- Victims blast Catholic hierarchy
- Church tries to get self-help group’s records
- Bishops reportedly approved new “hardball” strategy
- SNAP: “Dolan should denounce & stop this chilling move”
- Victims tell top Catholic officials: “Go after predators, not us”
- Group begs parishioners & public for help in “unprecedented attack”
- Head of Dolan’s old diocese wants a 19 year old rape victim’s private e-mails
- Another, facing criminal charges himself, is part of the “intimidation,” SNAP says
Holding signs and childhood photos at a sidewalk news conference, clergy sex abuse victims will discuss a new page one New York Times story about what they feel is “an unprecedented legal attack on victims, witnesses, whistleblowers and their families.” They will urge New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan to
--disclose which bishops may have approved the new “hardball” strategy,
--promise to not use such tactics himself, and
--as head of America’s bishops, to denounce those bishops who are trying to “intimidate those who need help” by demanding the private e mails of victims, witnesses, whistleblowers, police, prosecutors and journalists
They will also beg parishioners and the public to
--contact Catholic officials and insist that they stop and/or denounce this legal tactics, and
--use their time, energy, and donations to help the support group fight the legal attack.
Today, Tuesday, March 13, 12:45 p.m.
Outside the NY Catholic Archdiocese headquarters, 1011 First Ave. (between 55th & 56th St.) in Manhattan, NY
Two clergy sex abuse victims who belong to a confidential support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org) including the organization’s New York area director, herself a victim of child molestation at the hands of a priest
A page one New York Times story today details what victims and their advocates are calling an unprecedented attacks” by Catholic officials to “intimidate child sex abuse victims, witnesses, whistleblowers and those who help them” by seeking subpoenas and massive amounts of private communications between victims and a support group.
It quotes the head of the NY-based Catholic League as suggesting that several bishops have decided to “come together collectively” to “better toughen up” (However, the US bishops’ official public relations staffer denies this.)
In St. Louis, archdiocesan lawyers are demanding that SNAP turn over perhaps hundreds of pages of the group’s confidential records, including emails to and from a now 19 year old who was repeatedly raped nine years ago by a priest. And in Kansas City, church lawyers and demanding private communications going back 23 years, even from now-deceased individuals who never set foot in KC and who had no knowledge of or role in clergy sex cases there.
The demands, SNAP says, are “invasive, chilling, and designed to discourage victims, witnesses, whistleblowers, police, prosecutors and journalists” from contacting the group for help. They are also costing SNAP tens of thousands of dollars and “causing severe financial hardship” to the group. So SNAP is begging the public and parishioners to “use their resources, clout, voices and donations” to help the organization survive.
The demands arise from two civil lawsuits one called “Jane Doe v. Fr. Joseph D. Ross and the St. Louis archdiocese” and another called “John Doe BP v. Fr. Michael Tierney and the Kansas City diocese.”
The St. Louis suit charges that Ross molested a girl from 1997-2001 at St. Cronan’s Catholic church in the Grove neighborhood of St. Louis city. In 1988, Ross pled guilty to sexually assaulting an 11 year old boy. But after his sentence was completed, Catholic officials quietly put Ross at St. Cronan’s and warned no one of his criminal past. Ross worked as recently as 2002. His current whereabouts are unknown.
The Kansas City suit charges that Tierney faces at least four accusers in separate lawsuits and was suspended last year because church officials deemed some of the allegations credible.
SNAP believes that this intrusion into the private messages and writings of a child rape survivor is “unwarranted,
unnecessary, and hurtful.” They are calling on the two Missouri bishops to call off these hardball tactics immediately. And they want NYC Cardinal Timothy Dolan (as head of the US Conference of Bishops) to publicly denounce the bishops who are using this “mean-spirited” legal tactic.
The demands for document are and depositions are “firsts” in SNAP’s 23 year history. SNAP is not a party to either lawsuit.
Ross has been defrocked. In recent years, he lived in Arkansas but worked in the St. Louis area for 30+ years. Tierney is still a priest and believed to be living in Kansas City.
SNAP is holding similar events today in Washington DC(where the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is headquartered) and St. Louis MO (where Dolan is from and where one of the legal maneuvers is happening).