism professors and/or groups like Call To Action and Voice of the Faithful. Urge them to organize panel discussions about the film and the crisis. Offer to come and speak or to help find others who would.
  3. Please consider, just for a few weeks, changing the “signature line” of your email to something like this: “Go see Spotlight, the new film about the church’s abuse crisis. Spread the word! It opens in theaters across the US on November 6)”

Thanks for your help,

Barbara Dorris
SNAP · PO Box 6416, Chicago, IL 60680-6416, United States