Survivors Network of
those Abused by Priests
Giving Voice to Victims
For Immediate Release:
Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008
For More Information:
David Clohessy, SNAP National Director, (314) 566-9790, firstname.lastname@example.org
Christa Brown, SNAP Baptist Director, (512) 217-1730, email@example.com
Barbara Dorris, SNAP Outreach Director, (314) 862-7688, firstname.lastname@example.org
Clergy sex abuse victims seek apology from Baptist official
Head of seminary calls victims’ support group “evil-doers”
Self-help organization asks to meet with Baptist official
A nationwide support group for clergy molestation victims is asking the head of a Fort Worth seminary to apologize for calling their self-help organization “evil-doers” and comparing it to child molesters. They are also seeking a face-to-face meeting with him.
Leaders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) are writing Dr. Paige Patterson, the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, criticizing him for comments he made that were disclosed last week in a Tennessee newspaper and an online news journal called EthicsDaily.com.
Patterson equated SNAP with “sex criminals” and said that SNAP was “just as reprehensible” as the offenders.
Over the past 20 years, SNAP leaders have "met countless times with perhaps hundreds of denominational authorities in various faith groups, have given dozens of presentations at professional conferences, and have provided testimony to scores of lawmakers,” said SNAP founder and president Barbara Blaine. “While not every church official likes us, none has ever before called us ‘evil’ or claimed we were as bad as child predators.”
“Many of us say or write ill-advised things in haste and anger,” SNAP’s letter to Patterson said. “It’s a sign of wisdom, maturity and humility when people apologize for such hurtful comments.”
Last month, SNAP urged seminary trustees to suspend Patterson, after accounts surfaced that, in the 1990s, he was dismissive of numerous reports about a predatory minister, who was recently arrested in Florida for sending sexually explicit text messages to teens. Patterson was a mentor to the alleged abuser when Patterson was president of Criswell College in Dallas.
“We understand that Patterson wasn’t thrilled that we highlighted his involvement with pastor Darrell Gilyard. But that’s no reason to call good people ugly names,” said David Clohessy, SNAP’s national director.
Patterson’s recent remarks were initially written in emails to a Texas woman who was sexually abused as a child by another Baptist minister. The victim, whose perpetrator is still in active ministry in Texas, had contacted Patterson seeking help and guidance. She later provided the emails to the Nashville Scene, a weekly newspaper, which reprinted excerpts from them.
Additional excerpts were reprinted in EthicsDaily: http://www.ethicsdaily.com/article_detail.cfm?AID=10097
“Despite Patterson’s harsh and unjustified attack, we’re more than willing to sit down with him and talk this through,” said Clohessy. “We’re open to hearing more about how he dealt with the accused predatory pastor and perhaps even working together to safeguard kids from abusive clergymen.”
SNAP is the nation’s oldest and largest support network for clergy abuse victims. Founded in 1989, it has more than 8000 members and 65 support groups across the country. Its goals are to heal the wounded and protect the vulnerable. See its websites, SNAPnetwork.org and StopBaptistPredators.org.
A copy of SNAP’s letter, sent this morning by fax to Dr. Patterson at (817) 923-0610 and by email to PresidentsOffice@swbts.edu, is below: Also found at here.
Dear Dr. Patterson:
It’s clear you are extremely angry that we have sought your suspension. It’s obvious that you feel very defensive about your actions surrounding sexual abuse reports involving Pastor Darrell Gilyard. It’s no secret that you think ill of our organization, despite your having never met or spoken with us.
Still, we are surprised and saddened that you felt compelled to take your anger out on a wounded child sex abuse victim who contacted you seeking help. We are puzzled and disappointed that you would say such harsh words to a clergy abuse survivor who deserves solace and seeks protection for others.
We would like you to publicly apologize for those unduly harsh and highly insulting words about SNAP. And we would like to sit down with you face-to-face in the near future to educate you about our efforts and intentions for preventing Baptist clergy sex abuse, and perhaps work together to reach out to those who were wounded by pastor Gilyard.
We know that you may not welcome public attention regarding your response to repeated sex abuse reports against Gilyard. We understand that you take issue with how we have characterized your actions in that situation.
But one short letter, signed by three of SNAP’s thousands of members, even if you deemed it unfair, surely doesn’t warrant such a severe, sweeping and hateful response, especially to a distraught woman who was sexually assaulted by her pastor and who turned to you for help. (In the future, if you are sought out by victims, we beg you to respond to them with compassion, not combativeness. If you feel like lashing out about SNAP, we hope you’ll find it in your heart to do so directly, to us, instead of to others who seek guidance and help from you.)
It’s not just that individuals feel hurt by your harsh remarks. The harm done is much more extensive and severe.
Many child sex abuse victims are trapped in isolation, fear, shame and self-blame. Almost all mental health professionals find that victims begin to heal when the break their silence and reach out to others for help. When you attack the nation’s largest self-help group for clergy sex abuse victims, especially in such radical and unfounded ways, it deters deeply wounded individuals from getting the support they so desperately need and deserve. We don’t believe that is the intent of your actions. But we deeply fear that is the result of your actions.
Of course, people often say or write ill-advised things in haste and anger. It’s a sign of wisdom, maturity and humility when people apologize for such hurtful comments. We hope you will consider our request for an apology.
However, please don’t feel that an apology is a necessary precursor to discussion. We are hopeful you will talk with us whether you apologize to us or not.
In a spirit of forgiveness and in hopes of collaboration, we hope you will accept our offer to meet. We hope to hear from you soon.
SNAP National Director
(314) 566-9790 / email@example.com
SNAP Baptist Outreach Director
(512) 217-1730 / firstname.lastname@example.org
SNAP Outreach Director
(314) 862-7688 / email@example.com
of those Abused by Priests