Saturday, October 12, 2002

Former nun files lawsuit

Accuses sisters in Covington of sexual abuse

By The Associated Press

DANVILLE, Ky. - A former nun alleges in a new lawsuit that she was sexually abused by nuns in the 1950s and '60s in northern Kentucky.

Emily Feistritzer, 61, of Washington, D.C., is a Danville native who was offered a scholarship to attend Villa Madonna Academy when she was an eighth-grader at the old SS. Peter and Paul School in Danville, according to her lawyer, Robert Treadway of Lexington.

Ms. Feistritzer named Villa Madonna Academy and St. Walburg Monastery of Benedictine Sisters of Covington, formerly known as St. Walburg Convent, as defendants in the lawsuit, filed Thursday in Boyle Circuit Court.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages. It says Ms. Feistritzer has spent more than $200,000 on psychotherapy for more than 20 years.

Mr. Treadway, who has also brought a sex-abuse lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Lexington, said Ms. Feistritzer's case involves recovered memory. He said she began to recover the memories a year ago through psychotherapy.

Ms. Feistritzer, the president and founder of the National Center for Education Information, a private research group, said her case “is not unique. I don't think this is an isolated case.”

Mark Guilfoyle, a Walton lawyer who represents both defendants, said: “We have not been able to substantiate any of her claims, and we plan to contest the lawsuit.”

Ms. Feistritzer's allegations involve incidents from 1955, when she entered the academy, through roughly 1961. She left in 1971.

Ms. Feistritzer alleges that she was “repeatedly sexually molested” by a science and mathematics teacher, Sister Eugene, whose real name is Rosemary Imbus.

In 1959, during her first year at St. Walburg Convent, Ms. Feistritzer alleges, she was molested by Sister Christopher, whose real name is Marlene Bertke.

Ms. Feistritzer also alleges she was fondled by Sister Terrance. She does not remember the nun's real name, the lawsuit says.

Mr. Treadway said he thinks Ms. Imbus and Ms. Bertke are still alive, but is uncertain about Sister Terrance.

Mr. Guilfoyle said all three women left St. Walburg years ago and are no longer connected in any way with the convent or Villa Madonna Academy. Their departures were unrelated to the allegations in the lawsuit, he said.

Ms. Feistritzer further alleges that she reported Sister Terrance to the mistress of novices, Sister Martha, whose real name she does not know. No action was taken and the alleged incident was not reported to the police, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says Ms. Feistritzer also reported Sister Terrance's alleged conduct to Sister Zachary, who is now known as Sister Rita Brink, the current prioress of St. Walburg. Sister Brink declined comment and referred questions to Mr. Guilfoyle.

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