Joelle Casteix, Southwest regional director of SNAP, attaches pictures to a wall before a news conference in Rome in June 2010. (CNS)
The New York Times
would have you believe that the Catholic Church is on a heartless crusade to
expose the names, addresses, and phone numbers of anonymous victims of
atrocious clergy abuse. According to a recent Times
Church leaders are “threatening to expose private files compiled by advocates
for abuse survivors [and] are giving victims new reason to retreat into fear
Then there is the reality.
The Times has been
reporting on the growing conflict between the Church and the vocal advocacy
group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. The clash has
swelled in recent months after lawyers for an accused priest in Missouri
deposed SNAP’s national director, David Clohessy, in January.
predictably paints the clash between the two parties as a case of the big, bad
Catholic Church bullying an innocent group of abuse victims. In fact, in a
front-page story about the adversarial situation, the Times
portrays the Church as callously disregarding victims. Reporter Laurie
American bishops met at their conference in Dallas with [SNAP] members who gave
emotional testimony about the toll of the abuse. But relations have
deteriorated since then, and SNAP members say bishops now refuse to meet with
Goodstein fails to explain, however, the many
good reasons why some bishops have distanced themselves from SNAP. While SNAP
has most certainly given a much-needed voice to those who were so grievously
damaged by criminal clergy, the group’s tactics and public presentations have
been demonstrably mean-spirited and unfair.
ignores SNAP’s record of attacks
For example, as Goodstein’s own paper reported
Cardinal Timothy Dolan is one cleric who once believed that making himself
available to the group would be a constructive expression of support to abuse
Dolan soon learned that such an overture would
not be welcomed.
Years ago, when he was archbishop of Milwaukee, Dolan made a visit to a parish, only to have a member of SNAP
spit in his face. The man then roared that he would not be silent “until there
was a ‘going out of business’ sign in front of every Catholic parish, church,
school, and outreach center.”
“That’s when I knew I should have listened to
those who told me that working with [SNAP] would not be helpful,” recalled
And a couple of months ago, SNAP’s Clohessy
actually suggested in a press statement that Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua was
faking painful cancer and dementia to avoid testifying at the current clergy
abuse trial in Philadelphia. Only 36 hours after Clohessy aired his shocking
remark, Bevilacqua passed away in his sleep. The former archbishop had been
visibly ill for years, and a coroner later determined that he suffered from an
array of maladies, including heart disease, prostate cancer, and “fairly
Clohessy never apologized for his
Then, in a recent commentary, Father Thomas P. Doyle, a longtime cohort of SNAP and a notorious
critic of the Church, actually claimed that “nothing has changed since 1985”
with regard to the Church’s approach to clergy abuse.
In the last several years, the Catholic Church
has paid over $2 billion in settlements for victims. It has undertaken a
radical overhaul of its screening processes and the training of seminarians and
employees. It has issued countless public apologies. It has mandated an
unprecedented implementation of review boards to investigate abuse accusations.
All of these measures constitute “nothing” in
the eyes of SNAP, apparently.
And Goodstein wonders why Church officials are
wary of working with SNAP?
A deposition from SNAP: The New York Times vs. the facts
The Times and SNAP
have openly mischaracterized the nature of and reasons behind a court-deposition
given by SNAP’s David Clohessy earlier this year in Missouri. They have since
branded the episode a cold-hearted attempt by Church officials to expose
victims’ personal information.
This portrait flies in the face of number of
truths about the case:
1. The Church already knows the names and
information of the accusers who sue it. Although an accuser may file a suit
under the name of “John Doe,” this pseudonym is used for public purposes only.
The Church knows the real identities and information of all the “John Does.”
2. When SNAP’s David Clohessy appeared at his
deposition, a priest’s lawyer made it very clear that neither he nor the Church
had any desire to acquire the names of abuse victims.
The lawyer addressed SNAP’s leader:
Let me state at
the beginning of this deposition that I do not want the names of any victims
that have contacted you other than those that have contacted you and filed suit
against [the accused priest in this particular case] or the Diocese of Kansas
City-St. Joseph. Do you understand what I’m saying? I don't want the namesI
don’t want you to reveal to me the names of any victims other than those that
have put their names forward in lawsuits. Do you understand that?
Contrary to the impression given by the Times that the Church is seeking to violate victims’
privacy, it is clear that the Church has no desire to do so.
SNAP disobeys the law, the Times looks the other way
In the months leading up to his deposition,
David Clohessy resisted his court-imposed order to appear and turn over
requested documents. Clohessy lost numerous court appeals, including one to the
Missouri Supreme Court.
When Clohessy appeared at his deposition, he
steadfastly refused to answer many questions, and he did not turn over the
documents he had been ordered to produce.
One can imagine that if the tables were turned
and a Church official had done this, the
outrage in the media would be nothing short of monumental. It would not be hard
to imagine the New York Times making a very big
deal out of this.
Yet in its coverage of the Church-SNAP
kerfuffle, the Times made no mention of Clohessy
so obviously flouting the law.
Indeed, SNAP has given a voice to those who
have been so grievously harmed by clergy. We must continue to demand justice
and compassion for victims of clergy abuse. The protection of children is
the New York Times has mischaracterized
SNAP’s activities and misrepresented facts in an attempt to attack the Catholic