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. SNAP’s mission is to protect those who are vulnerable to child sexual abuse, to heal those who have been wounded, and to prevent future abuse. It exposes predators and those who shield them, helps members share stories so they are empowered, and educates communities about the impact of abuse.[1]

Barbara Blaine, a victim of sex abuse by a priest, is the founder and former president. SNAP, which initially focused on the Roman Catholic Church, has 12,000 members in 56 countries.[2] It has branches for religious groups, such as SNAP Baptist, SNAP Orthodox, and SNAP Presbyterian, for non-religious groups (boy scouts, families), and for geographic regions, e.g., SNAP Australia and SNAP Germany.

Activities[edit]

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.”[3]

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.[4]

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.[5]

On June 9, 2009, a group of survivors of clergy abuse protested the appointment of Joseph Cistone as bishop of the Saginaw, Michigan diocese.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8]

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 the the Chicago Tribune, "Barbara Dorris, SNAP’s outreach director, has become the managing director".[9]

Controversies[edit]

In 2002, SNAP advocated for a bill in California that lifted the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases. The bill was drafted by Laurence E. Drivon, a lawyer who had represented 320 plaintiffs in clergy abuse cases and who had contributed to SNAP. The lifting of the statute of limitations allowed Drivon and other lawyers to file hundreds of new lawsuits.[10]

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.[11]

SNAP's support for Steve Taylor, a psychiatrist convicted on child pornography charges, has been criticized[by whom?].[12] There was inappropriate material about children on Taylor’s computer, how it got there is uncertain and Taylor drew attention to it himself wanting it removed. The state medical board concluded "no one, including (the Atlanta psychiatrist) testified that Dr. Taylor was a pedophile." Suspicions exist[weasel words] that the material may have been planted. Louisiana examiners knew Taylor had suffered two brain trauma, was sometimes confused and could have poor judgement, they ruled, "We do not believe that the evidence preponderates to the effect that Dr. Taylor intentionally downloaded child pornography, and we so find". Many people[who?] fear there was a miscarriage of justice in this case.[12]

In 2015 SNAP was ordered by US District Court Judge Carol E. Jackson to release information on alleged sex abuse victims,[13] during the discovery process of a defamation suit by an accused priest against whom charges were dropped.[14][15] This information has been requested because it is believed that an attorney for the plaintiff in a sex abuse case violated a gag order in leaking information to SNAP.[16] SNAP refused, SNAP's founder has been deposed, and the Missouri state Supreme Court refused to intervene.[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.[13] SNAP refused to provide the judge's order, claiming “rape crisis center privilege”.[17][18] In August 2016, Judge Jackson found 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.

In August 2011, the Catholic League criticized SNAP for what the Catholic League said was libel against then-Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan. The League also called SNAP a "phony victims' group". SNAP had accused Dolan of covering up allegations of sexual abuse.[19]

On January 18, 2017 a former fundraiser for SNAP, Gretchen Rachel Hammond, filed a whistle blower lawsuit against the organization in Cook County, IL. 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.”[20][21] 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."[citation needed] 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."[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.[citation needed] “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. 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."[citation needed] 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.[23] 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] A statement from Catholic League president Bill Donohue called SNAP's announcement of Clohessy's retirement "an incomplete, if not dishonest, account. Had it not been for a string of lawsuits and bad publicity, he would have stayed for years. He will now be remembered for running when the going got tough, leaving behind a shell of an organization that is broken both morally and financially."[25] When SNAP president Blaine later resigned, effective February 3, 2017, she wrote in an emailed statement, "'Please know that the recent lawsuit filed against SNAP, as the others in the past which have no merit, had absolutely no bearing on my leaving'", according to the Chicago Tribune.[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ “SNAP Mission Statement,” http://www.snapnetwork.org/mission_statement. Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Retrieved 2013-07-10.
  2. ^ “Advocate warns on church’s silence strategy,” http://www.snapnetwork.org/advocate_warns_on_church_s_silence_strategy. Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Retrieved 2013-07-10.
  3. ^ "Impact Statement of David Clohessy,”. U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Retrieved 2013-07-10.
  4. ^ “Keating recalls service on review board,”. National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 2013-07-10.
  5. ^ Catholics have mixed reactions on sex abuse bill
  6. ^ http://abclocal.go.com/wjrt/story?section=news/local&id=6856472
  7. ^ "SNAP Call to Action,” http://ccrjustice.org/files/SNAP%20Fundraiser%20Event_4-11-2013.pdf. SNAP website. Retrieved 2013-07-10.
  8. ^ “Vatican moved quickly to punish Gumbleton,”. National Catholic Reporter website. Article dated November 5, 2011 and retrieved 2013-07-10.
  9. ^ a b "Barbara Blaine, leader of priest sex-abuse survivors group, steps down". Chicago Tribune. February 4, 2017. Retrieved February 20, 2017. 
  10. ^ Daniel Lyons (September 15, 2003). "Paid to Picket". Forbes. Retrieved July 8, 2010. 
  11. ^ "The Beaufort Gazette". December 19, 2004. Retrieved March 25, 2010. 
  12. ^ a b Bruce Nolan (7 August 2011). "St. Tammany doctor convicted in child porn case has startling set of backers". The Times-Picayune. 
  13. ^ a b http://stlouis.cbslocal.com/2012/01/03/snaps-david-clohessy-could-face-jail-time/
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ Fowler, Lilly (17 June 2015). "Charges dropped against St. Louis priest accused of abuse". St Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 24 August 2016. 
  16. ^ a b https://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jL3yi_tHCTE0UhpjV4HRJzEvkCpQ?docId=952451c7bd0c4050b7aeaf4dcccf2cd1
  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. ^ Gratitude to the Catholic League
  20. ^ Bogan, Jesse. "SNAP faces lawsuit claiming it colluded with clergy sex abuse victim attorneys". stltoday.com. Retrieved 2017-01-28. 
  21. ^ "Kickbacks for suing the Church? Lawsuit claims major misbehavior at SNAP". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 2017-01-28. 
  22. ^ Bogan, Jesse. "Hammond vs. SNAP". St. Louis Post-Dispatch - stltoday.com. Retrieved 2017-01-28. 
  23. ^ "SNAP announces director named in lawsuit has resigned". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2017-01-28. 
  24. ^ "Longtime leader resigns from priest sex abuse victims' advocacy group". Kansas City Star. January 26, 2017. Retrieved 2017-02-19. 
  25. ^ "SNAP Leader Quits In Disgrace". Catholic League. Retrieved 2017-01-28. 
  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. 

External links[edit]