Roster of Statements


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement


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Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests


Truth and Justice Awards

Statement by David Clohessy, National Director


CONCORD, NH, March 6, 2008 - It is a distinct pleasure to be here today celebrating those who brought justice alive for me as a survivor of priest sexual abuse, for all survivors, for all Catholics, indeed for all the people of New Hampshire. Your oaths of office find fulfillment in your historic achievements.

My focus is on the meaning of your search for the truth; what it means to bear witness to it, as the necessary precursor to justice. Is the common good promoted by secrecy, especially when those secrets put the most vulnerable among us at risk? By what right do we as survivors and the people in general have access to the truth? You used the rule of law to answer those questions, and reveal the falsehoods we were given to protect the reputation of the church over the protection of children. This means we can now live in the truth, grow from it, and affirm the experience of thousands of victims, who wanted only and always to hear from someone, anyone, “Yes, I believe you.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran theologian executed by the Nazis, often quoted by survivors and advocates, wrote, “there is a way of speaking which is in this respect entirely correct and unexceptionable, but which is, nevertheless, a lie…when an apparently correct statement contains some deliberate ambiguity or deliberately omits the essential part of the truth…it does not express the real as it exists in God.” In other words, attempts to mislead or deceive can be cloaked in the pinpoint language of legalisms, or evasions, and dissembling of spin.

What you as New Hampshire attorneys general, their associates, assistants and investigators did, was expose what Bonhoeffer calls lies, and what I call the evasions, dissembling, and distortions of corrupt bishops. Can you possibly appreciate what it means to survivors to see the verbal gymnastics of the hierarchy revealed?

There are four pages of text here (read them, folks) comparing what bishops said, versus what they actually did. The contrasts are striking, and there is nothing wrong in pointing them out. The Diocese said, we abided by all New Hampshire child protection and reporting laws. You found evidence that, no, it did not. Bishops said, we restricted and monitored the ministries of accused clergy. You found evidence they did no such thing. Bishops said they never lied. You found reason to charge perjury and false swearing as part of a planned indictment.

I do not assume that decades, indeed centuries, of ingrained habits to protect the institutional church have somehow miraculously ended since 2002. Already the return to secrecy is clear: names of perpetrators are not released, and scorched earth legal tactics by bishops still keep documents sealed. The radical cultural shifts necessary to be accountable and fully transparent are somewhat in process largely because law enforcement and legislatures have the power to force change. You are forcing change for the better, and we are profoundly in your debt. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the healing your search for the truth brings.

We rightly honor you today with these Truth and Justice awards in the names of the thousands of survivors our organization represents.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests