Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, established in 1989, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization support group of survivors of clergy sexual abuse and their supporters in the United States.[1] Barbara Blaine, a survivor of sex abuse by a priest, was the founding president. SNAP, which initially focused on the Roman Catholic Church, had 12,000 members in 56 countries as of 2012.[2] It has branches for religious groups, such as SNAP Baptist, SNAP Orthodox, and SNAP Presbyterian, for non-religious groups (Scouts, families), and for geographic regions, e.g., SNAP Australia and SNAP Germany.

Shaun Dougherty was elected to serve as the president in July 2021 and he is the current president as December 2024.[3] Tim Lennon was a past president.


On June 13, 2002, SNAP's David Clohessy addressed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at its high-profile meeting in Dallas, Texas. He asserted that many church-going Catholics had strong concerns about the way in which bishops were handling the growing child sexual abuse scandal. Clohessy said, "We're not here because you want us to be. We're not here because we've earned it or have fought hard for it. We're here because children are a gift from God, and Catholic parents know this! That's why 87% of them think that if you've helped molesters commit their crimes, you should resign."[4] In 2004, SNAP acknowledged accepting donations from leading attorneys who had represented clients in abuse cases, but maintained that it did not direct clients to these attorneys.[5]

On August 8, 2009, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, who served as the first chair of the National Review Board established by the U.S. Catholic bishops to investigate clergy sex abuse, addressed SNAP's annual gathering. He admitted he was at first naïve about the scope of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and urged bishops who covered up crimes to be prosecuted.[6]

In 2009 SNAP supported a legislative bill in New York that would push Catholic Church dioceses to disclose the names of all clergy who have been transferred or retired due to "credible allegations" of abuse.[7]

On June 9, 2009, a group of survivors of clergy abuse protested the appointment of Joseph Cistone as bishop of the Saginaw, Michigan diocese.[8]

Retired Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of the Archdiocese of Detroit is a member and strong supporter of SNAP and has helped SNAP do fundraising work.[9] According to the National Catholic Reporter, Gumbleton was punished by the Vatican and removed as a parish pastor because of work he did with SNAP and concerns he had about the Church's response to child sexual abuse.[10]

SNAP's president, Barbara Blaine, and national director, David Clohessy, resigned from their SNAP positions, effective February 4, 2017, and December 31, 2016, respectively. According to the Chicago Tribune, "Barbara Dorris, SNAP's outreach director, has become the managing director".[11][12] Three other longtime leaders, board president Mary Ellen Kruger and outreach director Barbara Dorris, both of St. Louis, and board member Mary Dispenza, left in March 2018.[13]

Defamation lawsuit and sanctions[edit]

In 2015 SNAP was ordered by US District Court Judge Carol E. Jackson to release information on alleged sex abuse victims,[14] during the discovery process of a defamation suit by an accused priest against whom charges were dropped.[15][16]

According to David Clohessy, the director and spokesman, it is the most significant legal battle facing the organization in its 23 years and that he personally may be fined or jailed.[14] SNAP refused to fully comply with the judge's order, claiming "rape crisis center privilege".[17][18] In August 2016, Judge Jackson found that no such privilege exists and imposed sanctions against SNAP. The judge found that SNAP had defamed him and conspired against the priest, and order that SNAP pay the priest's legal fees. SNAP's attorney stated they were considering an appeal.[citation needed]

Hammond v. SNAP[edit]

On January 18, 2017, a former fundraiser for SNAP, Gretchen Rachel Hammond, filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the organization in Cook County, Illinois. Hammond had been employed by SNAP as a Director of Development from July 2011 through February 2013. In the lawsuit, Hammond alleged that SNAP fired her in retaliation for confronting the organization for "colluding with survivors' attorneys." The lawsuit stated that "SNAP does not focus on protecting or helping survivors—it exploits them. SNAP routinely accepts financial kickbacks from attorneys in the form of 'donations.' In exchange for the kickbacks, SNAP refers survivors as potential clients to attorneys, who then file lawsuits on behalf of the survivors against the Catholic Church."[19] According to the Catholic News Agency, the lawsuit claimed that SNAP "receives 'substantial contributions' from attorneys sometimes totaling more than 40 or 50 percent of its annual contributions. A prominent Minnesota attorney who represents clergy abuse survivors reportedly donated several six-figure annual sums, including over $415,000 in 2008. Other unnamed attorney-donors who represent abuse survivors reportedly came from California, Chicago, Seattle, and Delaware."[20] The lawsuit also cited emails sent by David Clohessy and Barbara Blaine to survivors and "prominent attorneys".

In one such email, Clohessy urges a survivor to sue the Wisconsin archdiocese "i sure hope you DO pursue the WI [Wisconsin] bankruptcy … Every nickle (sic) they don't have is a nickle (sic) that they can't spend on defense lawyers, PR staff,gay-bashing, women-hating, contraceptive-battling, etc."[21][22]

SNAP denied the allegations. Outreach Director Barbara Dorris told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "That's simply just not true," outreach director Barbara Dorris said about misrepresenting the best interest of abuse victims. "We have been and always will be a self-help support group for victims." Dorris added that she couldn't remember if Hammond, who identifies as a transgender woman and is currently a journalist for the LGBT paper Windy City Times in Chicago, had been fired or not.[19] SNAP president Barbara Blaine issued a statement which read "The allegations are not true. This will be proven in court. SNAP leaders are now, and always have been, devoted to following the SNAP mission: To help victims heal and to prevent further sexual abuse."[23] On January 24, 2017, the Chicago Sun Times reported that Clohessy "voluntarily resigned" from SNAP "effective Dec. 31", according to a two-paragraph email from SNAP Board Chairwoman Mary Ellen Kruger.[22] Clohessy told the Kansas City Star "that the lawsuit had nothing to do with his resignation and called the allegations in the case 'preposterous.'"[24] Blaine died in 2017. The lawsuit was settled in early 2018. Clohessy returned to SNAP as a spokesperson.[25]

See also[edit]

Sexual abuse cases in church
Critique and consequences related topics
Investigation, prevention and victim support related topics
Other related topics


  1. ^ "SNAP Mission Statement," Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Retrieved 2013-07-10.
  2. ^ Zwartz, Barney (November 27, 2012). "Advocate warns on church's silence strategy". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved September 28, 2018.
  3. ^ "Johnstown's Dougherty elected new president of SNAP". SNAP. Retrieved 23 January 2023.
  4. ^ "Impact Statement of David Clohessy,”. U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Retrieved 2013-07-10. Archived 2013-06-09 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Clergy-abuse support group ignites debate: SNAP's public tactics, ties to lawyers anger some victims". NBC News and Associated Press. December 18, 2004. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
  6. ^ “Keating recalls service on review board,”. National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 2013-07-10.
  7. ^ "Long Island News Stories on Sports, Politics & More". Newsday. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  8. ^ "Child abuse survivors protest outside Saginaw Diocese Tuesday afternoon". Archived from the original on 2011-06-04.
  9. ^ "SNAP Call to Action," SNAP website. Retrieved 2013-07-10.
  10. ^ "Vatican moved quickly to punish Gumbleton". National Catholic Reporter. November 5, 2011. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
  11. ^ "Barbara Blaine, leader of priest sex-abuse survivors group, steps down". Chicago Tribune. February 4, 2017. Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  12. ^ "Support group for victims of Catholic Church abuse faces upheaval". Chicago Tribune. February 6, 2017. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
  13. ^ Benchaabane, Nassim. "New director named, former leader returns to SNAP after legal threats, leadership upheaval", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 14, 2018
  14. ^ a b "SNAP's David Clohessy Could Face Jail Time". KMOX. CBS St. Louis. January 3, 2012. Archived from the original on August 13, 2018.
  15. ^ Currier, Joel (26 June 2015). "Federal lawsuit filed by St. Louis priest cleared of child sex abuse charges". St Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  16. ^ Fowler, Lilly (17 June 2015). "Charges dropped against St. Louis priest accused of abuse". St Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  17. ^ Currier, Joel (21 July 2016). "Victim advocates plan to defy court order in lawsuit filed by once-accused St. Louis priest". St Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  18. ^ Currier, Joel (24 August 2016). "Federal judge sides with St. Louis priest in SNAP defamation case". St Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  19. ^ a b Bogan, Jesse (January 23, 2017). "SNAP faces lawsuit claiming it colluded with clergy sex abuse victim attorneys". St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Retrieved 2017-02-22.
  20. ^ Jones, Kevin (January 19, 2017). "Kickbacks for suing the Church? Lawsuit claims major misbehavior at SNAP". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
  21. ^ Bogan, Jesse (January 23, 2017). "Hammond vs. SNAP". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
  22. ^ a b Grimm, Andy (January 24, 2017). "SNAP announces director named in lawsuit has resigned". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 2017-01-29. Retrieved 2017-01-28.
  23. ^ Grimm, Andy (January 19, 2017). "Former SNAP worker says clergy-abuse group colludes with lawyers". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 2017-02-02. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
  24. ^ "Longtime leader resigns from priest sex abuse victims' advocacy group". Kansas City Star. January 26, 2017. Retrieved 2017-02-19.
  25. ^ "Lawsuit settled, former SNAP director returns to the fight against abuse". Religion News Service. September 16, 2018.
  26. ^ Lombardi, Kristen (October 31 – November 6, 2003). "Phil Saviano Founder of the local Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests". Boston Phoenix. Retrieved March 4, 2016.

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