An unfathomable number of priests across the country have found themselves thrust into the spotlight after being accused of unspeakable crimes involving children.
In Illinois alone, 690 priests have been blamed for abuse against children, a report has shown. But a secret has emerged, thrusting the Catholic church into the criminal lineup again. This time, though, it involves nuns.
CBS News disclosed information about several cases involving nuns accused of the same misconduct as priests. Nikki Battiste with CBS News spoke with several of the female accusers who shared horrifying stories ranging from forceful kissing sessions to molestation.
Trish Cahill was just 15-years-old when she shared a deep dark secret with Sister Eileen Shaw, a nun at a convent in New Jersey. Cahill told Sister Shaw how her now-deceased uncle – who happened to be a priest – allegedly sexually abused her beginning at the tender and innocent age of 5.
"I would have done anything for her. I would have died for her," Cahill told CBS News. "She gave me everything that was lacking that I didn't even know I was lacking. I was so broken. She filled in all those pieces."
Looking back, Sister Shaw actually was grooming Cahill for an illicit relationship. She gave her drugs and alcohol, then when she was inebriated, taught her how to have relations with women, Cahill claimed."I'm with my friends during the day. And I'm with this pedophile nun on the evenings and on the weekends, and in the summer," Cahill said.
Cahill reported her abuse to the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth in 1994. They settled out of court to the tune of $70,000. The Sisters of Charity terminated the nun's position as grade school principal, but even today she remains a nun.
"They had canon lawyers on retainer just for people like me. Shut her up, pacify her, tell her you love her and you'll pray for her, and send her on her way," Cahill said.
Former nun Mary Dispenza had seen such gut-wrenching occurrences while serving in the church. She explained that remaining chaste and celibate is "unrealistic." Before she became a nun, she, too, was abused by an older nun.
"I knelt down right next to her and she kissed me all over softly, my face … and I want to say, 'Oh but it wasn't bad,' but it was. And I've carried it with me until today," Dispenza said.
Dispenza decided to do something about the stories she had heard and the victims that were out there, just like her. She is active with SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
"A lot has to do with the culture of nuns which are, they are very, very private by nature," she said.
Even though it is painful for Cahill to talk about what happened to her, it's part of the healing process. She's struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and a drug and alcohol addiction that began along with her abuse.
"That this is the beginning of many, many times more that I get to speak and I get to educate, and I get to, possibly, prevent this from happening to anyone ever again," Cahill said.