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).

A sexual assault case filed by a former altar boy against a former New Bedford priest has been settled.

(For Immediate Release May 9, 2023) 

A sexual assault case filed by a former altar boy against a former New Bedford priest has been settled.

Jason Medeiros was a former altar boy at St. Anthony of Padua Church in New Bedford and participated in a Catholic youth group. Both were supervised by Father Richard Degagne, according to a press release issued by Boston-based attorney Mitchell Garabedian.

According to the complaint, Degagne, who was ordained in 1982 and is now in his late 60s, was working with St. Anthony of Padua Parish in New Bedford from around 1986 until 1991. Before being suspended from ministry, he worked in East Freetown, Attleboro, Fall River, New Bedford, and Taunton. He presently resides in Brownfield, Maine, and is listed on the diocesan website as ‘faculties removed’. The settled lawsuit claims that between the ages of 12 and 13 in the late 1980s, Degagne repeatedly sexually assaulted Medeiros in the rectory and in Degagne's automobile. The lawsuit claims that Degagne also took 12-year-old Medeiros on an overnight visit to Maine in or around 1988 when he allegedly assaulted him.

We stand in ovation for Jason Medeiros. Children are safer when predators and those who shield them are held accountable. It is also critical that parishioners and the public are better informed about the true extent of clergy abuse in Massachusetts and beyond. We know it takes a lot of courage and conviction for victims to step forward and we are certain that this example will inspire others to get the help they need.

CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications ([email protected], 267-261-0578) Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009) Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President ([email protected], 814-341-8386)

(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 SNAPnetwork.org)

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Bishop named in investigative grand jury reports in Pennsylvania has died; SNAP Reacts

(For Immediate Release May 9, 2023) 

Bishop Emeritus Edward Cullen of Allentown, Pa has died. Many Allentown Pennsylvania priests are accused of molesting kids and many of them worked under and were protected by the now-deceased Bishop Edward Cullen. We hope his passing will bring some comfort to the hundreds of victims who were sexually violated by priests during his tenure, victims whose allegations were buried.

On May 19, 1962, Cullen was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by the now-deceased Cardinal John Krol. He quickly ascended through the ranks and was appointed Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1988.  On December 16, 1997, Pope John Paul II appointed Cullen as Bishop of the Diocese of Allentown, succeeding retiring Bishop Thomas Welsh, a trained Philadelphia priest as well. Cullen took office on February 9, 1998. He received his episcopal consecration on April 14, 1994, from Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.

According to the 2011 Philadelphia grand jury findings, Cullen sent a memo to another Philadelphia Archdiocese administrator, Monsignor William Lynn, in 1993, stating that parishioners of St. Therese of the Child Jesus church in Philadelphia should be informed that Rev. Edward Avery was quitting as pastor due to health reasons. Avery, in fact, had been accused of sexual abuse. Avery was eventually sent to another parish, St. Jerome, where investigators believe he, another priest, and a teacher began sexually assaulting a kid when he was 10 years old in 1998. Prosecutors claim the abuse persisted until the year 2000. That memo Cullen sent became part of a secret list in Philadelphia.

 


SNAP says Diocese of Oakland doesn't deserve to declare bankruptcy

(For Immediate Release May 8, 2023) 

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland today filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a move that we believe is an attempt to deny justice and transparency to the more than 330 survivors who have lawsuits for child sexual abuse pending against the Diocese.

Everything about this bankruptcy strikes us as wrong. It is all about keeping money and secrets. From one coast to the other, the same ruse is being used by Catholic bishops. Minimize and cover-up child sex crimes, while keeping abusers in ministry. Then, fight against changes to the statute of limitations which would expose those crimes. Finally, when secular laws provide a window to justice, go to federal bankruptcy courts and pretend that they are out of money.

The Diocese of Oakland is surely morally bankrupt, it seems to us, but they do not deserve to be declared financially bankrupt. The Diocese owns a Cathedral worth $200 million. It has hundreds of acres of land in Piedmont, Orinda, Lafayette, and Danville. Except for character and integrity, it is not poor.

 

 


St. John Vianney High School nurse was charged Thursday after confessing to child sex crimes.

(For Immediate Release May 8, 2023) 

A former nurse at St. John Vianney High School was charged Thursday after confessing to child sex crimes. St. John Vianney is a private, all-male Catholic college preparatory school in Kirkwood, Missouri. Erin Foerstel was charged with two felonies: one count of second-degree statutory sodomy and one count of sexual contact with a student.

While we mourn for the harm inflicted on this young boy, we are glad to learn that the perpetrator has apparently admitted her crimes and been arrested. It can be extremely difficult for any survivor to come forward and talk about their abuse, especially if their perpetrator is a trusted authority figure working in the Catholic school system. It is even more difficult at a young age.


Historic Lawsuit Filed Against Jesuit Order In Chile

(For Immediate Release May 4, 2023) 

A historic lawsuit is being brought against the Jesuit Order (Compañía de Jesus)

According to the lawsuit, Pablo Franzani, was very young and a student at the San Luis de Antofagasta Jesuit school, when he was sexually abused by the school's chaplain and educational religion teacher Leonel Ibacache. The school failed to protect Franzani and hid all the information.

We applaud Pablo Franzani for stepping forward to seek justice and accountability after years of suppressing his anguish. His narrative will not only serve to discover the still-hidden truths of Chile's Jesuit Order of Priests, but it will also aid the Chilean people by assisting it in designing stronger safeguards for today's children.

We are sharing the media release and legal filing below from attorney Juan Pablo Hermosilla. The case was filed in the 16th Civil Court of Santiago, under case number C-837-2023.


Federal Judge Recusal in Archdiocese of New Orleans Bankruptcy Case

(For Immediate Release May 1, 2023)

A federal judge overseeing the bankruptcy of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans recused himself Friday in a late-night reversal, a week after an Associated Press report showed he donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Church and consistently ruled in its favor. We are grateful for this development,  as we are sure the almost 500 child sex abuse victims waiting for justice in the courts must be. To us, this was the correct and obvious decision.

Judge Greg Guidry’s recusal is welcome and long overdue. Initially, the judge told attorneys in the high-profile case that a panel of federal judges he asked to review the possible conflict determined no “reasonable person” would question his impartiality despite his contributions and longstanding ties to the Archdiocese.  We obviously disagreed, as did many others in the advocacy and legal communities following the initial reveal.


Trial vs. priest for sex trafficking starts Monday

(For Immediate Release April 28, 2023)

A Toledo area Catholic priest facing multiple charges of sex trafficking goes on trial Monday.
According to the FBI, in 2015, Fr. Michael J. Zacharias allegedly "manipulated and coerced drug-addicted boys and men into sex."
The priest allegedly "admits to first meeting the victim when he was a seminarian and the boy was in 6th grade St. Catherine's in Toledo. The boy became drug-addicted as a teen, and Fr. Zacharias offered him money for sex to feed his habit. A second young man told the FBI he met Fr. Zacharias in first grade at St. Catherine's and that the priest began sexually abusing him as a teen when he was in addiction to drugs. Zacharias was placed on leave by the Diocese," according to news accounts and BishopAccountability.org
"We should all be grateful to the brave men who are helping law enforcement pursue a serial criminal," said Claudia Vercellotti of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "I'm worried though that gullible and misled church members may show up in court to support Fr. Zacharias and unwittingly rub even more salt into the already-deep and still-fresh wounds of his courageous victims."
One of the priest's defense lawyers is John Thebes who represented a notorious Toledo priest, Fr. Gerald Robinson who was convicted of murdering a nun.
Jury selection is set for Monday at the James M. Ashley and Thomas W. L. Ashley U.S. Courthouse, 1716 Spielbusch Avenue in Toledo (419 213 5500). Presiding will be Judge Jack Zouhary ([email protected])
Fr. Zacharias was ordained in 2002 and was arrested in 2020.
FOR MORE INFO: Claudia Vercellotti of SNAP, 419 345 9291 Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communication, 267 267 0578


North Carolina SAFE Child Act Under Court Challenge; SNAP Counters

(For Immediate Release April 28, 2023)

A portion of North Carolina’s SAFE Child Act is being challenged in the courts. The 2019 legislation extended the civil statute of limitations on child sex abuse claims to age 28, and also opened a revival window for time-barred claims. It is the revival window that is being called into question.

Institutions and the insurance industry have long lobbied against reforms that benefit child victims, so this move is not a surprise. However, we hope that this latest legal maneuver will once again fail and that survivors throughout the state who filed lawsuits for damages during the window will be allowed to move their cases forward.

Attorneys for the Gaston County Board of Education, in trying to avoid financial responsibility for child sexual abuse that happened on their watch, claim that the revival window is unconstitutional. Teacher and wrestling coach Gary Scott Goins was convicted of numerous sex offenses against students which were committed while working at East Gaston High School. Goin, who was at the school for more than 20 years, was sentenced to 34 years in prison in 2014. He was convicted of 17 child sex abuse offenses, following a trial that exposed a very disturbing pattern of behavior. As a result of the revival window, three of Goans's victims sued the Gaston County Board of Education and their former coach for assaults that took place between 1998 and 2004. The victims were between 11 and 19 years old when the crimes occurred.


Guilty Plea in Michigan Case Against Former Priest

(For Immediate Release April 26, 2023) 

A former Michigan priest accused of abusing a child in the 1980s has pleaded guilty to first-degree attempted criminal sexual conduct, state officials announced Tuesday.

Vincent DeLorenzo, 84, formerly of Flint, was one of the initial five priests accused by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel in 2019 as part of an ongoing investigation into clerical sexual abuse.

According to a statement from the authorities, DeLorenzo's guilty plea is related to allegations that he sexually molested a 5-year-old kid after officiating the boy's relative's burial in 1987.

When a defendant departs the state for any reason, the statute of limitations in Michigan is suspended. DeLorenzo was detained in Florida's Marion County in 2019. SNAP believes DeLorenzo had intimate knowledge about a fellow priest accused of abuse in 2007. While we applaud the heroic efforts of AG Nessel in investigating and securing convictions of abusive clergy, it comes as no surprise that DeLorenzo was afforded a long career by church officials.


Philadelphia Bishop Timothy Senior Tapped to Lead Diocese of Harrisburg; SNAP has Concerns

(For Immediate Release April 25, 2023) 

Pope Francis has named Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop Timothy C. Senior, of Philadelphia, as the 12th Bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg. In 2004, Senior was named archdiocesan vicar for clergy by Cardinal Justin Rigali to replace Msgr. William Lynn.

Lynn eventually spent nearly three years in state incarceration as the contentious three-month trial that resulted in his felony child endangerment conviction in 2012 was being reviewed by appeals courts. After the verdict was reversed twice, the prosecution continued to pursue other avenues of justice. Finally, prosecutors said that Lynn could put an end to the two-decade odyssey by entering a plea of not guilty to a charge of neglecting to provide records to the 2002 grand jury.

We’re troubled by Bishop Senior’s testimony given during the trial of Msgr. William Lynn in 2012. At question during Lynn’s trial were the secret archives on abusive clergy. In other words, already known abusers to church officials that had been discovered in a locked safe.

 As reported in the Big Trial, --The comedy continued. Msgr. Timothy C. Senior, who replaced Lynn as secretary for clergy, followed (Archdiocesan In-House Counsel) Tim Coyne to the witness stand. While Coyne testified that it was Msgr. Senior who gave him the missing files, Msgr. Senior told the jury, "I don't remember giving these to Tim."
(Lynn Attorney) Blessington told Senior, with all due respect, it sounded like he was blaming Coyne, and that Coyne was blaming him. "I don't know how to respond to that," Senior told the jury. "I cannot say with certainty that I saw these files before."--


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