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).

Catholic Priest Arrested in Ventura County for Possession of Child Porn; SNAP Sees Alarming Trend

(For Immediate Release September 15, 2023) 

 

A Catholic priest working for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has been arrested for possessing child pornography in Ventura County. We applaud law enforcement for their work in this case and for following through on a tip provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  Child pornography is a crime with many victims, many of whom may never realize that they were exploited until later in life. We know this level of abuse has been on the rise in many faith denominations and includes many predators and a tragically long shelf life.

Fr.  Rodolfo Martinez-Guevara, 38, is a member of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, Martinez-Guevara is associated with several churches including Our Lady of Guadalupe in Oxnard. He has been charged with possession or control of child pornography and aggravated possession of child pornography, containing more than 600 images.  His arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 15. He is in custody in lieu of a $750,000 bail bond.

In December 2021, Martinez-Guevara was ordained by Bishop Robert Barron. Several criminal cases involving Catholic clergymen have been investigated. It is an alarming trend that religious life appears to be a haven for this type of criminal behavior and a breeding ground for digital delusions involving the lives of young, innocent people. 

Now, Catholic officials in Los Angeles and Father Peter Artega, Provincial Superior of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, must promptly call on any victims, witnesses, or whistleblowers with relevant information to come forward and provide it to law enforcement. Father Rodolfo Martinez-Guevara's complete pre-seminary, academic, and employment history must also be made public and reviewed, with the goal of determining whether any children were victimized at any of his posts.

Studies have shown that 85% of those accused of related offenses involving child pornography also have been hands-on abusers. We are extremely concerned about the possibility of hands-on abuse in this case and beseech church officials, prosecutors, and the California Attorney General to do whatever it takes to identify the hands-on victims. 

The Catholic leadership frequently asserts that instances of sexual abuse inside the Church are confined to historical occurrences. However, incidents such as the one at hand serve as evidence to the contrary. According to internal monitoring conducted by SNAP, law enforcement agencies in a minimum of 30 states have taken legal action, such as arrests or initiation of criminal procedures, against priests who are now living and actively employed, and who have been implicated in cases of sexual abuse. This necessitates that both parishioners and the general public remain attentive and proactive in safeguarding youngsters within their respective communities.

CONTACT:   Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Director ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Interim 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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Investigation into child abuse in the Swiss Catholic Church published; SNAP finds the numbers seriously short

For immediate release: September 13, 2023

 

A yearlong investigation into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in Switzerland was released on Tuesday. While we are encouraged by the fact that the report highlighted the systematic cover-up of such crimes within the Church, we would have to agree with the accompanying acknowledgement that the findings represent “only the tip of the iceberg.”  

 The study, commissioned by the Swiss Bishops’ Conference and undertaken by the University of Zurich’s Historical Seminar, released a report of their findings yesterday. The investigation documented 1,002 cases of abuse since the mid-20th century, cases involving 510 accused and 921 victims. However, comparing the findings to those from other places around the world, those numbers are seriously undercounted, as we were happy to see the report acknowledged. 

 Switzerland has 3.3 million Catholics. Northern California has only 2.8 Million. Yet 1100 perpetrators have been found in NorCal, more than twice the number found in the Swiss study. 2,000 victims filed lawsuits and countless more that have come forward quietly, again more than double the Swiss number. It is also likely that the number of victims in NorCal does not reveal the full extent of the damage done by the criminal behavior of priests. Not all victims survive, and not all survivors come forward. If each California abuser had only 30 victims -- and some will have many more -- we likely have as many as 33,000 boys and girls in NorCal who suffered life-long damage because of the systemic cover-up of crimes by the Catholic Church.

 

 


Scandal engulfing Mobile Catholic high school expands; SNAP urges the faithful to demand accountability

UPDATE: The Lagniappe exposé is now available to read for free here. This op-ed from the media outlet may also be of interest.

For Immediate Release: September 12, 2023

McGill-Toolen Catholic High School in Alabama recently made international news because of reports that the Archdiocese, as well as the staff at the school, ignored complaints about a Catholic priest who absconded to Italy with a recent McGill graduate. Sadly, Fr. Alex Crow was apparently not the only case to be mishandled by school officials and the Church.

On Sunday, Mobile media outlet Lagniappe posted a major exposé on child sex abuse at the Catholic high school entitled, “Victims say leaders ignored past and present abuse at McGill.” The outstanding piece was written by Rob Hobert, with contributions from Dale Liesch and Kyle Hamrick.

We are so grateful to brave survivors Clark Glenn, Sallie McPhearson, and Brian Pierre for their contributions to this comprehensive report. It is because of courageous victims like them that information about abuse in Catholic institutions has been exposed and is being addressed, albeit far too slowly. According to the Lagniappe, victims of abuse perpetrated by clergy at McGill say there is one constant — an administration and Archdiocese bent on covering for abusers and squelching criticism of the school.


New Orleans Archbishop: local Catholic institutions must contribute to clergy abuse claims; SNAP responds

For Immediate Release: September 11, 2023

On Friday, New Orleans’s Archbishop Gregory Aymond told the area’s Catholic churches, schools, and other ministries that they will have to shoulder some of the cost of resolving hundreds of clergy abuse claims. This contradicts promises the Archbishop made to those institutions when he declared bankruptcy in 2020.

We are not surprised by this turn-about. After a bad news week for the Archdiocese, we believe that Archbishop Aymond is trying to deflect local anger and disappointment away from Church officials and onto long-suffering survivors. Moreover, we have always believed that the arbitrary division of Catholic dioceses into separate corporate entities is pure fiction. The bishops are absolute monarchs, and if they decide to use the assets belonging to parishes, educational institutions, and other ministries to pay off diocesan debts, there is little, if anything, that can be done by the faithful to stop them.

We are grateful that Archbishop Aymond has put the lie to the corporate shell game that the Catholic Church plays when filing for bankruptcy. However, we are disturbed that the victims of clergy sex crimes, who have up until now suffered all the consequences of unconscionable decisions made by morally compromised hierarchs, may now also bear the brunt of the faithful’s ire as well.

Hopefully, parishioners will not be fooled again. Church officials – not victims -- made obscene choices that led to permanent harm for countless young lives. Many have been lost to suicide, substance abuse, and mental illness. That a portion of the remaining survivors have bravely come forward to seek just compensation for their injuries should not subject them to the wrath of the faithful. That anger should be directed at those who caused the harm, and those who covered up for them, enabling the perpetrator to do even more damage to innocent Catholic boys and girls.

Unless those who endangered children are held accountable for their actions, nothing will change, and the boys and girls who today are a part of Catholic churches and schools will continue to be at grave risk of harm.

CONTACT:  Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Director ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Interim 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)


Former New Orleans Priest Indicted by Grand Jury; SNAP Responds

(For Immediate Release September 7, 2023) 
 

We are grateful to the New Orleans jurors who delivered an indictment against retired Catholic priest Lawrence Hecker on charges of rape, kidnapping, crimes against nature, and theftFr. Hecker has evaded punishment for his crimes for more than seven decades. District Attorney Jason Williams is the only prosecutor to pursue this prolific perpetrator. We applaud him for his efforts, and we hope that they will result in a successful prosecution of Fr. Hecker. Children are always safer when their abusers are behind bars.

We also hope that all of the survivors of Fr. Hecker’s crimes feel a sense of justice and relief that law enforcement is finally taking action. Three New Orleans Archbishops (Hannan, Schulte, and Hughes) shielded this clergyman from the authorities. We say shame on them!

Last month, Fr. Hecker admitted on camera that between 1966 and 1979 he participated in "overtly sexual acts" with two boys and illicit behavior with other children. Today’s indictment said that on or about Jan. 1, 1975, through Dec. 31, 1976, the cleric is raped, kidnapped, and stole from one unidentified victim.

Fr. Hecker is on the list of those clergy in the Archdiocese of New Orleans who are alive, who have been "credibly" accused of sexually abusing a child, and who have been removed from ministry on the basis of those accusations. However, this list, released in November of 2018, was the first time that the priest was publicly acknowledged by his supervisors to have engaged in criminal behavior,  The clergyman is also on the Diocese of Baton Rouge's list.

 

 

 


Syracuse Catholic Priest Ordained in 2019 Arrested- Child Sex Crimes

(For Immediate Release September 6, 2023) 

Last week, a Syracuse Catholic priest was arrested for child sex crimesWe are grateful that law enforcement has charged the clergyman. However, we are concerned that there may be other victims and we urge the Diocese to do outreach. 

On August 31, the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest of Reverend Nathan Brooks. The cleric is accused of inappropriate sexual contact with a child on multiple occasions from 2019 to 2021 in the Town of Homer and the City of Cortland. He has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child, forcible touching, and sexual abuse in the third degree. According to the Diocese, Brooks has been suspended from all priestly ministry at this time. 

We feel it is also incumbent upon the Diocese of Syracuse to announce this arrest in every place that Fr. Brooks was assigned either as a cleric or a seminarian and to beg anyone who may have experienced, witnessed, or suspected abuse to contact law enforcement.

Fr. Brooks was ordained in 2019. He worked at the Church of the Nativity at Saint Joseph in Lafayette, Immaculate Conception in Pompey, Saint Leo in Tully, and Saint Patrick Mission in Otisco. Recently, the Diocese reached a bankruptcy settlement agreement with the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors. At the time, Bishop Douglas J. Lucia said that the final settlement would include a commitment to strengthen safe environment protocols, "to further ensure the past does not repeat itself."  Yet sadly, rules and regulations do not protect children, and there is no effective protocol to screen for potential offenders. Parishioners and the public need to be aware of these facts, and remain alert for signs that a child is being groomed or harmed.

Each month we read, on average, two news reports about the arrest of Catholic clergy or staffers for sexual abuse or misconduct. This disturbing news from New York shows us once again that the persistent claims from Church officials that the abuse scandal is a thing of the past are simply not true. It is very much a thing of the present.

We encourage anyone who might have relevant information to call the Cortland County Sheriff's Office, 607-758-5599, directly.

CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications ([email protected], 267-261-0578)Melanie Sakoda, Survivor Support Director ([email protected], 925-708-6175) 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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Survivors challenge Bishop Michael Barber's need to resort to bankruptcy

 

For Immediate Release, September 5, 2023

Survivors and advocates have written to Bishop Michael Barber of the Diocese of Oakland, asking him to reconsider bankruptcy. SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, has researched the real estate portfolio of the Diocese, and believes that, as was the case in 2003, that the Diocese has ample non-essential assets to care for those survivors who filed lawsuits in the recently closed civil window without resorting to this extreme measure. 

A copy of the letter sent earlier today by email is attached below, as is the research SNAP conducted of the property holdings of the Diocese.

 

CONTACT: Dan McNevin, SNAP Board of Directors Treasurer ([email protected], 415-341-6417), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Director ([email protected], 925-708-6175),   Joey Piscitelli, SNAP Northern California ([email protected], 925-262-3699) Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board of Directors President ([email protected], 814- 341-8386), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Interim Executive Director ([email protected], 267-261-0578),

(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)

Link for SNAP Letter to Bishop Barber found here>>>

 


Judge Rules McCarrick not Competent to Stand Trial; SNAP Responds

(For Immediate Release August 30, 2023) 

Today a judge in Massachusetts dismissed the criminal case against former Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, saying that he was incompetent to stand trial.  The disgraced and defrocked McCarrick was being prosecuted for sexually assaulting a child decades ago. His attorneys claimed that the once-powerful 93-year-old American prelate suffered from dementia and lacked the mental capacity to stand trial.

Our hearts go out to McCarrick's accuser. We stand in solidarity with him and commend him for his pursuit of justice. We believe a verdict of guilty would have been rendered had the case been allowed to proceed. 

There is another case on behalf of the same survivor being prosecuted in Wisconsin. We hope that the courts in that state will reach a different decision, and finally allow this brave survivor his day in court.

McCarrick is the first Catholic cardinal in the United States to face criminal charges for child sex crimes. We hope that McCarrick's lengthy career as a Cardinal in the Catholic Church, despite early and continued reports of sexual abuse, will act as a lesson to Church officials.  Criminal behavior -- even at high levels -- must be reported to law enforcement immediately, not "investigated" internally. Otherwise, the scandal that accompanied the one-time Cardinal's fall from grace will be repeated in the future.

CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications ([email protected], 267-261-0578)Melanie Sakoda, Survivor Support Director ([email protected], 925-708-6175) 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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High Ranking Paulist Priest Resigns Position After Inappropriate Contact with a Woman

(For Immediate Release August 28, 2023) 

The second-in-command of an order of U.S. Catholic priests resigned after he confirmed a woman’s report in early August that he had touched her sexually a few days earlier. SNAP believes that the victim in this case deserves a lot of praise for speaking out so quickly. The Paulists are also to be commended for swiftly suspending the clergyman, and for notifying their communities about his suspension.

Fr. Frank Desiderio, the Vice President of the Paulist Fathers, stepped down last week after admitting that he made unwanted sexual contact with a woman. The victim contacted Paulist President Fr. René Constanza on August 10th. Fr. Desiderio has been a Paulist since 1978 and was ordained in 1982. As of August 24th, the Paulists claimed that there were no other reported incidents against the clergyman.

We continue to hear Catholic officials say incidents of sexual abuse by clergy are "a thing of the past." In our opinion, this is dangerous because it lulls the faithful into assuming that today's priests never pose a threat. Sadly, this is not true. There are new cases of juvenile and adult criminality reported each month.

Pope Francis has decreed that the sexual abuse of adults by priests is wrong and a canonical crime. We therefore urge the Paulist's to expand their list of accused to include those who, like Fr. Desiderio, harm parishioners who are over the age of majority.

We hope the Paulist Community is true to its statement of support for the victim. We also urge them to turn this information over to law enforcement, and we encourage law enforcement to act swiftly to investigate. Placement into a treatment facility has not been shown to be a panacea for clergy sex crimes in the past. Moreover, we know that those who engage in this type of behavior rarely have just one victim. We believe that there may be others who were hurt by Fr. Desiderio who are still suffering alone and in silence. We urge them to make a police report before going to the Church, and we hope that this case will assure them that their outcry will be taken seriously and that their voices will be safely heard.

CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Interim Executive Director ([email protected], 267-261-0578)  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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Notorious Defrocked Michigan Priest Pleads Guilty; SNAP Responds

(For Immediate Release August 24, 2023) 

Timothy Crowley, a former priest at St. Thomas Rectory in Ann Arbor, has pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Crowley was arrested in 2019 in Tempe, Arizona, and his case was dismissed after a preliminary examination. However, the Attorney General's office prevailed in an appeal to the Court of Appeals, and criminal charges were reinstated in 2022.

Crowley pleaded guilty in Washtenaw County Circuit Court to four felony counts of first-degree Criminal Sexual Conduct and four felony counts of second-degree Criminal Sexual Conduct related to his abuse three decades ago of a minor. This marks the ninth conviction secured by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and her team of investigators since the inquiries began in 2018. It is important to note that criminal charges have been levied in 11 cases, and two defendants remain in India awaiting extradition.

We are glad that Crowley is facing consequences for his actions, and we thank the victim-centered, trauma-informed investigation by the Michigan State Police and Attorney General Dana Nessel and the staff in the Department of Attorney General that this predator was tracked down and brought back to Michigan to face his crimes. This is something church officials should have done long ago.

 


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