The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Release
For immediate release: Monday, Dec. 7, 2009
For more information: David Clohessy 314 566 9790
More than 500 report being assaulted by Jesuits
Clergy sex abuse victims believe there are far more
Most who were molested never disclose, SNAP says
Group also blasts bishops in 5 states for “callousness”
SNAP: Prelates did “almost nothing” to “reach out to the wounded”
A national support group for victims of pedophile priests says that the 500+ adults who report having been molested by Jesuits in five states as part of a bankruptcy process are “the tip of the iceberg” and believes many more would have come forward but Catholic bishops did little to “reach out to the wounded.”
The organization is also urging victims who are involved in the Chapter 11 proceedings to “fight hard to expose the truth and disgorge secret records about the cover up of child sex crimes.”
The leaders of a self help group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPNetwork.org), maintain that only a “very small percentage” of men and women who were sexually abused as children “ever tell a soul about their suffering.”
"The actual number of Jesuit victims is, of course, dramatically higher. The overwhelming majority of clergy sex abuse victims never disclose, much less take legal action," said David Clohessy, national director of SNAP. "We suspect that if Catholic official had made any real outreach efforts, this figure would have been much higher. But because the church hierarchy did almost nothing to encourage deeply wounded victims to seek help, many will not get help."
SNAP is also urging others who’ve been sexually violated by clergy to continue “coming forwarding, speaking up, calling police, getting help and piecing their lives back together,” even though a Nov. 30 legal deadline has passed.
Often, Catholics assume that in bankruptcy, church secrets about clergy sex crimes and cover ups will be disclosed. That only happens, SNAP leaders feel, when the victims themselves insist on openness as part of the settlement process.
“Church leaders want their insurers to write a check and call it the end,” said Barbara Dorris, SNAP’s outreach director. “The victims involved in the process have to persistently push for real disclosure. Otherwise, the public and parishioners will never know how extensive the cover up is.”
SNAP’s leaders also expressed doubts that the Jesuits are being straightforward about their finances.
“The same Catholic officials who for years claimed few priests molested and no bishop covered up, now claim they can’t treat deeply wounded victims fairly because of alleged monetary shortfalls,” said Dorris. “We’d be fools to take their assertions at face value now, especially since they’re offering no evidence or proof of their real financial picture.”
When bishops threatened to take dioceses into bankruptcy, SNAP repeatedly urged them to first let independent sources thoroughly investigate and disclose the church’s financial standing. No bishop has ever responded to SNAP’s requests.
“Until they come clean with the books, reasonable people will be highly skeptical of any church official who makes last-minute protestations about allegedly inadequate funds,” said Clohessy.
When Catholic entities file for protection, SNAP contends, some victims are more reluctant to disclose their pain and seek help.
“When church officials deflect attention from their own misdeeds, and try to position themselves as the victims somehow, it’s very hurtful and intimidating to survivors,” said Dorris. “It’s hard enough to come forward and report horrific child sex crimes. It’s even harder when a bishop tries guilt-tripping and blame-shifting like church officials often do.”
The more appropriate and pastoral response, Clohessy feels, would be for church officials to “stop trying to minimize the devastation caused by predator priests, disclose the cover ups, let the justice system work, and move quickly toward resolution“ instead of “crying ‘the sky is falling.’”
SNAP believes the Northwest Jesuit province should never have sought Chapter 11 protection. (It comprises five states - Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Washington and Oregon.)
“Instead, of concentrating on hiding their secrets and protecting their money, the Jesuits should focus on kids who are at risk right now of being raped and sodomized, because dangerous clerics still walk free. And they should focus on adults who are at risk right now of suicide and self-destructive behaviors, because they’ve already been abused by clerics,” he said.
SNAP is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. Founded in 1988, it is based in Chicago and has nearly 9,000 members nationwide. Despite the word “priest” in its title, SNAP helps people who were victimized by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Their website is SNAPnetwork.org.
SNAP has two goals: to comfort the wounded and protect the vulnerable.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests