Catholics and sexual abuse survivors protest in front of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis on June 11, 2014. The group gathered in response to a deposition given by St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson, who said he was uncertain if he knew when he was auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis that sexual abuse was a crime.

Catholics and sexual abuse survivors protest in front of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis on June 11, 2014. The group gathered in response to a deposition given by St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson, who said he was uncertain if he knew when he was auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis that sexual abuse was a crime. Photo courtesy Barb Dorris, via SNAP


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

(RNS) When victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests first organized into a small band of volunteer activists in the late 1980s, reports of clergy molesting children were still new and relatively few. Most were minimized as anomalies or dismissed altogether — much the way the victims were.

But today, as the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, marks its 25th anniversary at a conference in Chicago (Aug. 1-3), its members can take satisfaction in seeing that its claims have been validated, and a few (though hardly all) of its recommendations have been implemented by the church hierarchy.

And instead of facing constant verbal attacks and the occasional angry parishioner spitting on them at a protest, SNAP’s members today are far more likely to receive a handshake and a word of thanks, and maybe even a donation.

SNAP’s advocacy on the Catholic scandal also helped push the reality of sexual abuse into the public consciousness to the point that victims can regularly win in courts and get a hearing in the media, and they are much more likely to come forward to tell their stories, whether they were abused by clergy or by athletic coaches or Boy Scout leaders.

Yet that success is also presenting SNAP with a daunting new challenge as it looks to the future: how to respond to a flood of new inquiries from victims from other faiths and institutions, and how to push for changes beyond the familiar precincts of the Catholic Church.

David Clohessy is the Missouri-based national director and spokesman for the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests.

David Clohessy is the Missouri-based national director and spokesman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Photo courtesy SNAP

“We are continuing to grow, and more of the growth is coming overseas and in non-Catholic institutional abuse, mostly religious institutions but a surprising number of secular ones as well,” said David Clohessy, SNAP’s national director.

The appeals for help from SNAP have increased so much — from students abused by teachers to victims of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky — that SNAP has set up chapters specifically for victims from non-Catholic churches and for those who were abused in the Boy Scouts or on mission trips.

“There’s no question that the response of Catholic victims has empowered victims in other denominations and other groups,” said the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a Dominican priest and canon lawyer who has been one of the most outspoken champions of the victims, and a vocal critic of the hierarchy.

“They turn to SNAP because SNAP is internationally known,” he said. While  advocacy groups for other communities — such as the Eastern Orthodox or Jehovah’s Witnesses or Baptists — have sprung up, “none of them are in SNAP’s league,” he said.

Yet that success also brings new hurdles, such as figuring out the power dynamics and pressure points of religious and secular groups that are organized far differently from the Catholic Church.

Indeed, even some of SNAP’s strongest supporters wonder whether the group needs to recalibrate an approach that they say is so uncompromising that it can be counterproductive.

Clohessy, who was abused by a priest as a child and whose own brother was accused of abuse before leaving the priesthood, said outsiders find it hard to appreciate how much SNAP’s hard-line posture is driven by the experience of abuse, and the knowledge that abuse continues.

“I’m sure we could be more effective, somehow,” said Clohessy, 58. But, he added, “we do an incredible disservice to kids when we repeatedly give church officials every possible benefit of the doubt.”

For SNAP’s members, it is not strategy as much as money that remains the overriding concern.

“It never feels (financially) stable enough by any stretch,” Clohessy said. “And it feels especially inadequate as we try to grow internationally. It’s always been a struggle, likely always will be a struggle.”

In fact, SNAP has always had something of a roller-coaster existence.

The group began life in the late 1980s, a few years after stories by the National Catholic Reporter and Jason Berry’s reporting on abusive clerics in Louisiana began to pull back the veil of secrecy on the sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy.

Barbara Blaine is founder and president of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Barbara Blaine is founder and president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Photo courtesy SNAP


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

As the reports came to light, Barbara Blaine, a lawyer and social worker who had been molested by a priest when she was growing up in Toledo, Ohio, started contacting as many other victims as she could find, posting ads and asking prosecutors and attorneys to put her in touch with other victims.

SNAP soon developed a core membership of a few thousand people, mainly victims, who met in small support groups while also trying to push the issue onto the public agenda. It was a tough slog in the face of public indifference or outright hostility.

Then in January 2002, The Boston Globe began its groundbreaking series of exposes on the widespread abuse of children by priests in the Boston archdiocese, and the cover-up by bishops. The story caught fire and led to similar revelations across the nation and to an unprecedented level of media coverage, prosecutions, lawsuits and billions in payouts by dioceses.

“We went from an organization that couldn’t get its calls returned to one that couldn’t return its calls,” Clohessy said.

SNAP’s membership took off, and now stands at more than 19,000, with 60 chapters around the U.S. and eight overseas. In mid-2002 Clohessy was hired as the group’s first paid staffer, and Blaine, the president, was the second; there is now another full-time staff person, as well as two part-time administrators and myriad volunteers.

The problem is that SNAP’s annual revenue record looks like a bad fever chart.

Starting in 2002, annual revenues spiked from next to nothing and then approached $1 million in 2006, much of it in the form of donations from victims who settled abuse lawsuits. But donations fluctuated widely after that, including a decade-low of about $350,000 in 2010 when SNAP was facing a series of costly legal challenges from Catholic bishops in Missouri.

(Annual income now stands just over $700,000, with many small donations coming from lay Catholics, and larger sums from victims and plaintiff’s lawyers, Clohessy said.)

Today SNAP is focused on trying to steady the donation stream so it can more effectively address the new demands from different venues.

But not everyone is convinced that SNAP should be so quick to pivot away from its traditional Catholic focus.

Berry, the muckraking journalist who will keynote SNAP’s conference this weekend, said the group is making a mistake by not taking taking up Pope Francis’ offer to engage the Vatican on serious structural reforms that could fulfill many of SNAP’s outstanding demands.

“I think SNAP does itself a disservice by constantly criticizing (Francis) and saying nothing’s changed,” Berry said, noting that SNAP dismissed Francis’ meeting with abuse victims in June as “self-serving” and “public relations.”

Berry said “there is a risk in becoming an ecumenical abuse survivors movement” because that can “dilute their focus” at a critical juncture.

“The crossroads where they stand now has less to do with branching out in an ecumenical sense — laudable and important as that may be — than having a clearer sense of driving the change in the Catholic Church. That involves learning how to negotiate, and that’s not exactly part of their skill set.”

KRE/MG END GIBSON

53 Comments

  1. When it comes to protecting children from this horrific systemic sex abuse, we who work and most of us who volunteer for SNAP, do not want to settle for anything less. Children are way to precious to allow even the slightest chance for them to be harmed by a child predator.
    I for one, am a sister of a victim who was sexually abused by our long time parish priest in southeastern Ohio. I was the oldest of 11 kids raised in a very loyal Catholic family. My own parents could not allow themselves to believe that their priest would ever do such a thing. That priest went on to sexually abuse many children in that small community. He was never punished and his superiors were never punished.

    I have listened to hundreds of overwhelming stories from victims who are still afraid to go public. They are still afraid that they will not be believed. Many are unable to hold down jobs because they suffer from panic attacks and triggers from their abuse. They were kids when this happened.
    Children never deserve to be dealt that life sentence of being sexually abused by anyone, but especially by a so called holy cleric.
    Sadly the sex abuse and cover up within the church hierarchy throughout the world is still going on to this day. Cardinals and bishops are still not removing accused predator clergy, and they are still not reporting to law enforcement. Their so called “zero tolerance” policy is not being followed by the bishops who created it. They don’t have to, because there is no punishment to force the bishops to change their ways of protecting their power and the institution rather than protecting innocent children.

    How can we agree with Pope Francis when he still has not taken any decisive action to get this abuse and the cover up of these crimes stopped?
    –When he fires a bishop for enabling and empowering his predator clergy to sexually abuse more children, I will commend him.
    –When he insists that the Catholic Conference of Bishops need to stop fighting the removal of the statute of limitations for child sex crimes, I will commend him.
    –When he turns over all secret documents of those who have been accused of child sex crimes to local law enforcement, I will commend him.
    –When he fires Bishop Finn, who is a convicted criminal and still has his power and is still running the KC-St Joe diocese, I will commend him
    –When Pope Francis orders all the bishops in every diocese throughout the world to make public all of their credibly accused clerics/employees, I will commend him.
    –When he stops making apologies and asking for forgiveness, and take at least one of these actions, I will commend him.

    And WE/SNAP/VICTIMS sure could use more help to accomplish even more than we have already accomplished in the passed 25 years. Thank you,
    Judy Jones, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

    • @JUDY,

      My heart goes out to you and your wounded brother.
      The wound must be deep and my heart breaks for you and you communicate your mission beautifully.

      But you have done a wonderful thing in your anger and fought the good fight against this pompous, dictatorial, self-righteous institution full of pedophiles, slouches, windbags and nut jobs. It is full of itself with its empty claims.

      May the rout of Catholicism continue apace. Would love nothing better than to find out the last priest has abandoned this nonsense.

  2. As a victim of abuse by a religious figure I am thankful that SNAP was there for me when I most needed them. Being inclusive of abuse in other institutions can only make SNAP stronger. I have attended dozens of support groups where the victims were abused in a variety of institutions. We all shared our stories and found how much we had in common. SNAP’s goals are to protect children and to help victims heal and these should be a priority in any religion or institution.

  3. SNAP deserves credit for being an advocate for clergy abuse victims, but also for its sheer tenacity. To start when they did, when no one was taking claims of clergy abuse seriously, took a lot of determination and courage. Even now, with thousands of known and proven cases of abuse by priests and coverups by church officials, many “mainstream” Catholics defend the church and blame or dismiss survivors. Imagine what it was like to go up against that when the church’s crimes were as yet largely unknown and its public reputation still esteemed.
    Jason Berry is right that engaging the new pope and trying to make structural changes in the church is likely a worthwhile task and may require SNAP to tone down its rhetoric some, but there is plenty of reason to distrust this latest effort from the Vatican; many other gestures and actions of the Catholic hierarchy have been meaningless, manipulative, self-serving, calculating, deceptive — you name it. Real reform and accountability — with bishops defrocked and imprisoned instead of promoted, with genuine transparency and the release of what are sure to be sensitive, embarrassing, or even damning church documents, with substantive financial compensation for the losses that abuse survivors have suffered — is yet to happen, and no one should accept more cheap ‘mea culpas’ as a substitute for genuine atonement. Ever since the first news stories broke decades ago, church officials (notice I didn’t say ‘leaders’) have tried repeatedly to bury this tragedy and when that wasn’t possible, to declare it officially over, just an unfortunate chapter in the past. SNAP and BishopAccountability.org are two of the biggest reasons why this ‘window-dressing’ contrition of the church didn’t work; for that they deserve credit, and support.

  4. Kathleen Conti

    No other child abuse organization that I have been associated with since 2012 has the heart for child abuse victims like the “SNAP” organization. Both my daughter (Candace Conti) and I were sexually abused as children by high ranking officials in the Jehovah’s Witness religion and both times the Watchtower Society covered up the abuse by instructing the Elders to handle the abuse internally and use the “two witness rule” as a way to get out of their accountability of protecting a known sexual predator. I have received countless hours of support and assistance from “SNAP” when there was no one else there to help me. The suggestions made in this article that “SNAP” should focus only on the issue of Catholic abuse victims is hard for me to understand. There are many, many Jehovah’s Witness abuse victims who have been helped by “SNAP” and are counting on there continued support and expertise in helping us tell our story and expose the Watchtower Society’s horrible child abuse policy’s. My daughter and I along with hundreds of other Jehovah’s Witness victims need the help of “SNAP” now and in the future as we see more and more victims coming forward seeking help and needing to tell there story’s for the first time.

  5. Back in the early `1990’s the memories came flooding back to me. Fr. John Nickolson molested me shortly after my Mothers death in 1967. I was 12 years old at the time and very vulnerable. As what Fr. Nickolson would call me his favorite alter boy, I thought I had found not only a mentor but my calling to be a priest. All that ended as I ran from him tears streaming and my pants down by my knees. I was a terrified, shamed kid. I quit church and turned to alcohol and LSD at 15 years old. Several suicide attempts and found my relief in substance abuse and sexual addiction. All based on my shame and guilt.

    When I finally approached the Duluth Diocese about help in 1993 the Bishop and the Vicar General put me off and neglected me. in the next few weeks I would see a young Fr. Tom Doyle on National TV telling folks the only way to stop this abuse was to sue the Church. So I did and soon other classmates came forward. SNAP for me let me know I wasn’t alone. Although I had very little contact with SNAP leaders, just knowing I had this bond meant everything to me. Reaching out to other classmates also helped me to feel empowered and no longer a victim. We call ourselves Survivors and we are. Sadly some of my classmates did chose suicide, the pain and shame was to great for them. 25 years of SNAP trying to get the Church to account for its actions and 25 years of SNAP trying to make sure no other children will have to walk our path of pain, shame and emotional hurt.

    • Verne,
      Your story is not falling on deaf ears.
      My heart is really heavy hearing it.
      I hope you know you are not alone and that others have found a way forward.

      I have never donated to SNAP before but I see this as a great cause I need to support. Thanks for chiming in with your story. It is so important for people to hear these priests have been free to do to rape children.

      How can anyone remain a priest after these tales? The collar is a mark of profound shame.

  6. Well done SNAP for speaking out for many groups not just Catholics. Your track record is wonderful. Many Jehovah’s Witnesses have suffered because of child molestation cover-ups, the two witness rule and the protection of criminal perpetrators. Not all advocacy organisations have the profile of SNAP and are therefore not always heard when they expose the many issues for child abuse survivors. It is so important that the media looks at Jehovah’s Witnesses and their private Judicial Committees made up of a few generally uneducated men (following rules laid out for them by a few men in New York), who decide guilt or innocence of perpetrators. They also allow the perpetrator to cross examine the abuse survivor, something the criminal courts are not even allowed to do. It is time that religious organisations are called to account for the lack of effective policies. In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses they just deny, deny, deny. The media should turn its attention and ask why are convicted perpetrators still allowed to go from door to door preaching? Why are congregations not told they have a perpetrator in their midst? Look past the denials. Look at the culture of patriarchy, submission, silence and cover-up and give the abuse survivors a voice.

    • @Lles,
      Cold, cold, cold hearted.
      And reflexively conspiratorial. Never any empathy. Even here.

      I’m so glad to be Atheist, a believer in my own sense of what is important, when I see the depravity of the religious mind.

      God destroys love by compelling it. You never know with a Christian or Muslim if you are talking to someone who loves you or someone who tells himself the lie that he loves you because that is what he was told to say; as if love can be dictated instead of earned.

      If you want to see true love, look for an Atheist. We don’t pretend.
      If you want humanity, don’t look for the religious. Look for a Humanist.

  7. Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Two points. One Snap activist said here he was surprised about the number of abuse cases coming from secular situations. But, sadly, sin is everywhere.
    But one is only surprised because the media zeros in and mostly plays up Catholic cases. Yet one doesn’t have to look very deep or often to see very many abuse cases in secular venues. Even the NY Times finally admitted that the abuse situation is far WORSE in NY City public schools. But I found little follow-up in the media or by police agencies. Where are the school superintendents today who transferred teacher’s around even giving it a name “Moving the trash along.” ??? They are in comfortable retirement knowing today’s sacred cow is not the Church but the public schools.
    Second–on the statute of limitations. They exist because it gets harder and harder to defend one’s self as time goes by. And yes, it gets harder to prosecute. It doesn’t seem fair. But our legal system (rightfully, in my opinion) is tilted toward seeing that no innocent person is convicted (which is considered more important than catching and punishing criminals.)

    • @Deacon,
      “the media zeros in and mostly plays up Catholic cases”

      EXACTLY!
      Because that is the institution which is still covering up the pedophiles.
      Read the comment above by Judy Jones.

      JUDY JONES SAID IT BEST:

      “How can we agree with Pope Francis when he still has not taken any decisive action to get this abuse and the cover up of these crimes stopped?

      –When he fires a bishop for enabling and empowering his predator clergy to sexually abuse more children, I will commend him.
      –When he insists that the Catholic Conference of Bishops need to stop fighting the removal of the statute of limitations for child sex crimes, I will commend him.
      –When he turns over all secret documents of those who have been accused of child sex crimes to local law enforcement, I will commend him.
      –When he fires Bishop Finn, who is a convicted criminal and still has his power and is still running the KC-St Joe diocese, I will commend him
      –When Pope Francis orders all the bishops in every diocese throughout the world to make public all of their credibly accused clerics/employees, I will commend him.
      –When he stops making apologies and asking for forgiveness, and take at least one of these actions, I will commend him.”

      GO JUDY!

      • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

        So what happened to all the school superintendents that even the NY Times admits was a worse situation as they “moved the trash along.” That no one is interested in, talking, about, investigating what happened to the teachers and students involved in public school scandals–scandals that never saw the light of day because the public schools are our current sacred cow and its hard to sue a public agency.
        That no one cares about the long line of abused public school children proves that there is more interest in money lawsuits or attacking the Catholic Church.
        Loads of phony concern for the abused.

        • @Deacon,

          1. Show me the magnitude of the NY story. Does it compare to 30,000 known cases of CATHOLIC pedophilia internationally? Where is your link?

          2. Show me the network of the NY pedophile story. Is it closed down or is it still operating as the CATHOLIC network of pedophiles is in full swing – STILL. No sign that it has been closed down at all.

          3. Show me priests who are in jail. Show me Cardinal Law’s confession and jail time! That would be a start.

  8. Survivors helping survivors says it all. Tens of thousands of survivors of clergy sex crimes work to support each other.
    I was raped and abused by a priest, Fr. Peter Murphy, well known to the Bishop Mueller as a child molester but was transferred to my parish. There he continued his abuse until caught by a parent, which thankfully stopped my abuse.
    The bishop merely responded by transferring him to another parish.
    The network of survivors in SNAP has demonstrated that I am not alone and I can move onto a path of healing.

  9. It is unfortunate that the original intent may have been admirable, but SNAP has clearly overstepped their bounds. They don’t care about priests wrongly accused, are vehemently against those priests wrongly accused from suing their accusers.

    These people push for a “mob mentality”. I am all about victims receiving the help they need, and driving out priests and bishops who are guilty in such reprehensible crimes or complicit in aiding or covering them up. But I hope this group reforms themselves first. They can be guilty of crimes as well as assisting those receive the appropriate justice.

    • JBD,

      As long as the Catholic Church acts like it is playing ‘3-card monty’ with its priests and refuses to fess up and deliver the criminals to the proper authorities along with the proof and the paperwork , there is no hope for any priest.

      Preists are part of the conspiracy because they do not surrender and they forgive each other. It is the insidious immorality of religion playing out its inhumanity on an institutional scale.

  10. Where would we be without persons passionate about worthy causes? So many people would be without hope. No one can walk alone the traumatic path of sexual violation and other violence. Thanks to everyone who has offered a helping hand to those needing support and a way out of darkness.

  11. If it weren’t for SNAP, so many victims of clergy sex abuse would have nowhere to turn. They would be smothered by the big religions that see victims of their clergy sex abuse as a threat to their businesses. In an age where big corporations crush the little guy, SNAP shows that the power of truth and courage are still alive and can make a big difference for those who have been hurt and live without much hope of justice. I send money to SNAP when I can.

  12. C’mon, Gibson. I thought you were better than this.

    An article about SNAP on its 25th anniversary? Fine.

    But the best criticism you can come up with is from Jason Berry (?!?), who will speak at SNAP’s conference? That’s almost as lame as all the SNAPpers commenting here.

    SNAP has a *lot* to answer for. Its hypocrisy, mean-spiritedness, and dishonesty are off the charts. And yet you mention *none* of it.

    C’mon …

    http://www.themediareport.com/hot-topics/snap-survivors-network-of-those-abused-by-priests/

    -

    • DPierre, what is it exactly that you find objectionable? Gibson’s article takes a critical approach and he looks at all facets in this topic. Unless, of course you prefer the blanket approach? I think we have seen the results of throwing that proverbial, opaque blanket over rampant abuses in religious institutions.

      SNAP is an institution in itself of course and it had to be in order to counteract an older, more established institution. Like any institution, it is, naturally, going to be flawed as it is made up of people. That hardly invalidates a worthwhile goal.

      I was raised in an evangelical, charismatic church, which was colored in excessive abuses. Later, I converted to Catholicism and assisted in teaching RCIA. Possibly, one of the most heartbreaking memories I have of RCIA is when half of the catechumens left upon breaking news that sixteen pedophile priests had been outed in a neighboring diocese. I could not and cannot blame or judge those departing catechumens at all.

      That neighboring diocese took a similar approach to the evangelical church I grew up in. They were not open to self-criticism or external criticism. It was only when an outside spotlight was shone upon it that leaders and community were forced to act.

      Fundamentalism comes in many shapes and packaging. For Protestant evangelicals, the style is one of bible idolatry. For Roman Catholics, it is a pedestaling of the priestly structure, flimsily justified by claims of “apostolic succession.” Both lack spiritual common sense and are rendered static agents. That is contrary to movement and Christ is movement. A tenet of holy movement is its insistence on mantling a diaphanous sheen. Tragically, it took an outside organization, like SNAP, to force the Roman Catholic Church to put its money where its mouth is.

      In seminary, I wrote a thoroughly researched essay on sexual abuses in religious organizations. Not a single entity, claiming to be of Christ, had spotless hands. While the argument can be made that secular institutions have just as epic a problem, that in no way excuses failure in the call to holiness; quite the contrary.

      Of course, we will always have “judases” in our ranks. Sometimes that Judas symbol can even manifest itself in or embody those in top leadership positions. The striking difference in our approach to our Judases can be found in models set down by Luke, John, Paul, et al. No blanket was thrown over the Judas stain. Additionally, Peter was criticized by Paul and John. If we believe that Mark wrote down Peter’s narrative, then we find even Peter was not above self-criticism.Therein lies the difference. God chastises those he loves and God clearly utilizes those outside Church to exact that chastisement. God has used SNAP and the Holy Spirit is forcing the Roman Catholic Church to move, regardless how much the leadership is resisting spirit inspired direction: Move or be removed.

      While Francis is a marked improvement over his predecessors, he is moving at a snail’s pace. Dave, and others here, give honest, objective assessments of this epic infestation.

      Additionally, it should be noted that we frequently hear of clergy on boy abuses. Yet, even secular media throws an additional blanket over clergy on girl abuses, which is actually more common. Yet, how do we address this?

      From the anti-Christ-like shutting of door to married priests, to excommunicating free-thinking nuns while ignoring free-thinking priests; the contagion runs deep and long.

      Yesterday I found an article, with photograph, of the Pope in a cafeteria with priests, bishops, and clergy from other denominations. One young commenter noted that, in this sea of community, there is not a single woman to be found. “Out of the mouths of babes” (the continuing brotherhood).

      My spirrealism partner, after reading this article, texted me with: “These victims are of martyrdom.”

      “But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged around his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

      Alfred Eaker,

      http://spirrealism.wordpress.com

  13. ‘In an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra in March, Francis struck a defensive tone, saying, “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that has moved with transparency and responsibility. No one has done more….’

    http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/11/world/europe/vatican-pope-sex-abuse/

    “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that has moved with transparency and responsibility. No one has done more….’

    Is that a joke? The Catholic Church has worked tirelessly NOT to be responsible and transparent! Just ask survivors from Minnesota,New York, New Jersey, PA, and Maryland working on removing the statute of limitations for civil suits.

    google:

    priest Guam

    priest Paraguay

    So what’s ‘to negotiate’? The meaning of ‘ transparency’ and ‘responsibility’?

    Perhaps, though SNAP could reach out and help arrange Pope Francis to courageously address the General Assembly of PA., during his visit to the state in 2015 , ordering his worldwide Bishops to be responsible and cease lobbying against efforts of statute of limitations reform.

  14. Thank you SNAP for being there. You saved my life. I no longer wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and go into depression. You reached out to me. No priest, bishop, or nun reached out to me. You did. Keep up the good, life-saving work.

  15. Steve Theisen

    Thank you SNAP. You saved my life. I no longer look in the mirror in the morning and go into deep depression. You reached out to me. No nun, priest, or bishop reached out to me. But SNAP reached out to me. Thank you on my behalf and the behalf of my family. You guys are the greatest !

  16. Without the unconditional acceptance, live and support that I have experienced from SNAP leaders and members over the past decade, I would never have found the personal power and courage to speak up about repeated sexual abuse in my formative years, first by a relative, then by a scoutmaster, a music teacher and a priest. Until finding the support of other victim-survivors in SNAP, I carried in solitary the shame and blame for what had been done to me, convinced that there was something about me that I was repeatedly singled out. Alcohol and obsessive work habits provided the most effective escape from feelings of betrayal, violation and hopelessness for many years, but I somehow survived all of that until I found out that wasn’t alone, I wasn’t the only one and that it really wasn’t my fault. Today, I am able to encourage others to accept truth of what happened, was done to them, place the shame and blame where it belongs, and see them celebrate new freedom, self esteem and meaning in their lives. None of this could have happened for me without the true fellowship of the now worldwide SNAP family. 30 years ago, my partner Norman took his own life out of hopelessness, despair and shame for the abuse he endured at the manipulative hands of a prominent Catholic priest in Helena, Montana. I may be the only person he ever told about it, and, sadly, I was ill-equipped to help him in any way. There was nothing like SNAP for any of us to turn to and no one would have believed us anyway, so he took the all too common victim’s way out; he killed himself. Thanks to the brave and persistent witness of Barbara Blaine and David Clohessy, Tom Doyle, Jason Berry and countless others, there is now hope and healing available to anyone willing and able to reach out for help. Believe me, it isn’t easy to navigate the often terrifying memories and emotions of the past, but on the other side of this work we emerge stronger and happier than we could have have ever imagined our hoped for. And because today we have the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, 19,000 and growing, we never have to do it alone– ever! My name is JEB and I am a grateful victim-survivor.

    • What JEB and others write is so true. While not losing sight of the effects of the destructive behavior of sexual abuse on victims, we must also consider and realize that any sex abusers suffer from extremely serious psychological disorders.

      Cause and effect, we do not give the right kind of attention or enough attention to any psychologically troubled people in our society. That makes all of society guilty. We are so self-centered and so greedy in pursuing our own satisfactions, even so-called spiritual satisfactions, that we overlook all the psychological debris that litters our society. Much of it is hidden, of course.

      Auxiliary Bishop A. James Quinn of Cleveland worked with Tom Doyle, Jason Berry, and others in the early days of the sex scandal. He was even appointed up through the episcopal ranks, eventually by the papal nuncio, knowing full well what type of clerical protection he would provide. Quinn acted with that group in total deceit. He was helping bishops and priests to obstruct justice, to hide the crimes, to bury the sins.

      After Quinn was exposed as regional president of the Canon Law Society for advising diocesan lawyers in his region to send the files of suspected sexually abusive clergy to the papal nuncio’s office in Washington, presuming they would have diplomatic immunity there, he became a typical, very low-key auxiliary bishop in Cleveland until his retirement.

      Quinn died last fall. He had been retired for several years and was living in a posh rectory in a western suburb of the diocese.

      Strangely for someone of Quinn’s standing, every single obituary and death notice following his demise claimed that he died of “apparent natural causes.” Not cancer, not a heart attack, not a stroke, no specific cause, but “apparent natural causes.” That was the exact wording of the cause of Quinn’s death in every local publication. One wonders what it might have had to do with the fact that it also took a full week before Quinn’s funeral was conducted at the Cleveland cathedral.

  17. Mark Belenchia

    As a victim/survivor in Mississippi I can honestly say that without SNAP’s involvement our voices could have been snuffed out. Mississippi doesn’t have a large Catholic population. This reality worked to the Church’s advantage and they knew it. Having a SNAP presence gave us some national exposure which helped us hold the Church accountable.

    Mark Belenchia
    Jackson, Ms

  18. Jason Barry is a notable author and fine speaker but I think it’s Voice of the Faithful that wants to drive change in the Catholic Church. Most of their members still attend church and are parish council members, lectors and other volunteers in their parishes. SNAP wants to provide support for sexual abuse survivors and has done this for 25 years without the Church changing one iota. As one reads the history of this 2000 year old institution–for want of a better word–it seems unlikely even incremental change will come about. Remember that Pope Francis is a product of this historical belief and behavior system and may not have the mental stamina, let alone the physical ability, to impact the encrusted Vatican and its brittle Curia.

  19. Lydia Ruth Turner

    SNAP has done some excellent work with survivors of abuse from Jehovah’s Witnesses. It has authoritatively stated that the child protection policies of that organisation are the worst that it has come across. Recent statistics from the UK have shown that the ratio of Jehovah’s Witness pedophiles being brought to justice to the number of JWs is very significantly higher than that for Catholic priests and Catholics.

  20. Dottie Klammer

    When my flashbacks of being sexually abused by a nun started I was confused, afraid, angry and shaken to my very core. I sought counseling but needed some where to talk about it and sort things out. I finally found SNAP. They understood and I had found a safe place to talk about it. For me, it was not only the psychological after math that I had to muddle through but the healing of my fractured soul. While working through my psychological issues I church shopped and have found a church family outside the Catholic Church. I’m thankful for SNAP and support them in their endeavors to eek through the secrecy and deception that still exists in the Catholic Church.

  21. At the moment there is a Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse in Australia. You can find a link to their interim report at tp://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/ Watch this website for this and further developments.

  22. Same exact story that has been published over and over for 20 years, same exact players being quoted saying exact same thing. Is There A Reporter Out There Who Can go farther than Google to do a news story? SO MUCH OF THIS STORY HAS NOT YET BEEN reported. how many times do we have to hear who Clohessy and Blaine are there are 100 thousand other victims in the usa. Doesn’t anyone else smell Damage Control here?

  23. Same exact story that has been published over and over for 20 years, same exact players being quoted saying exact same thing. Is There A Reporter Out There Who Can go farther than Google to do a news story? SO MUCH OF THIS STORY HAS NOT YET BEEN reported. how many times do we have to hear who Clohessy and Blaine are there are 100 thousand other victims in the usa. Doesn’t anyone else smell Damage Control here?

  24. Brad Sylvester

    SNAP is not perfect. Never claimed to be. But, “negotiating” with people who have not proved themselves to do what they say is ludicrous.
    Thank you snap for helping victims and having a safe place for them to heal.

  25. Interesting. No mention of their anti-Semiticism, that there leaders are not Catholic, Mr. Doyle was released from the Dominican Order, their hiding of facts from judges, and donations from the late Fred Phelps. They claim to support those abused but it appears they are just in it for the money as they do not provide any resources for healing. The few members of Church leadership who has approach this group received in return demands for abortion, woman’s ordination, etc. The changes came about from the work of Pope Benedict, before and during his Papacy.

  26. Demonstrations of this sort should be so huge they fill the churches, streets, and whole neighborhoods. So far, the hierarchy of the church continues to succeed in muffling the reaction of the people in the pews against that sins and crimes of priests, bishops. and popes.

    Do not listen to any bishops or other clergy telling you that it is costing a diocese so many dollars in fines for these crimes that they are going broke, needing to declare bankruptcy. All the money of the church, all the money of any diocese comes from the people in the pews whose kids have been violated! They clergy do not pay for anything!

    There is absolutely no need for appeal all the way to the Vatican, nor is there any excuse for the Vatican demanding sole authority over the elimination of offending clergy in any scandals. Local church members, meaning representatives chosen by the people in the pews, working with the local bishop and his advisors, are fully capable of determining both the acceptance of clergy and their elimination for crimes–and sins.

    “Rome moves slowly” because it works so hard and so long the hide things from the people in the pews. It should not take the pope to rid the church of unfit clergy any more than it takes the pope to decide who can be ordained a priest. Local bishops do that. But local bishops in council with representatives chosen by the people in the pews are the ones who should be doing that, not just bishops and their clerical representatives alone.

    The people in the pews of every parish should be the ones who decide to accept the referral of clergy for their parish by any bishop. And the bishop should work constantly with a committee of the people in the pews as well as some of his clergy to decide who is fit for ordination or who should be accepted for clerical work in the diocese.

    The cause of the greatest sins of the church has always been that the management of all church affairs is the sole function of the clergy or the clergy and their self-selected “lay” people. We should stop “laying.” We should sit up straight, stand up straight, and demand a full role in all church management. We are not stupid. We pay all the bills. It is time to put an end to the domination by the clergy of our religious lives with their false claims of sacramental authority/power.

    Study your church history. You will see, as Martin Luther did, that the only so-called sacraments that have gospel support are Baptism and the Holy Communion. Even those so-called sacraments should be community affairs. And if we would put an end to the mythological angst that God would be so evil as to consign anyone to “Hell” because that individual had not had water poured over him by a clergyman, then Baptism at a sensible, mature age would be sufficient–and that would eliminate the added need for any “confirmation” of that Baptism.

    The same could be said of “Penance.” You see that the people are deciding that themselves. Churches are empty of the old “confession” times. The same for the dead “Extreme Unction” that has been tried to be updated by calling it “The Anointing of the Sick.”

    And “Holy Orders,” or unholy orders, as the case may be, there is a lot to be studied and learned about that effort to give clergy mystical power over the people in the pews.

    So we’re left, as was Martin Luther, with the two gospel sacraments of Batism and Holy Communion. The rest may be ceremonies, but we have to rethink the whole concept of “sacraments.” That rethinking will demand that we make a thorough study of the “sacraments” church history. They did not exist in the early Jesus communities. And Baptism and Holy Communion were considered and practiced in a very different light during the first centuries of the church.

  27. David O'Regan

    As a childhood survivor of Clergy sexual abuse I can honestly say I do not know if I would be alive today without SNAP. I stumbled into a SNAP meeting in 2004 for the first time, desperate to find a way to make the horrific pain I lived with day and night after being triggered to my abuse by “The Boston Clergy Sex Scandal” as labeled by the Boston Globe who did an investigating report into The Archdioceses of Boston which revealed the complicity of Cardinal Law knowing he had criminal Cleric’s in his care that were raping children and choose to protect these criminals and protect the name of his Church. He was also responsible for transferring criminal Priests who went on to abuse more children. Cardinal Law resigned in disgrace.
    This betrayal of the Church was like having a knife driven deep into my back. My memories of abuse I had been running away from all my life now flooded my mind along with all the shame, guilt, and humiliation of being sexually violated by a Catholic Priest when I was 11 years old. The pain of keeping my secret in was now greater than letting it out and I told my wife after 31 years of marriage. I began to have flashbacks of the 11 year old me being raped by a Catholic Priest, fell intro very deep depression, and began to have nightmares with my abuser attacking me when I tried to sleep. I went on medication for depression and began therapy. I had trouble with living day to day, some days able to attend work but struggled to survive an 8 hour shift. If I wasn’t a government employee with the Family Medical Leave Act to protect me when I couldn’t attend work I would have been fired. After my sick leave ran out when I couldn’t work I didn’t get paid. My wife used credit cards to buy food for the family and pay the bills; we soon were deep in debt.
    I desperately needed to get well I was the father to six children, two of which had graduated from college, and four others still in grade school. The needed a father and my wife needed a husband.
    I was doing everything I knew of to recover and be productive human again. Luckily I read a SNAP ad in a newspaper which read have you been sexually abused by Clergy and listed a number to call.
    I called that number and was invited to a support meeting. I attended out of desperation to get well. What I found when I attended was two very brave leaders talking about their own abuse. I listened with eyes bugged wide open and my jaw dropped. For the first time in two years since being triggered to my abuse I was listening to survivors bravely telling their stories. I felt the trust to articulate for the first time to speak of my abuse. The SNAP support meetings gave me my voice to speak my truth.
    I am so grateful to all SNAP leaders for helping victims heal, exposing wrongdoing, and making the world we live in safer for children.
    Anyone who attacks SNAP simply does not understand that if the Church was doing its job protecting children, turning criminal Cleric’s over to police, punishing Cardinals, Bishops, and supervisors who enable and allow children to be harmed, and healing the wounded there would be no need for SNAP!
    SNAP as I see it is doing the work the Church is failing to do.
    Thank you SNAP for twenty-five years of moral living, healing the wounded, exposing corruption and protecting children.
    It is my hopes and prayers the Church will one day practice moral and ethical behavior

    • David O’Regan,

      “The SNAP support meetings gave me my voice to speak my truth.”

      That really choked me up.
      The stories I am reading here tonight are moving me to tears
      And yours is just devastating to me.
      Please hang in there, though you have hope for the church might change, I won’t share that sentiment – I just want the whole sickness to close down.

      But you have done so much by just sharing your story.
      I’m speechless, really.

      Thanks for sharing that. I won’t soon forget it.

  28. SNAP and its members have been an absolute lifesaver for me. I too felt I was the only one and nobody cared. They are an amazing group of supportive people who really care. Meeting others was two fold. I was happy to be in the company of those who understood but also saddened we exist. Thank you Barbara, David and Barbara for all you do.
    be well – Charles

  29. I’m so happy that SNAP started with a few good people and grew into an international organization. I don’t know where we would be without the support and caring of this organization. I believe children would still be hurt and the cover-ups would go unchecked. I believe SNAP should receive a national award for the lives they have saved and the children they have protected.

  30. I would never have gotten to this state of self-healing without SNAP. Snappers taught me how to deal with the shame, blame & guilt swirling inside of me constantly. Mary Grant was the 1st person I spoke to; I’ll never be the same because of her generosity of time & dedication to us victims!!!

  31. snap is some what full of cr–

    WHY is snap not dealing with the homosexual side of child abuse that society is starting to accept if their so wonderful?

    of all the known cases
    Who were priests abusing more..?
    hint hint =========it wasn’t girls..

    • @Rob,

      Ignorant comment!

      gays in the priesthood? sure.
      Are they all hypocrites? Yup.
      Are gays pedophiles? NO.
      Are pedophiles all gay? NO.

      Heterosexual men have sex in prison with other men. Heterosexual men RAPE other heterosexual men in prison.
      Why? cause there aint no women. And they are criminals.

      Southern Baptist preachers are more likely to have women where the Catholics have strict rules, and it is like prison which is why it appeals to pedophiles.

      Pedophile Priests have sex with boys because it is much easier to hide:
      Girls were not available as they were forbidden to be altar boys.
      no pregnancy will happen with anal sex
      And the evidence is soon to vanish.

      It is not because they are gay – it is because they are criminals; selfish cowards of the worst kind.

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