The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Saturday, March 12, 2011
Victims blast church 'prohibit to report' form
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
We belong to a victims’ self-help group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. We’ve been around for 23 years. We’ve seen astonishingly reckless, callous and deceitful acts by complicit church officials. We’ve seen chancery officials shredding documents. We’ve seen church staff repeatedly lying to police, prosecutors, parishioners and the public. We’ve seen bishops hire private investigators to rummage through victims’ trash. We’ve seen, years ago, Philadelphia Catholic officials countersue a victim’s parents.
We’ve seen a lot. We are hard to shock. But we are shocked by this latest disclosure - the archdiocese's "Prohibition to Report" form (posted at SNAPnetwork.org and BishopAccountability.org).
We’ve never seen a document like this. We aren’t lawyers and we don’t know precisely when or with whom this form was or is used. (It looks like it was created in 2002.) But it clearly doesn’t pass the “smell test.”
We suspect this form was put in front of scared and confused victims who desperately needed therapy bills paid or in some other way needing help from the archdiocese. We suspect some victims signed this having no idea what it meant. We very strongly suspect that the intention here is to protect the archdiocese and its secrets, not to protect innocent children or help wounded victims.
Church officials must make it easier, not harder, for the police to get, and victims to share, information about known and suspected child sex crimes. That’s what they’ve promised to do. That’s clearly not what they are, in fact, doing.
It’s everyone’s duty to tell police as much as they can about possible crimes. This is especially true of powerful decision-makers like church officials and with devastating crimes like child sexual abuse.
Notice the bottom of this form. There’s no ‘signature line’ for an attorney who represents a victim. That suggests that this form was used only with victims who were dealing with archdiocesan lawyers and staff alone – without representation.
A former Philly prosecutor told one the Philadelphia Fox affiliate last night that he too had never seen anything like this. The ex-prosecutor also said he thought the intent here was to protect the archdiocese.
This document was briefly mentioned in the recent grand jury report. Grand jurors were clearly troubled by it as well. In their report, they wrote
“Sometimes the confidentiality afforded to a victim seemed to mean nothing more than not reporting the abuse to law enforcement. The victim assistance coordinators regularly invited victims to sign “Prohibition to Report” forms, which were designed to prevent the Archdiocese from reporting priests’ crimes to law enforcement. It is understandable why the Archdiocese, with its history of knowingly allowing child molesters to remain in ministry, would be concerned about the possibility of civil lawsuits, and wish to involve its law firm, whenever it receives a report of sexual abuse by one of its priests. But if the Archdiocese is going to funnel victims’ personal
information to the lawyers who will be representing the Archdiocese against the victims in such lawsuits, it has no business leading the victims to believe their information will be kept confidential.” (pg. 85-89)
If Rigali or one of his highly-paid public relations staff ever deign to talk about this form, we’re sure they’ll offer some convoluted rationalization couched in alleged concern for victims and their privacy. Church officials do this often – justifying some self-serving, secretive actions as somehow being for the professed benefit of victims.
When they do, ask yourself this: if the goal here was somehow to make victims feel or be safer, why aren’t church officials signing some form and making some pledge? Why make a victim sign something?
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, SNAPblaine@gmail.com), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, firstname.lastname@example.org), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests