Media Statements

We are SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. We are the largest, oldest and most active support group for women and men wounded by religious authority figures (priests, ministers, bishops, deacons, nuns and others).

Registered sex offender remained an Orthodox Archpriest: SNAP appalled at this incomprehensible decision

(For Immediate Release June 8, 2023) 

A recently deceased Archpriest in the Diocese of the South (DOS), Orthodox Church in America (OCA), apparently continued bear the title of “archpriest,” despite being a registered sex offender. We are absolutely shocked that Archpriest Benjamin Henderson, who was convicted of possessing child pornography, was never defrocked.

We have written to the late Fr. Henderson’s hierarch, Archbishop Alexander Golitzin, asking him to explain how such a travesty came about, despite evidence that the DOS was at least aware that the priest had been charged with this heinous crime. A copy of the letter is linked below.

Child pornography is NOT a victimless crime. The images of the very real boys and girls who appear in the photos and videos are traded and used indefinitely, leading to a lifetime of victimization. Moreover, studies have shown a strong correlation between those downloading these disturbing images and those who abuse children themselves. At least 50 percent of those who consume such material also admit to child sexual abuse.

Accordingly, we urge the DOS and the OCA to not only give a complete and transparent public account as to why Archpriest Henderson was never defrocked, but also to do outreach to every parish where the clergyman worked, begging anyone who may have experienced abuse by him to come forward and get help. Finally, we believe that the DOS and the OCA should also directly notify any other Orthodox jurisdictions or religious institutions where Archpriest Henderson previously worked of his conviction, so that those groups can do the same outreach.

CONTACT: Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175),  Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Shaun Dougherty, President, SNAP Board of Directors ([email protected], 814- 341-8386), Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 35 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is


Catholic Educator Under Investigation in California; SNAP Responds

(For Immediate Release June 8, 2023) 

According to a report from NBC Bay Area, an adult altar server at an Oakland Catholic church, who also worked as a theology teacher at Marin Catholic High School, is being investigated by the Oakland police. The educator, Jonathan Chavez, is accused of sending inappropriate electronic communications of a sexual nature to an underage altar server at the parish. According to the Diocese of Oakland, the crime was reported to them by the child's parents on April 19, 2023, and the Diocese reported to Child Protective Services (CPS) the same day. The Diocese also contacted Marin Catholic High School on the 19th, informing administrators there of the accusations.

We commend this family for taking the initiative to report Mr. Chavez. However, we are troubled that the Oakland Diocese did not immediately call law enforcement. CPS is not there to investigate crimes, and although this particular report ultimately found its way to the police, there was no reason to take this extra step. We are also troubled that the Diocese waited nearly a month before informing the parents of the other altar servers at the church, as well as its parishioners, of the accusations.


Virginia Attorney General Secures Conviction of Former Priest; SNAP responds

(For Immediate Release June 7, 2023) 

Richmond, VA -- Attorney General Jason Miyares today announced that Scott Asalone, a former priest of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Purcellville, Va., was sentenced by a Loudon County Circuit Court Judge to an eight-year prison term for carnal knowledge of a 14-year-old child. 

The sexual abuse occurred in 1985 when Asalone, now 66, was 29 and the victim was 14. In addition to the sentence handed down by the Court, Asalone is required to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life and to have no contact with the victim.

This example plainly proves that victims can heal and do not have to suffer in shame and secrecy. No matter how long ago the abuse occurred, it is still significant to investigators and us. The victim's bravery aided in the prosecution of a predator and the removal of filth from society. Jason Miyares, the Attorney General of Virginia, deserves our thanks. Thank you also to the Virginia State Police and the Major Crimes Unit for their outstanding work on this case.

Buffalo Priest Placed Back in Ministry Despite Substantiated Allegations

(For Immediate Release June 1, 2023) 

A Catholic priest from the Diocese of Buffalo has been returned to ministry despite a "substantiated" accusation that he had a sexual relationship with an adult woman. This decision by Bishop Michael W. Fisher causes us grave concern.

The Bishop acknowledged that an investigation by the  Independent Review Board determined that it was "substantiated" that Father F. Patrick Melfi engaged in a sexual relationship with an adult female in 2007. However, Bishop Fisher went on to say that based on the circumstances of this relationship, Father Melfi’s response to the investigation, and his faithful behavior since the relationship ended, the IRB recommended, and Bishop Fisher determined, that Fr. Melfi should be returned to ministry.

Placing Fr. Melfi back on the job with so little information about the circumstances of the accusation makes us uneasy.  Pope Francis has changed Church law to explicitly criminalize the sexual abuse of adults by priests. With this new understanding, accusations of a "relationship" between a cleric and an adult can no longer be so easily dismissed. 

Nancy Fratianni, a SNAP Leader who works with survivors who were abused by clergy as adults, shared her thoughts, “Meanwhile the true victim is often ostracized, or further victimized and even asked to leave their job, their parish, and what once was their support system. Returning a priest to service after the fact is encouraging future abuse of vulnerable people."

SNAP Leader Dorothy Small, who works with Nancy, added, "The priest is placed back in active ministry where he has access to supply with minimal supervision or accountability.  Priests make vows of chastity and celibacy and operate in power differentials that make consent between equal powers impossible, that includes adults. The Church minimizes the language used for abuse of adults as 'inappropriate' relationships and boundary violations. It’s an abuse of spiritual power and authority."

We recognize that we have limited information about the accusation. However, in our 35 years of expertise, we find it unlikely that this is Fr. Melfi's only such "relationship" in his 17-year career. Church officials are doing a disservice to parishioners by not fleshing out the particulars of the accusation. Did the woman attend Fr. Melfi's church and/or was she employed there? In secular culture, a supervisor who faced similar claims in the workplace could be fired and might have difficulties finding another position. We do not believe that the Church should be any less scrupulous in protecting those who walk through their doors, even if they are over the age of majority.

Fr. Melfi, who worked as a temporary administrator for Our Lady of the Angels Church in Cuba and St. Patrick's Church in Belfast and Fillmore, was placed on leave in December 2022, after the accusation was made public. The priest, who was ordained in 2006, only a year before the time of the accusation, was also a parish vicar at St. Christopher's Parish in Tonawanda. In addition, he formerly worked as pastor and rector of St. Mary of the Angels Basilica, as well as pastor of St. John's Roman Catholic Church.

We encourage everyone, which includes adults, who have experienced sexual contact by a Catholic cleric to reach out to trusted professionals and to groups like ours for help and support. If someone believes a crime has been committed, they should also contact law enforcement. 

Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 35 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is

Catholic Priest Charged with Assaulting an 8yr-old in Canada; SNAP reacts

(For Immediate Release May 31, 2023) 

A Catholic priest has been charged with sexually assaulting an eight-year-old girl in Little Grand Rapids First Nation, and Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) believe that there may be additional victims. Our hearts go out to this very young child.

We cannot help but think of her innocence as she describes the horror inflicted on her to the police. We hope that she is receiving much-needed support and assistance from family members and trusted professionals. We also hope that this example will motivate more survivors and witnesses to come forward and report the incident to authorities. We call on Archbishop Albert LeGatt to do aggressive outreach to all the communities where this priest worked and encourage anyone with information to immediately report what they know to law enforcement.



SNAP urges California Attorney General to release findings on Catholic sex abuse in the state

(For Immediate Release May 31, 2023) 

Early on May 31st the President and Treasurer of SNAP's Board of Directors, Shaun Dougherty and Dan McNevin, and Melanie Sakoda, SNAP's Survivor Support Coordinator, emailed California Attorney General Rob Bonta, urging him to release a report, or at least a preliminary report, on his findings on Catholic sex abuse in the state. SNAP feels very strongly that such a report is crucial at this juncture, as two Catholic dioceses have already declared bankruptcy in the wake of the civil window that closed at the end of 2022, and at least two others are considering it. We also believe that this tactic is not just to avoid paying restitution to the victims that Catholic cover-ups created, but also, and perhaps even more importantly, to curtail the public release of information on the extent of abuse and its cover-up in Catholic California.
There is a more complete explanation of our reasoning in the letter, which is set forth in its entirety below. While we know that bankruptcy is a federal procedure, we believe that the release of the information the Attorney General has collected since an investigation began three years ago would remove one of the incentives for California dioceses to choose this option. Similar reports have recently been released in Illinois, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
We hope that Attorney General Bonta will seriously consider our request. Dan and Melanie are available to meet with him or members of his staff to share more about the research we reference in the letter.
SNAP looks forward to receiving a positive response from Attorney General Bonta, and to sharing the results of our deep dive into what is already publicly known about Catholic sexual abuse in Northern California, as well as additional information gleaned from the cases that were filed during the three year civil window.

Contact: Dan McNevin, SNAP Treasurer ([email protected], 415-341-6417), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Shaun Dougherty, President, SNAP Board of Directors ([email protected],  814- 341-8386), 

Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578),  Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 35 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is

Multi-page Letter Below 


Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, returned to ministry in 2003, is accused in six civil actions

For immediate release: May 30, 2023
Last week a very disturbing piece by NBC Bay Area revealed that a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, returned to ministry in 2003, is accused in six civil actions filed in the recently closed civil window for child sex abuse victims. Concerned survivor Danielle Lacampagne brought her accusations against Fr. Daniel Carter to the Archdiocese in 2002, and followed it up with a police report, and a lawsuit. Despite her best efforts, the priest continued to work in San Francisco parishes for another two decades.
We are not surprised that the Review Board found Danielle's accusations "unfounded." In our experience "Independent" Review Boards routinely dismiss victims' complaints, particularly if they are only aware of one complaint and the cleric denies the accusation. These Boards are picked by and work for their bishop. They also base their decisions on information supplied to them by that bishop.
Other Diocesan Review Boards have "cleared" accused clergymen only to have additional accusations uncovered later. One California example is the case of Fr. Eric Swearingen. Like Fr. Carter, Fr. Swearingen was placed on leave briefly in the early 2000s after he was accused of child sexual abuse in a lawsuit. However, the Diocese subsequently deemed the allegation "not credible," and Fr. Swearingen was allowed to return to ministry. In 2019, Fr. Swearingen was again placed on leave, reportedly based on information that was uncovered during the course of the lawsuit. Ultimately Fr. Swearingen was added to Fresno's list of accused priests.


Former Dubuque Priest Faces Second Allegation of Abuse

(For Immediate Release May 25, 2023) 

An accusation of child sexual abuse against a Florida Catholic priest has been recently deemed to carry a "semblance of truth," by the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. The cleric, Fr. Leo P. Riley, worked in 16 Iowa parishes following his ordination in 1982. He was transferred to the Diocese of Venice in 2002.

While the current complaint about Fr. Riley was apparently received on May 5th of this year, another accusation was brought to the Archdiocese of Dubuque in 2014.  That victim filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese the following year. The Archdiocesan Review Board initially deemed that accusation as “not manifestly false or frivolous.” (Page 5) However, several months later Archbishop Michael O. Jackels announced that his investigation did not find the complaint to be true and Fr. Riley resumed working in a parish in Florida.


Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul Releases Clergy Investigation Report; SNAP Reacts

(For Immediate Release May 23, 2023) 

On Friday afternoon, all six of Illinois’ Catholic dioceses sent out a sudden press statement, written in concert, that describes the policies and procedures each institution has in place to protect children from abuse. With today’s news, we now know why those Church leaders felt the need to remind parents and parishioners about these policies – because thanks to the work of the investigators at the Illinois Attorney General’s office, it is now apparent to us that those policies are weak, vague, and rarely followed.

In a stunning report, A.G. Kwame Raoul’s office has described the ways that Catholic leaders in every diocese in the state have acted in concert to protect abusive priests, to keep the public from learning about those crimes, and to push back on survivors and their loved ones who came forward in hopes of preventing other cases of abuse

According to the report, more than 450 priests have abused nearly 2000 children in Illinois since 1950. These numbers are at once staggering and, unfortunately, likely an undercount.


Diocese of Sacramento once again quietly removes priest for 'inappropriate conduct.' SNAP Responds

(For Immediate Release May 22, 2023) 

On May 19th, the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento once again quietly announced on its website the removal of a cleric for “inappropriate conduct.” Bishop Jaime Soto said that  Fr. Sijo Chirayath was found to have “violated diocesan policy regarding clergy conduct” with an adult man.  The priest no longer has an assignment nor does he have faculties in the Diocese, and he was asked to return to his order, the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI) in India, on Friday.

We applaud the Diocese for removing Fr. Chirayath and for posting this information on its website. We hope that the parents of students at St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School in Vallejo, where the priest worked as a chaplain, was immediately alerted when the accusations were first received on April 26th, and have now been apprised of the outcome of the investigation.

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