SNAP joins ECA and many others calling for Zero Tolerance in Rome this week

(For Immediate Release September 27, 2023) 

As survivors from across the world converge on Italy to push for widespread reform in how the Catholic hierarchy deals with abuse and cover-up, we are humbled and grateful to be a part of this potentially historic effort. SNAP Board President, Shaun Dougherty will be among those ‘Voices of Justice’ joining our allies at ECA (End Clergy Abuse) in the week-long events.

It is alarming to us that this papal synod will evidently not address the church's most serious ongoing crisis: child-molesting clergy and their enabling superiors. Every time Catholic officials convene without addressing this ongoing crisis explicitly, they embolden clergy who deny, minimize, neglect, and conceal this devastating scandal. Too frequently, church officials miss out on crucial chances to make the church and society safer and healthier. In doing so, they perpetuate the harmful myth that most of the wrongdoing has occurred in the past. This results in irresponsible and insensitive complacency, which places at risk innocent children and vulnerable adults.

Pope Francis said he wants an 'authentic' synod, not just a meeting 'to project a good image of ourselves.' As we see it, how can any church event, especially one of this magnitude, be truly 'authentic' without addressing the enormous elephant in the room: the sexual violation of the vulnerable and the cover-up of these violations by the church hierarchy?

The pope has also said that "at times there is a type of 'elitism' among the clergy that distances them from the laity." This widespread elitism contributes to the committing and concealing of sexual abuses by clergy. 

However, despite having held his position for over a decade, Francis has made limited efforts to combat clericalism. His approach to addressing the abuse and cover-up crisis has primarily involved delivering eloquent speeches on occasion, without implementing substantial reforms. These actions have been largely symbolic rather than indicative of genuine reform. The presence of a Pope in a country does not provide increased safety for children and people who may be at risk of becoming victims.

Imagine how much good it could do if Francis mandated that every bishop in the world have open discussion sessions on how to prevent future abuse and deal justly with those who have already been afflicted. The kind of meetings the pope proposes would likely help lessen the elitism he decries.

It has been nearly a decade since the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, arguably the world's most authoritative body on the treatment of children, examined the church's ongoing abuse and cover-up crisis. There is little evidence that more than a smattering of the tens of thousands of Catholic officials on the planet have made any effort to implement commonsense recommendations.

SNAP joins survivors and supporters from all over the world in demanding for zero tolerance of sexual abuse and cover-ups, not only on paper but also in practice.

CONTACT: Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President, (814-341-8386, [email protected]) Marc Artzrouni, SNAP Europe Coordinator, (+33 (0)6 95 73 65 92, [email protected])  Mike McDonnell, SNAP Interim Executive Director, (267-261-0578, [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



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