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Sex Abuse Victims Urge Catholics to Boycott Kansas City Diocese
Give To Charities, Not High Priced Defense Lawyers, SNAP Says
Group Is Upset About Bishop's Continued Hardball Legal Tactics
Boland Called "Worst Prelate In The Country" By National Advocate
Victims To Begin Leafleting Area Churches This Weekend
Calling Kansas City's Catholic bishop "the worst in the country" to clergy sex abuse victims, a support group for such victims is urging local Catholics to stop donating to the diocese, and instead give "generously and directly to charities and schools."
Dozens of civil sexual abuse cases against area priests seem stalled in the courts, they say, because Bishop Raymond Boland and his lawyers keep filing dozens and dozens of legal motions designed to "keep the truth hidden, the diocesan coffers full, the bishop's reputation intact, and the victims in the cold," according to said Mike Hunter, the Kansas City director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a victims' support group.
"Nearly all of their nearly 100 motions have been thrown out by judges," said Hunter. "But Boland insists on trying to wear us down and overwhelm us with mountains of increasingly desperate motions. He clearly wants Catholics to remain ignorant about the horrific crimes and cover ups that have happened here. And he wants us to give up and go away."
But Boland's tough legal approach is making victims more firmly resolved to "get the truth out," Hunter says.
No other diocese in America has taken such an "over the top, aggressive approach," said SNAP national director David Clohessy of St. Louis.
"Bishops often do fight very hard to escape responsibility, avoid testifying under oath and keep secrets about cover ups under wraps," he said. "But Boland is truly in a class by himself here. No other bishop has been so determined to use every conceivable legal technicality."
Boland's legal maneuvers dramatically contradict his public pledges to treat victims with sensitivity, SNAP says. They want the bishop to "fight fair, not fight dirty, on the merits, not on technicalities" and respond to victims "as Jesus would, with compassion, not combativeness."
On one day this week, Boland's lawyers filed seven new motions.
"The net effect of all this paperwork is that no depositions or discovery happen and there's not one bit of progress toward healing and resolution," said Hunter. "Everyone -- the good priests, the lay people, the victims and their families -- everyone suffers here except the top church leaders."
SNAP leaders put forth no theories to explain why Kansas City church officials are so much more resistant than others. They point out, however, that most victims are represented by a small Kansas City law firm while Boland is represented by Missouri's largest. Boland's lawyers, like all defense attorneys, get paid by the hour.
"They've got a real strong financial incentive to drag this out forever, especially if Catholics keep donating," said Hunter.
SNAP also questions the role of Missouri's restrictive statute of limitations in the situation. "In states where laws are more flexible and more victim-sensitive, settlements happen and healing begins," Clohessy said. "But where laws allow church authorities to fight 'tooth and nail,' they often do so."
Just because Boland has numerous legal options to pursue in fighting victims, that doesn't mean he should use them, SNAP leaders feel.
"Catholics need to ask if it's moral for their leader to use every single trick in the book, every far-fetched legal theory, every tactic his lawyers dream up, to keep wounded victims hurting," said Clohessy.
In one sense, Hunter says he can almost understand Boland's approach. "If the truth is against you and you've been caught causing terrible, life-long harm to innocent kids, what else can you do but keep stonewalling and stalling and praying victims will give up and that your technicalities will protect you?" he said.
"But then I remember that he's supposed to be a Christian leader, the shepherd of the flock, and I remember what Jesus said about "whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me,'" Hunter remarked.
SNAP's boycott, the group insists, is not designed "to hurt anyone, but rather to bring justice and healing to already deeply wounded men and women who have been raped and sodomized by trusted priests," said Clohessy.
"We genuinely hope Catholics will contribute more than they usually do, knowing that their dollars are funding good works and not high priced lawyers fighting abuse victims," said Hunter.
In August 2004, at a news conference outside the chancery office, SNAP members held a box containing more than 12 inches of church defense motions. It's only gotten worse since then, they claim.
SNAP plans to promote its boycott by handing out leaflets at area parishes after masses and through word of mouth. Their effort will begin this Sunday.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests