Friday, March 16, 2012

Catholic Church Takes SNAP to Court Over E-Mail Records

On March 12th, the New York Times reported that lawyers for the Catholic church and priests accused in two Missouri sexual abuse cases -- John Doe BP v. Fr. Michael Tierney and the Kansas City diocese and Jane Doe v. Fr. Joseph D. Ross and the St. Louis archdiocese -- are trying to compel the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) to disclose over twenty years of e-mails. SNAP is a clergy abuse victims' advocacy group founded in 1988, which drew international attention last year for filing a complaint against the Vatican in the International Criminal Court.

The article states that those e-mails could include correspondence with clergy abuse victims, witnesses, journalists, and stakeholders. A Kansas City judge ruled that SNAP must comply because it likely has information of relevance to the abuse cases. SNAP has been subpoenaed five times in St. Louis and Kansas City over the past few months, and national director David Clohessy has been extensively questioned by lawyers.

The SNAP website hit back, decrying the legal pressure as an "attack" from Catholic officials and an affront to the confidentiality of their allies.
"Abuse victims and SNAP are being attacked by lawyers for KC Bishop Robert Finn and pedophile priests. We're fighting hard to protect the confidentiality of victims, witnesses, whistleblowers, police, prosecutors, journalists and others who come to us for help."
A statement at the SNAP website argued that the legal pressure could dissuade clergy abuse victims from seeking aid, siphon SNAP's resources away from helping victims, and financially cripple the organization.
"This is the most severe threat we in SNAP have ever faced, for at least three reasons. First, fewer people are stepping forward and seeking help, fearing that their identities and experiences will be turned over to lawyers for predator priests and corrupt bishops. Second, these legal attacks consume massive amounts of time that our volunteers and staff need to devote to protecting kids, exposing predators, helping victims, reforming laws, and deterring future child sex crimes and cover ups. Third, these moves are driving SNAP toward bankruptcy. (We've had to suddenly spend tens of thousands of dollars just fighting and dealing with the first subpoena and church officials seem determined to drag out this process for months and months.)"
The statement asserted that SNAP is "convinced" that the move is intended to shut down the organization, silence victims, and deter victims and stakeholders from reaching out. SNAP has since created an online petition urging Cardinal Dolan to publicly denounce such "bullying tactics."

Predictably, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights president Bill Donohue blasted SNAP this week in several commentaries. In one column, Donohue claimed that SNAP director David Clohessy had been "uncooperative" in earlier deposition. He asked if Clohessy was a man fighting for justice, or a "con artist" burning for revenge. (See www[dot]catholicleague[dot]org/snap-unravels/) In a March 14th post, Donohue accused Clohessy of lying to the media, misrepresenting SNAP as a "rape crisis center," and misleading clients. He wrote that it is only fair that bishops defend themselves when a group tries to "bleed" the Catholic Church. (See www[dot]catholicleague[dot]org/bishops-should-only-hire-tough-lawyers/)

I'm certain that SNAP will fight this legal maneuver with every means at their disposal, but the outcome remains to be seen. I'm also certain that this legal maneuver will cast the involved diocese, and the Catholic Church in general, in an even more negative light in the public eye. If nothing else, the coverage that this matter has received will draw even more attention to the Catholic clergy abuse crisis, and the lengths that some church officials will go to in order to protect accused priests.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Lez Get Real: Desperate Catholic Church Targets Victims Of Pedophile Priests

Care 2 Make a Difference: Catholics Fight Church’s Victims – Again

Truth Wins Out: Catholic Church Bullying Group Which Advocates for Sexual Abuse Victims


  1. We are learning that church officials will use any tactic they can get away with:
    --to keep their power
    --to protect their image
    --to not be held accountable
    --to keep themselves out of jail.

    To all victims who have been sexually abused by clerics, your voices are strong, powerful, and being heard...!..
    The church officials can't shut us up. They can't shove all the victims back under their control of silence.

    Crimes have been committed and the can of worms has been opened, and that is only because very brave victims of clergy sex abuse are speaking up, coming forward, contacting the police, exposing the truth, and trying their hardest to not allow another child to be given the life sentence of harm which they were dealt.

    For those who wish to help ...On our website - - are simple suggestions for helping victims beat back this assault against them by top Catholic officials. Please check it out. Thanks.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511
    "Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests" and all clergy.

  2. This continues to be the shame of the Church. It is so painful to witness this.

  3. It is really sad that the Catholics are acting like this. So much for turning the other cheek...

  4. Remember what God's word says in the Bible: "No weapon formed against us shall prosper." Kurt Gladsky Miami Florida

  5. Ms. Jones -- I have enormous respect for SNAP because of the work it has done on behalf of clergy abuse victims. Fight the good fight!

    Sherry -- It's beyond shameful. There needs to be real accountability for the abuse.

    Wise Fool -- The behavior of predator priests, and those who cover for them, breaks my heart. It's not remotely Christlike.

    Kurt -- Here's to SNAP! My heart is with them and the people they help.

  6. Love how "Christian Principles" don't apply to the Christian leadership. Also the ease with which Donohue suggests Clohessy is a "con artist." Like Limbaugh casually calling a woman a "slut."

    1. Donna -- I wish it weren't so true, so often.

  7. God couldn't make it clearer - this isn't God's church.

    God's church wouldn't rape children, lie about it, move and hide known child rapists, and fight and bully the victims with all of the power that they can possibly assemble.

    In the meanwhile, they have convinced remaining Catholics that this is appropriate behavior - hiding criminals, abusing children, bullying, protecting money at all costs. Every Catholic that allows it will have to answer on their judgment day, and God will not be as forgiving as the Catholic church.

    1. Pat O -- The crimes of predatory priests and their enablers are ungodly, that's for sure.


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