Speed Reads


Horrifying BuzzFeed News report details unspeakable abuse and even alleged murder in Catholic orphanages

Throughout the early 1900s in Catholic orphanages around the world, children were locked in cabinets and attics for days, government reports have found. They had to eat their vomit. They were sexually abused. Some were even murdered, former residents have said under sworn oath. And while these accusations have led to massive government investigations in Australia, Canada, and beyond, it's all gone relatively unnoticed in the U.S.

As Catholic priests and leadership undergo a reckoning amid a wave of child sex abuse revelations, attention has largely bypassed American nuns who also had power over children. But a report from BuzzFeed News detailing incredible physical, mental, and sexual abuse at Catholic orphanages might change that.

BuzzFeed News dug up evidence corroborating abuse allegations from children who once lived in orphanages across the the U.S. But the children of St. Joseph's Orphanage, run by sisters in Burlington, Vermont, were able to truly shed light on their stories with a 1996 court case uncovered by BuzzFeed News. Speaking to a lawyer, Joseph Barquin alleged that a nun forcibly fondled him under a flight of stairs, while other children were beaten or shaken into shock. Another former St. Joseph's resident, Sally Dale, recalled in a deposition the time she saw a child thrown from a fourth-floor window.

At the time, another nun told Dale that what she'd seen was a product of her vivid imagination, BuzzFeed News says. Barquin eventually pulled more survivors into the case through a support group, culminating in a 1994 press event where nearly 60 grown orphans were invited to tell their stories.

Yet beyond a largely dismissed and settled court case that left its lawyers shaken, even siblings who lived at St. Joseph's rarely discussed their time under the nuns' care. Read the entire horrifying report at BuzzFeed News.