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Church Demands Accusers' Records

Sunday, September 22, 2002

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram & Gazette Staff

WORCESTER-- Bishop Daniel P. Reilly, through his lawyers, has subpoenaed the confidential records of all alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse from the Worcester, MA Diocese who have contacted the organization SNAP -- the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

"I believe the intent here is to keep more victims from coming forward to talk about their abuse by priests," said Philip A. Saviano, SNAP regional director

Mr. Saviano said he was retained a lawyer and will fight to keep the church from getting hold of the records.

"It's reprehensible," he said.

"I have no intention of turning over those records," Mr. Saviano said. Wendy Murphy of Boston, who has represented sexual abuse victims, will represent him in this action, he said.

"Victims have been suffering for so long, trapped in secrecy and shame, and it was all because of the church cover-up, the lies and despicable effort to sweep this serious problem under the rug," Ms. Murphy said.

"It is unfathomable to me that now, when victims finally have the opportunity to seek justice, the church is using the same dirty tactics against them. Only this time, it is in the name of the law, not of God," she said. "We'll do whatever it takes to fight this subpoena, and we are willing to go to the Supreme Court, if necessary."

Area SNAP members and Ms. Murphy will be joined by representatives of other victims groups and members of the Voice of the Faithful at a press conference tomorrow morning at Harvard University in Cambridge. The time and exact location will be announced.

Phone calls to the Worcester Diocese seeking a comment were not answered last night.

In previous interviews, Bishop Reilly has indicated that he did not approve of SNAP, but he did not give specific reasons.

Mr. Saviano, a former resident of East Douglas who alleges he was abused as a child by the Rev. David A. Holley, said SNAP is the only free support group for people who were abused by priests.

"Many of the people who come to us do not have medical insurance," he said.

"When a victim calls, usually the first thing they say to me is, 'This is just between the two of us, right?'" Mr. Saviano said. He said Bishop Reilly does not want more victims coming forward to tell their stories of abuse.

He added that he is wondering whether Bishop Reilly decided to take this action after talking to other bishops throughout the country. SNAP has chapters throughout the United States. The new national policy on clerical sexual abuse adopted in June by the American bishops called for a more compassionate treatment by the church of sexual abuse victims, Mr. Saviano said.

The subpoena was issued in the lawsuit being brought by Heather Mackey, Debbie Doucet, Nicole M. Cormier, Diane Gallian and Denise Hanrahan, who are suing the bishop and two diocesan priests alleging they were sexually abused as children by the Rev. Robert E. Kelley at St. Cecilia Parish in Leominster. They are represented by lawyer Jeffrey K. Newman of Boston.

Mr. Saviano was ordered to appear for a legal deposition in connection with the suit on Friday at the law offices of Griffin & Goulka of Stoneham. The regional director said he called Joanne Goulka, the lawyer, and told her there was no way he could appear on such short notice, and the deposition was not held.

The bishop is asking for documents involving membership of the five women in SNAP, all documentation of SNAP meetings or conferences they attended, any correspondence sent by them to SNAP, all correspondence between SNAP and the women and all documentation on when they joined the organization.

The bishop also wants to know the names of all people who said they had been sexually abused by Rev. Kelley and the names of all those who have ever told SNAP they were sexually abused "by any priest associated with the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts."

In a press release, SNAP officials called the bishop's request a "legal attack" on their organization.

David Clohessy, national executive director, said the bishop's move is "the lowest of the low."

"There are very few free services available to clergy abuse victims. It is immoral for this powerful institution to attempt to steal this crumb from the hands of people who are so hungry for healing and support. Is the ultimate goal here to silence victims?" he said.

Kathleen A. Shaw can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].

Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests