Opinion: The Crux of the Catholic Abuse Scandal, and How to Fix it

Written by David Clohessy, October 22, 2018, Social Policy

Politicians in the US don’t insist on being called Your Eminence or Your Grace. They don’t ask citizens to kneel before them or kiss their rings. That’s because we live in a democracy. There is, however, a different kind of government. It’s called a monarchy when using polite language, or more bluntly, a dictatorship. In it, those at the top hold virtually all the power and are accountable to no one.

The oldest and biggest example of this system is the Vatican. And in a nutshell, this is why clergy sex crimes and cover-ups continue in the Catholic church. This is relevant now of course because of last week’s scathing grand jury report into six Pennsylvania dioceses. It’s sending shockwaves across the church and beyond.

#MeToo, One Year Later

One year ago this week, the New York Times first ran its bombshell report on Harvey Weinstein. In the fallout of that article, the #MeToo movement re-emerged. Started by the activist Tarana Burke and led by brave survivors who wished to share their experience –in many cases, for the first time – with the world, the #MeToo movement has spread from Hollywood to cities large and small across the nation. While the full effects of the movement will be thought about, written on, and studied in classrooms for years to come, it’s hard to underestimate those effects today.

A former Attorney General pushes MO Attorney General Josh Hawley for a real investigation

It's one thing when advocates from a group like SNAP urge an elected official to take action that will protect kids and hold perpetrators accountable. But when such a plea is made by a contemporary, that can carry even more weight. SNAP is grateful to attorney Nicole Gorovsky - a former assistant Missouri attorney general and federal prosecutor - for joining us in asking Missouri’s Josh Hawley for a real investigation into clergy sex crimes and cover ups. You can read Nicole’s letter here.

#WindowToJustice -- Monday, September 24th -- Harrisburg


Support Statute of Limitations Reform Bill 


September 24th

11 a.m.

City Island 

Organizers are calling on Pennsylvanians to show support for dramatic and needed reform of statute of limitations law. Demonstrate your support for reform and demand that PA legislators protect the children and the vulnerable. 

Marchers will meet at City Island and will march to Capital Steps for a rally. Mark Rozzi will be giving a press conference at 12 pm to 1 pm. We invite all participants to contact their State Senators from 1 pm to 6 pm.  A vigil will happen 6 pm and 8 pm. 

Show the legislators that enough is enough!


Michael McDonnell

[email protected]


How Many More! Billboard exclaims in Louisiana

Open Letter to Pope Francis

By Mary Dispenza 

Dear Pope Francis,

Time is begging you to do the right thing. There have been too many apologies from you and other Popes through the ages with little to no significant reform. The Catholic Church remains seemingly unable to conquer its demons. And yet, if you don't, the Catholic Church may perish - never becoming the great Church it could be. 

Neither you, your bishops or priests appear serious about ending the torture and clergy sex abuse of children, minors and vulnerable adults. The silence of so many priests and bishops including yourself speaks complicity in one way or another. 

Announcement -- New Executive Director

Welcome New Executive Director

Zach Hiner

The Board of Directors of SNAP are pleased to announce the hiring of the new executive director, Zach Hiner.

Zach joins us at a momentous moment in time. SNAP continues to grow and expand, with new support groups and new initiatives. We expect further growth in support of survivors by engaging in social media and through technology such as video conferencing local and national support groups. The life changing work of our founders, Barbara Blaine and David Clohessy continues in a new era.

Zach brings passion to the SNAP mission, technical skills to lead us to the future, and experience to get the job done.

The Board welcomes Zach and ask all to extend your support to him as we move forward. Zach’s first day is September 24th.

Board of Directors


Brief Bio:

Zach Hiner has spent the past eight years of his career working in child abuse and neglect prevention. A graduate of the James Madison College at Michigan State University, Zach started his career as the Executive Assistant to David Clohessy while David served as the Executive Director of SNAP. After several years working with Barbara, David and Barb, Zach moved on to Prevent Child Abuse America; first as the External Communications Manager and most recently as the Director of Communications.

While at PCA America, Zach developed public awareness campaigns aimed at moving the public to action on behalf of children and families with the message that each of us have a role in the prevention of child abuse and neglect. Additionally, Zach has facilitated internal and external communications among PCA America’s two major national networks and has worked with advocates, survivors, college students and politicians in order to help Americans understand that prevention is possible.

“I’m excited to come home to the organization that lit the spark and turned me towards a life of advocacy and prevention. SNAP made an indelible impact on my career and I’m honored to come back to the organization at this critical time. Every day, more and more people are becoming aware of the realities of just how common abuse becomes when we put institutions over people, whether that institution is a church, a University, or a Hollywood studio. For years SNAP has led the way in providing a voice to the voiceless and I am looking forward to increasing our reach, updating our messaging and helping SNAP reach more people than we ever thought would be possible.”

Dedicated Advocate Carolyn Disco of Merrimack has passed away.

Carolyn Disco of Merrimack has passed away.
She was one of the most knowledgeable and outspoken Catholic lay people in the US regarding the Catholic abuse and cover up crisis. She started and led for years the NH chapter of Voice of the Faithful.
Carolyn was a hero to hundreds of clergy sex abuse victims. Unlike most Catholics, she neither ran from this crisis nor bought the calculated apologies and vague promises of the church hierarchy. Instead, she rallied to the side of the wounded and pushed hard to expose the truth, helping law enforcement and journalists investigate this horror.
Her compassion was boundless and her commitment to change was tireless. Many a suffering survivor turned to her for comfort and found it in this generous, kind woman. SNAP gave her our first-ever "Lay Person of the Year" award, which she earned through her dedicated support and advocacy. She will be sorely missed.
David Clohessy, former director ofSNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
David G. Clohessy
314-566-9790 (cell)

All Survivors Day -- November 3rd -- A National day to recognize survivors of sexual abuse

All Survivors Day

Save the date’ for a National All Survivors Day on November 3, 2018.

This event is designed for all survivors of sexual abuse, not just children, not just in religious communities, but everywhere, including: on college campuses, in the military, within sports, and in schools, just to name a few. 

What We Propose:

A National day to recognize survivors of sexual abuse and rape

All Survivors Day, November 3rd.

It is an extension of All Saints Day November 1st, and All Souls Day on the 2nd. What follows is All Survivors Day on November 3rd.


The recent Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report spotlighted the horrific ubiquity of sexual abuse within one institution; it also pointed to the truth that this scourge is far-reaching, across society, organizations, and events. The horrific findings of the grand jury wholly confirm the understanding of all advocates in the field of sexual abuse and human rights—this happens everywhere—churches, universities, sports teams, military, schools.

~We want to call out to victims and survivors, and say, we are with you.

~We welcome your stories. We honor your courage. You are not alone.

~We especially want to cultivate and create a welcoming culture where victims feel safe to step forward. As you know, most victims of sexual abuse never step forward.

Catholics Fired Up! Times Up! We Demand the Truth

For Immediate Release
Fired Up:
“Times Up!
We Demand Truth”
United States and Rome -- On September 8 and 9, Catholics across the United States will protest at their local cathedrals and parishes demanding truth and accountability from Catholic bishops who covered up clergy sex abuse.
On August 14, a Grand Jury in Pennsylvania released a report detailing the abuse suffered by over 1,000 child victims, and names over 300 Catholic priests as credibly accused. In addition to the individual crimes, the report shed light on the decades long effort of Catholic Church officials to shield the perpetrators from prosecution, and generally hide details of the crimes from the public. 
“Justice for survivors is foremost on the minds of Catholics today,” said Kate McElwee, executive director of Women’s Ordination Conference. “We need civil investigations of clergy sexual abuse in every state, the elimination of age limits for victims to report, the elimination of non-disclosure agreements, and a tightening of laws that require professionals to report abuse, and an end to disclosure agreements that bar victims from cooperating in criminal prosecutions.”
“Catholics are calling on the U.S. Bishops and Pope Francis to unseal all documents related to clergy sex abuse cover up and to conduct a full, immediate, and independent investigation of any and all allegations of cover up in the case of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and other prelates who have engaged in criminal activities,” said Zach Johnson, executive director of Call To Action.
“Catholics are also demanding that any investigation must be led by laity in order to re-establish trust with Catholics in the U.S. and elsewhere,” said Deborah Rose-Milavec, executive director of FutureChurch. “A rampant sense of entitlement and unchecked power afforded to clerics that is often referred to as ‘clericalism’ has created this crisis, and we need competent lay people to oversee all aspects of cleaning it up.”
To learn more about the protests on September 8 and 9 and to download an organizing kit, go to
To learn more and see information and pictures from local events go to:
Zachary Johnson, executive director Call To Action, [email protected], 773.988.2352
Deborah Rose-Milavec, executive director FutureChurch,[email protected],
Mobile: 513.673.1401 Office: 216.228.0869
Kate McElwee, executive director Women’s Ordination Conference,[email protected], USA: +1 607-725-1364 Italy: +39 393 692 2100
Supporting Organizations:
Women’s Ordination Conference
Quixote Center 
New Ways Ministry
Call To Action
Roman Catholic Womenpriests

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