We're heartsick over these legal attacks and the chilling impact these church officials are having and will have on vulnerable and hurting victims, witnesses and whistleblowers. They are crippling our work to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded, and rubbing even more salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of hundreds of child sex abuse victims and thousands of betrayed Catholics.
And we're scared for victims of domestic violence, rape and other sex crimes who, thanks to Catholic officials, must now worry that accused or admitted sex offenders will try to get their private emails in completely unrelated civil lawsuits involving litigants they've never meet in places they've never been.
We call on Catholic church employees and members - from Cardinal Tim Dolan on down - to publicly denounce and stop these mean-spirited and intimidating attacks. Until America's bishops forcefully condemn and stop using these brutal tactics, parishioners and the public will believe what Mr. Donahue maintains: that bishops "have come together collectively" to "better toughen up."
These hardball legal maneuvers by church officials make it harder for citizens to report known and suspected crimes and harder for police and prosecutors to arrest and convict criminals. They make it tougher for suffering victims to get the help they so desperately need and deserve. And they violate Constitutionally-protected freedoms of speech and association and privacy.
In the St. Louis case, the alleged victim is now 19 years old. From 1997-2001, she was sexually assaulted by a priest who had pled guilty to molesting boys years earlier. But St. Louis' Catholic archbishop put the cleric, Fr. Joseph D. Ross, into the girl's parish without warning anyone. Church officials are using the case to intimidate this brave girl and deter others who've been assaulted into staying silent.
In the Kansas City case, no one in SNAP has had any contact with the alleged victim. We've said that under oath; he's said that in court filings. Still, church officials are using the case to discredit and deter us and bankrupt us.
In KC, Catholic officials claim they need our records because the victim's attorney allegedly broke a gag order. But no one is even charging her with any such violation.
And if they really suspect John Doe BP or his lawyer may have done something wrong, why aren't they seeking depositions or discovery of them? Church officials aren't even trying to do this.
It matters less where the idea came from. It matters more how the strategy is hurting vulnerable, wounded and sometimes desperate victims.
One Catholic figure says bishops have decided to "get tough" on victims. Another says they haven't. Once again, it's hard to get the truth out of the church hierarchy.
It matters less whose the idea this is. It matters more who is being hurt. And this much is clear: the strategy is hurting vulnerable, frightened, confused and sometimes desperate victims. It will hurt people who seek help from support groups, domestic violence shelters, and rape crisis centers. It will hurt those who investigate wrongdoing, whether police, prosecutors or journalists.
We're concerned less about where the hardball ideas came from. We're concerned more with how they are hurting those already deeply wounded by heinous child sex crimes and those at risk of being wounded by heinous child sex crimes.
Finally, despite Mr. Donahue's claim, Catholic officials have always had, and still have, very tough lawyers. And sadly, we'll never know how many suffering victims and their loved ones have been intimidated into silence and deceived into despair by those lawyers. And we'll never know how many predators walk free and have been protected by these tough lawyers and the callous, reckless church officials who pick and pay them.