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).

Survivor organizations alarmed by loophole exempting clergy from mandatory reporting in new bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JANUARY 25, 2024

 Survivor organizations alarmed by loophole exempting clergy from mandatory reporting in new bill

 Backtracking in proposed legislation keeps children at risk

 

On Thursday, January 25th, the Human Services Committee of the Washington state Senate will hold a public hearing on SB 6298 , “an act relating to the duty of the clergy to report child abuse or neglect.” This new bill has been introduced following the failure of previous legislation (SB 5280 ) that included an amendment that made members of clergy mandatory reporters of child abuse, without offering an exception for information about a child that may be at risk for abuse that was obtained during private pastoral communication.

 Under pressure from Catholic bishops , state Senate lawmakers have introduced a new bill that bypasses the amendment to the previous legislation brought by the House Human Services, Youth, & Early Learning Committee, by putting the clergy exemption back into the bill. If they succeed, clergy will be effectively exempt from reporting child abuse and neglect to law enforcement.

 Seattle-based anti-abuse advocate and Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA) board member Tim Law said, “The vague and verbose language in this new bill effectively obscures any mandate that clergy must report child abuse. It gives the impression that the state is taking action to make churches a safer place for children, while upholding the exemption that has given clergy in Washington state a free pass to legally avoid reporting sexual crimes against children.”

 

https://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2023-24/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Bills/6298.pdf?q=20240124164231

 

https://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2023-24/Pdf/Amendments/House/5280%20AMH%20HSEL%20H1741.1.pdf

 

https://crosscut.com/politics/2023/05/washington-clergy-still-not-required-report-child-abuse


Twice in 6 months, an accused abuser is back near a school; SNAP responds

(For immediate release 1/23/2024)

We're deeply worried that Kansas' Catholic archbishop, for the second time in six months, is putting an accused child molester to work in or near a Catholic school. These moves are reckless and irresponsible. In August, Archbishop Naumann let Bishop Miege hire Phil Baniewicz, who was named in a 2005 civil sexual abuse lawsuit in Arizona, as its new president.


Now, Naumann is transferring Fr. John Pilcher to Holy Trinity parish, which has a parochial school, in Lenexa.
Our simple question: Why take the risk?


Most parishes in Kansas do not have elementary schools. It would be cautious and prudent to put Fr. Pilcher in one of those churches. But Naumann is sadly but predictably opting to roll the dice with the well-being of children. The church 'investigation' into the abuse report involving Fr. Pilcher was relatively brief. We see no evidence that Naumann or his staff did any real outreach effort, urging anyone with information about the allegations - whether victim, witness, or whistleblower - to come forward. (Sadly, very few Catholic officials ever do this. When it does happen, however, it can be very effective.)
So we have no choice but to err on the side of caution and skepticism, and to urge Catholics - in Topeka and throughout Kansas - to express their concern and be particularly vigilant.


For decades, the church hierarchy has done purportedly internal 'investigations' into accusations of all sorts against priests. The results have often been very problematic. Alleged offenders have been reinstated to parish work only to be removed again when more victims come forward. (See the case of Msgr. Craig Harrison in California.) In St. Louis, Fr. Alex Anderson was re-assigned to parish work despite facing at least four accusers. In Chicago, Fr. Michael Pfleger is in a parish right now despite facing at least three accusers. In Kentucky, Fr. Joseph Edward Bradley is in a parish today despite facing at least two accusers.


https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/247476/kentucky-priest-on-cloud-nine-after-priestly-faculties-reinstated

We could go on and on.
https://www.snapnetwork.org/ca_victims_blast_bishop_for_putting_accused_priest_back_to_work

Is it possible that Fr. Pilcher is innocent? Certainly. Is it likely that he is? No. History, psychology, research, common sense - and several church officials themselves - acknowledge that false or mistaken child sex allegations against priests are false.
We beg anyone who may have seen, suspected, or suffered any misdeeds by Fr. Pilcher or any other Catholic employee in Kansas to tell a trusted friend or relative, seek therapy, call law enforcement, and help protect other children.

CONTACT:  David Clohessy, SNAP Leader St. Louis, MO, 314-566-9790, [email protected] Mike McDonnell, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 267-261-0578)

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Episcopal priest will stand trial for child sexual abuse; SNAP urges other victims to come forward

For Immediate Release: January 8, 2024

 We are grateful to the New Hampshire grand jurors who last year delivered an indictment against Episcopal priest Richard Losch for raping boy in the 1970s.  At the time of the assault, Fr. Losch was working at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Marblehead, Massachusetts. The priest was also an assistant headmaster at Tower School in Marblehead and a Boy Scout leader.

SNAP applauds the brave man, Jack, who came forward in 2021 to report his assault to authorities. While we know that Fr. Losch has denied the charges, we also know that false accusations of child sexual abuse are extremely rare. We believe Jack and stand in solidarity with him. It is particularly difficult to be the first person to publicly accuse a respected clergyman of child sex crimes, and we honor Jack’s courage in speaking out.

We hope that any others who may have been victimized by Fr. Losch or others in the Episcopal Church will be inspired by Jack’s bravery and come forward. There is no need to suffer alone and in silence! There are people who understand that delayed disclosure is common, and who will believe you and support you.   

Fr. Losch’s trial is scheduled to begin in June, 2024, so there is still time for any other victims to help hold him accountable. The priest was not only active in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, he also worked as a principal and math teacher at two schools in North Carolina, St. Timothy's School in Raleigh and Cape Fear Academy in Wilmington. Fr. Losch now lives in Livingston, Alabama, where he worked at two parishes for years, St. James Episcopal and St. Alban’s Episcopal.


Nashville Catholic priest removed; SNAP calls for more information as well extensive Diocesan outreach

For immediate release: January 8, 2024

A Catholic priest from a parish in Franklin, Tennessee, has been removed from ministry following accusations that he "improperly touched" a teen. SNAP now calls on Catholic officials in the Diocese of Nashville to provide additional information on the accusations, as well as to do extensive outreach ensuring parishioners at every parish where this man worked are informed about the allegations. The outreach should urge those who experienced, witnessed, or suspected abuse to come forward and make a report to local law enforcement.

Fr. Juan Carlos Garcia had only worked as the associate pastor at St. Philip Catholic Church in Franklin since 2022. The cleric, who was ordained in 2020, was previously the associate pastor at St. Rose of Lima in Murfreesboro. Clearly, despite constant and repeated rhetoric from Catholic officials, abuse within the Church is not just a thing of the past.

We also ask the Diocese to explain why, if the accusation was brought to them in November, Fr. Garcia apparently remained in ministry until recently. We hope that no children were injured because the priest was allowed to continue in his position of authority.

Anyone with pertinent information about Father Garcia should contact Detective Andrea Clark with the Franklin Police Department's Special Victims Unit at 615-476-2809. While delayed disclosure of child sexual abuse is common, we hope that the fact that this brave young person has already spoken out will encourage others to report to law enforcement as well. There is no reason to suffer alone and in silence when there are people who will believe and support you.

CONTACT: Susan Vance, SNAP Tennessee( 865-748-3518, [email protected]), David Brown, SNAP Tennessee (901-569-4500 [email protected]Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Director ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board of Directors 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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SNAP applauds California bill to prohibit the sexual abuse of adults by clergy

SNAP applauds California bill to prohibit the sexual abuse of adults by clergy

For Immediate Release: January 8, 2024

California Senate Bill (SB) 894, introduced by Senator Dave Min on January 3rd, would criminalize the sexual abuse of adults by religious clergy. If passed, this legislation would bring California in line with 13 other states and the District of Columbia, which have similar laws in place. SB 894 would hold clergy to the same standards expected of those who work in other helping professions, like psychology, social work and medicine.

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, supports Senator Min's efforts to make California's religious communities safer for adults. Clergy abuse of adults not only affects those in the three major Christian groups in the United States, Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox, but in every other religious community as well.

Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Director, shares that in the years that she's been working with victims, two of those abused as adults, one male and one female, have taken their own lives to end their pain. "There can be no true consent when a religious leader sexualizes a relationship with someone under their pastoral care."

Dorothy Small, a survivor of a sexual assault by a Catholic priest as an adult, as well as a SNAP leader in the Sacramento area, says,  "It's imperative to recognize that the prevalence of clergy sexual abuse extends beyond children, impacting adults significantly more than widely perceived." 

Lucy Huh, a Ph.D. candidate researching abuse in religious settings, and the survivor-advocate who brought the issue to Senator Min, adds, "Women remain the forgotten majority of persons to survive clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse.” 

Another survivor and advocate who experienced clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse in Southern California, Katherine Archer, points out that these are not affairs, but are egregious violations that cause life-long wounds. Katherine's abuser was an Orthodox priest.

SNAP thanks Senator Min for his important efforts. The organization hopes that the California legislature will pass this bill in the current legislative session. Adults, like children, deserve to be protected in their faith communities.

CONTACT: Dorothy Small, SNAP Sacramento ([email protected], 530-908-3676), Nancy Fratianni, SNAP Abused as an Adult ([email protected], 518-407-7487) Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Director ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board of Directors 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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SNAP Applauds Michigan AG for releasing Second Report

(For Immediate Release January 8, 2024) 

We are thrilled to learn that Attorney General Dana Nessel, one of the most aggressive and effective attorneys general in the US in terms of going after institutions that enable and perpetrate abuse against children, has released the second of what will eventually be seven separate reports, one regarding each of the seven Dioceses in Michigan.

Today’s report about the probe garnered ten tips for the AG tipline for Diocese of Gaylord. Four of them came immediately from the Diocese of Gaylord. Of the 220 boxes of paper papers seized from the Archdiocese and the six Dioceses, 21 boxes comprising about 52,500 documents connected to the Diocese of Gaylord were analyzed. 786,882 papers linked to the Diocese of Gaylord were reviewed out of the 3.5 million electronic documents seized.

Monday’s report includes any and all allegations made by victims against priests living and dead who worked for the Diocese of Gaylord since the diocese was established in 1971. The diocese represents Catholic churches in 21 counties across the northern Lower Peninsula.

None of the cases contained in the report resulted in criminal charges because of a lack of evidence, a lack of criminal activity, the age of the case or the offender being deceased, Nessel’s office said.

“The Gaylord diocese report is a compilation of the information obtained from my department tip line, victim interviews, police investigations, open source media, paper documents seized from the diocese, and electronic documents found on diocesan computers as well as the reports of allegations disclosed by the diocese,” Nessel told reporters Monday.

We are incredibly grateful to AG Nessel, the Michigan Department of Attorney General (AG), in partnership with the Michigan State Police (MSP), who launched an investigation in September 2018. Secular investigations across the country are finding the evidence and filing the charges necessary for victims to witness the wheels of justice at work. These dedicated professionals are helping to end the vicious cycle of abuse and cover-up and have been steadfast warriors on the side of survivors and children.

‘We have discovered from the numerous, secular probes conducted on religious institutions throughout the world that we can never again trust the church for what they have already proven to us once', said Mike McDonnell, SNAP executive director.

Kudos to AG Nessel. Her investigation of Catholic sexual abuse in Michigan has been one of the most effective investigations in the country. We hope her track record will inspire those abused in any state or any similar organization to come forward and make a report to their state Attorney General.

CONTACT: Nadja Tirrell, SNAP Leader Michigan, [email protected], 517-285-0631, Nancy Crabbs, SNAP Leader Michigan, 616-514-7973, Mike McDonnell, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected] 267-261-0578)  Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President, (814-341-8386 [email protected])

(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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Vatican concludes investigation into former St. Paul - Minneapolis Archbishop Nienstedt; SNAP Reacts

(For Immediate Release January 5, 2023) 

A multiyear investigation overseen by the Catholic Church into Archbishop John C. Nienstedt, who resigned from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 2015, has ended with the Vatican finding that he acted “imprudently” in several instances but not criminally under canon law, Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda said in a statement Jan. 5.

The investigation, overseen by the Catholic Church, aimed to address the alleged misconduct of Nienstedt and provide closure to the victims and their families. However,  we believe the findings have left many faithful in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis feeling betrayed and harboring mistrust towards the church's handling of the situation. The failure to adequately address Nienstedt's alleged misconduct has caused significant pain and suffering for the victim-survivors and their loved ones. It leaves more questions rather than answers.

To address these concerns, the Vatican has imposed restrictions on Nienstedt, prohibiting him from residing in the province of St. Paul or Minnesota. In our view, this decision reflects the church's reluctance to associate with the former Archbishop, indicating a clear apprehension among church officials. Nienstedt resigned in disgrace in 2015 after the archdiocese faced criminal charges of "failure to protect children" and filed for bankruptcy.

As we see it, the lack of consequences for clerics who conceal child sex crimes sends two distressing messages. Firstly, it tells abuse victims that their pain is inconsequential. Secondly, it signals to other clerics that no matter the suffering they cause, they will always be protected within the church. These messages are deeply hurtful to the vulnerable, the already wounded, and the church itself.

Those accused of sexually abusing or covering up abuse must not be allowed to enjoy the privileges that come with ordination. Ignoring Nienstedt's behavior only serves to condone it and encourages a culture of corruption within the church, where clergy and staff members may turn a blind eye, knowing that the consequences will be minimal if they are caught.

The Catholic Church must take a stand against abuse and cover-ups, not only for the sake of the victims but also to prevent similar incidents from occurring worldwide. Those responsible for such heinous acts must face real penalties and be held accountable for their actions.

CONTACT: Frank Meuers, SNAP Leader Twin Cities, Winona and New Ulm (952-334-5180), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Director ([email protected], 925-708-6175) Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board of Directors President ([email protected], 814- 341-8386)

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

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California Franciscans file for bankruptcy; SNAP reacts

For Immediate Release: January 5, 2024

 

The Franciscan Friars of California said in a January 2nd statement that they have filed for Chapter 11 protection in the US Bankruptcy Court in Oakland. The religious order said it was facing 94 lawsuits filed in the recently closed civil window. Fr. David Gaa, the provincial minister of the Friars, claimed that bankruptcy was the “only path” to ensure "just financial compensation" for these survivors. Fr. Gaa explained that "The bankruptcy will not only take account of the friars’ assets, but it will also prevent the abuse survivors from having to compete for the earliest or more substantial claims.

SNAP Executive Director, Mike McDonnell said, ‘It is very concerning that these institutions, despite having the financial means to provide reparations to long-suffering victims, are shamelessly claiming insolvency. This is an unacceptable evasion of responsibility that cannot go unnoticed. The devastating impact of abuse on victims' lives emphasizes that their trajectories were forever altered from the moment they experienced such heinous acts. It is truly disheartening to read phrases like "to compete for the earliest or more substantial claims," as it further underscores the Church's unwillingness to rectify the wreckage of the past.’

In our opinion, it is simply not true that bankruptcy is the only way to achieve “just financial compensation” in all of the victims’ lawsuits. In the last California window, universal agreements were reached between the Church, survivors, and their attorneys, without the need to resort to bankruptcy.

In a bankruptcy, those who have filed civil actions become “creditors.” The court will allow a certain period for other “creditors” – victims -- to come forward. However, once the bankruptcy proceeds to its conclusion, anyone abused before the filing date who did not come forward is barred from ever filing a lawsuit. This would include those who do not remember their abuse, those who do not understand the impact it has had on their life, those who are not yet ready to speak out, and – most disturbingly -- those children who are too young to understand that they needed to file a claim before the bar date.


Religious community co-founded by Fr. Marko Rupnik to close: SNAP hopes this heralds a change in Catholic responses to abuse

For Immediate Release December 15, 2023) 

The Slovenian Archdiocese of Ljubljana announced today that the Vatican has decided to shut down the religious community of nuns co-founded by accused abuser Father Marko Rupnik. SNAP is grateful for this decision, but we observe that it only came after intense public outcry over Fr. Rupnik’s case.

 Fr. Rupnik is a former Jesuit priest who was expelled from that religious order in June for “disobedience.” Following his expulsion, in the wake of accusations that he had sexually assaulted as many as twenty-four adult women, the priest was inexplicably incardinated in August by the Diocese of Koper in Slovenia. We registered our deep dismay at the time.

 Fr. Rupnik’s incardination shocked his accusers and sparked a huge public outcry. Subsequently, Pope Francis waived the statute of limitations that was preventing a canonical trial on the accusations, and the priest will face those charges. The dissolution of the religious community Fr. Rupnik co-founded is another step in the right direction.

 However, the fact that it took a public outcry to bring about the canonical trial and the closure of the convent shows us that while the Church continues to say they have changed, their actions belie it. Catholic officials were once again protecting a prominent priest instead of supporting the brave survivors who came forward and protecting potential victims.

 To us, Fr. Rupnik is a dangerous predator, likely made even bolder by the fact that up to now his actions have resulted in no permanent consequences. We simply do not understand why the Church protected him, and we cannot help but wonder how many less prominent perpetrators have been left in ministry because their cases did not provoke a public outcry. 

 We would hope that this case would be a lesson in point to the Vatican and that they would change their ways as a result. It should not have to take media pressure for a religious institution to act to protect its faithful from wolves in sheep’s clothing. However, until we see proof that things have changed, we will continue our fight for justice and accountability.

 

CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Interim Executive Director ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Director ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board of Directors 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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Child Porn Priest Sentenced in Rhode Island

(For Immediate Release December 14, 2023) 

United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha announced that Father James W. Jackson, 68, a former Rhode Island priest assigned to St. Mary's Church in Providence, was sentenced to six years in federal prison today. Jackson had previously admitted to a federal judge that he downloaded and stored thousands of files containing child pornography.

Fr. James Jackson, a Rhode Island priest previously assigned to St. Mary's Church in Providence, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Rhode Island to receiving child pornography, admitting to a federal judge that he downloaded files of child sexual abuse using a peer-to-peer file-sharing network, according to United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.

According to information presented to the court, in September 2021, an East Providence Detective assigned to the Rhode Island State Police Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force identified an IP address assigned to the rectory at St. Mary’s Church that was being utilized to share files of child sexual abuse material.

A court-authorized search of a computer and digital device located in a church rectory bedroom utilized by Father Jackson was found to contain images and videos of child sexual abuse, including multiple images involving prepubescent females, some of which involved acts of bestiality and sadomasochism. A forensic audit of the devices subsequently identified over 12,000 images and 1,300 videos of child pornography.

Jackson was arrested again for allegedly violating the conditions of his release while in Kansas in July 2022.

To us, viewing or sharing child pornography is not a crime without any victims. Sadly, the innocent lives in film and pictures many never realize their trauma until much later in life. Federal authorities need to keep this dangerous man under close watch and those charged with his supervision should never believe that Jackson has repented to sin no more.

CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Interim Executive Director ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Director ([email protected]), Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board of Directors 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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