SNAP Legal Action

The landing page for all information related to the SNAP and CCR filing in the International Criminal Court which names Pope Benedict and other church officials in a lawsuit alleging systemic human rights violations. Here you will find important documents and fact sheets, and will also be able to show your support for abuse survivors.

Welcome to the landing page for all things related to the SNAP and CCR lawsuit filed against Vatican officials and Pope Benedict for human rights violations. Below you will find informative documents and links to other important websites.

SNAP and CCR file supplemental evidence on April 11, 2012

  • Read the supplemental filing here

Editorials by SNAP Leadership on the ICC filing:

  • Op-ed by David Clohessy, SNAP Director, in the Star-Tribune: Read it here.
  • Op-ed by Barbara Blaine, SNAP President. in the Guardian: Read it here.

Documents, News, and Fact Sheets:

  1. Press release
  2. Press advisory for DC and NYC
  3. Facts of the case
  4. Complete text of the filing communication to the ICC
  5. Statements by SNAP Leaders
  6. Biographies of SNAP and CCR members involved
  7. List of cities on the Europe tour and times of events
  8. ICC Letter from Prosecution 
  9. "Abuse Victims ask Court to Prosecute the Vatican"- New York Times
  10. "Hague Court Declines Inquiry into Church Abuse Cover-up"- New York Times

Links for more information:

What experts on law and religion are saying:

  • "The legal situation is not yet clear," but that the dossier submitted "re-opens the question over a cover-up in the 1980s and 1990s. The problem remains that the Vatican has not opened its archives and has not even launched an international investigation into its dioceses around the world." - Marco Politi, Vatican Expert and commentator for Il Fatto Quotidiano. Taken from the Montreal Gazette. 
  • "It is a very slim avenue, but it's an avenue nonetheless," - Lorraine Smith, International Bar Association. Taken from Reuters. 
  • "You get a great deal of publicity," "And you put new pressure on the national courts, letting them know that if they don't prosecute there are alternatives." - William Burke White, Deputy Dean and Professer of Law at UPenn. Taken from the Bellingham Herald.
  •  "At least since 2001-2002, [Pope Benedict] has at least had primary responsibility for these cases," "It's unlikely that the court will take this up, but they won't be able to dismiss it easily. They may have to open up a preliminary investigation." - Laurie Goodstein, Religion correspondent for the New York Times. Taken from PRI.
  • "Jurisdiction is a hurdle. "The court has handled war crimes, but the argument can be made that the abuse of children is as tragic and heinous as anything. It's a crime against humanity." - Mike Pfau, Seattle attorney. Taken from the Seattle Times.
  • The complaint to the ICC "suddenly reframes the issue in the public consciousness." - Tim Kosnoff, Seattle attorney. Taken from the Seattle Times.
  • "The ICC filing marks the most substantive effort yet to hold the pope and Vatican accountable in an international court for sexual abuse by priests." - Nathan Koppel, WSJ contributor. Taken from the Wall Street Journal.
  • "The Holy See is a sovereign, which like all other sovereigns, must be accountable for violations of human rights.  SNAP's action under the ICC is timely and appropriate.  If successful, it will secure more protection for children not just against the Holy See, but all sovereigns." - Marci A. Hamilton, Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law Yeshiva University


Media Statements

Beloved priest -- the "conscience of France" -- accused of sexual assault

For immediate release: July 18, 2024

Reports emerged this week that a Catholic priest, dubbed the "conscience of France," has been accused of sexually assaulting and harassing women -- and at least one under-aged girl -- for decades. SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, can only wonder if earlier complaints were ignored.

Henri-Antoine Groues, known as Abbé Pierre, was a Catholic priest who renounced wealth to campaign for the homeless and became one of France's most revered men before dying at age 94 in 2007. Yesterday, it was publicly revealed for the first time by Emmaüs International, founded by Abbé Pierre, that six women, and one child, had reported acts of sexual assault or harassment between the end of the 1970s and 2005. Emmaüs said that they believed the accusations and stood by the victims.

We cannot help but compare this to the earlier case of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, whose sexual abuse of adult men went ignored for decades until a boy came forward with similar claims. We know that in a book and a TV interview Abbé Pierre made oblique references to the vow of celibacy, indicating that he might have broken it. That would have been at least 17 years ago. While we believe that assaults on adults by trusted clergy result in great harm and should be addressed immediately, Church officials should also pay attention because some of those who prey on men and women will harm boys and girls as well.

Criminal charges against Fr. Leo Riley dismissed; SNAP Responds

For immediate release: July 15, 2024

The criminal case against an ex-Dubuque priest accused of multiple counts of child sexual abuse was dismissed today. There was no ruling on the accusations, just a decision that the case was beyond the criminal statute of limitations. SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is disappointed that once again an accused clergyman was able to avoid facing his accusers in court.

 Although Fr. Leo P. Riley had denied the charges and pleaded not guilty, we know that false accusations of child sexual abuse are rare, multiple false accusations are even rarer. We believe and stand with the brave survivors who came forward to accuse this cleric. Despite Fr. Riley’s attorney's claiming that there was “no evidence” that the clergyman committed these crimes, the truth is that the testimony of these courageous victims would have been evidence.

 Many secular reports and individual investigations across the globe have shown that the Catholic Church protected perpetrators over children. Far too many stories highlight how this religious institution knew of child sexual abuse by clergymen, but did not report the crimes to law enforcement or remove the offenders from ministry. Effectively, this allowed accused abusers to continue to work for years. Instead, Church officials moved accused offenders to other parishes, dioceses, and states, or even out of the country.

Pennsylvania survivors of CSA vow to keep fighting for SOL reform; urge concerned citizens to join them

For immediate release: July 15, 2024

In 2018, then Pennsylvania State Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the results of a grand jury investigation into sexual abuse within six diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in the state. This report, revealing widespread assaults on children by clergy and cover-ups by Church officials, shocked the world. It also forced bishops from coast to coast into greater transparency, and inspired Attorney General’s across the country to open their own statewide investigations. The Grand Jury revelations of continuing, systemic cover-up in Pennsylvania, has since been duplicated in other states.

The report included a list of recommendations, among them, and perhaps most important, opening a "civil window,” which would give child sexual abuse victims a second chance to file lawsuits for damages against their perpetrators and those who enabled them. This “look back” legislation for now-adult victims of childhood sexual abuse, who are locked out of the courts by archaic, predator-friendly statutes of limitations, is central both to protecting children and to delivering justice. Similar windows in other states have not only brought many more survivors forward, but, more importantly, revealed “hidden perpetrators” who remain a threat to today’s youth.

Representative Mark Rozzi (D) and Representative Jim Gregory (R), both survivors of childhood sexual abuse, sponsored and passed the recommended window legislation. This took an almost three year, bi-partisan effort. In 2020, just when we believed we would see this initiative on the general election ballot, we were informed that because of an administrative error by the office of the Pennsylvania Secretary of State, this was an impossibility. Making matters worse, we also learned that the entire multi-year process would have to begin again from scratch. 

Vatican Decision On Allegations Against Cardinal John Dew “A Whitewash.” Abuse Survivors Publish Letter Of Complaint

For immediate release, New Zealand, 8 July 2024

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests in Aotearoa New Zealand, known as SNAP, has made public its letter to the Vatican about a presumed investigation into child sexual assault allegations against Cardinal John Dew, former Archbishop of Wellington.

SNAP wrote to the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith’s Disciplinary Sector, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, responsible for dealing with sexual abuse complaints against clergy. 

A copy of the letter was published on the SNAP Oceania website.

The letter expressed concerns that the Dicastery interviewed only the alleged offender and that another coverup has occurred, this time between the New Zealand Catholic hierarchy, the Vatican, and a Catholic Religious Order known as the Sisters of Mercy.

“To say that your current outcome is a whitewash is an understatement,” SNAP wrote to Fernández. “Protecting the hierarchy at the expense of the people makes it plain that the bona fides of the Dicastery are skewed in favour the hierarchy,” the survivors said.

The letter also urged the Dicastery to reopen this matter. “We urge the Dicastery to publish its report on John Dew. Justice must not only be done, but it must also be seen to be done,” the letter stressed.

SCOTUS rules US bankruptcy law only shields those who sought its protection; SNAP applauds decision

For immediate release: June 27, 2024

The Supreme Court of the United States today ruled that “U.S. bankruptcy law doesn't afford bankruptcy courts the kind of power needed to block lawsuits against parties who haven't filed for bankruptcy.” SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, believes the Court made the correct decision, and that it will help survivors whose lawsuits for child sexual abuse have been shifted into bankruptcy court.

The ruling in the case invalidated a bankruptcy deal involving Purdue Pharma, maker of Oxycontin, and members of the Sackler family, who owned the drug firm. However, it is likely to impact the resolution of other bankruptcy cases as well. Institutions like the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts, that filed for protection in the wake of thousands of lawsuits for child sexual abuse, will be affected by this decision. In fact, both filed briefs in support of upholding the Purdue Pharma deal.

Church Redress Further Fails Abuse Survivors. Complainant In Pastoral Healing Process Receives Letter From Church Lawyer

For immediate release, New Zealand, 24 June 2024

The New Zealand Catholic Church’s National Safeguarding and Professional Standards Committee (NSPSC), responsible for the Church’s sexual abuse redress protocol—TEHOUHANGA RONGO / A PATH TO HEALING (APTH), together with the Church’s National Office for Professional Standards (NOPS) set up to coordinate responses to complaints under APTH, have been accused by survivors of foiling complaints, reports the survivors advocacy network SNAP.

Victims and survivors of clerical and religious sexual abuse who decided to reach out to the New Zealand Catholic Church for healing, say church investigations into their complaints are being obstructed by NSPSC and NOPS, as the principles established in APTH are still not being properly observed, and APTH procedures are still not being followed.

SNAP reports that one APTH complainant recently received a letter from a lawyer instructed by both NSPSC and NOPS threatening to “discontinue the inquiry into your complaints,” after the complainant questioned NOPS’s handling of the investigative process.

The complainant claimed, “investigators were prevented by NOPS from gathering the evidence and making the necessary inquiries.”

Texas megachurch pastor accused of child sexual abuse; SNAP applauds the victim for speaking out

For immediate release: June 16, 2024

The founding pastor of Gateway Church in Southlake, has been accused of sexually abusing a young girl beginning in 1982, when she was just 12 years old. He was a young, married pastor with a child of his own at the time. SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, applauds this survivor for coming forward. Her courage will help to protect today’s children.

Cindy Clemishire told The Wartburg Watch that Pastor Robert Morris began sexually abusing her on Christmas Day, 1982, and that the assaults continued for four-and-a-half years. Pastor Morris said in a statement that “When I was in my early twenties, I was involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with a young lady in a home where I was staying. It was kissing and petting and not intercourse, but it was wrong. This behavior happened on several occasions over the next few years.” We wish to remind Pastor Morris that this was not “inappropriate sexual behavior.” This was a crime.

FBI investigating child sexual abuse in the Two by Twos; SNAP is grateful for this action

For immediate release: June 15, 2024

We are grateful that the FBI is investigating a religious sect that is facing widespread accusations of child sexual abuse. Such crimes in faith communities are best looked into by independent and trained professionals.

Our hearts ache for the victims from the Two by Twos (2x2), or The Church with No Name. While we have no first-hand knowledge about these reports, we know that false accusations of child sexual abuse are extremely rare, and that those who prey on children seldom stop on their own. We want the survivors to know that we believe them, and that they are not alone. We commend those who have bravely stepped forward, and we urge the countless others who may be suffering alone and in silence to make a report to law enforcement.

Credibly accused abusers still being hidden by St. Paul’s archbishop

These clerics were in the Twin Cities archdiocese. (Two may be here now; their whereabouts are unknown.)

Each of them

--has been publicly deemed a ‘credibly accused’ abuser by other Catholic officials,

--are on ‘credibly accused’ abusers lists on other official church websites.

But Twin Cities Archbishop Bernard Hebda refuses to admit their wrongdoing or put their names on his online ‘credibly accused’ abusers list.

(All of the information below comes from one or more of the following sources: court records, church documents and/or mainstream media accounts.)

Kansas Catholic officials disclose child sexual abuse accusations against a long-time priest "substantiated;" SNAP weighs in

Kansas Catholic officials disclosed this week that child sexual abuse accusations against a long-time priest have been found "substantiated." We find it very disturbing that the accusations were first disclosed in 2004, yet the cleric remained in active ministry until his retirement in 2013, and likely continued to work as a supply priest in the following years. The clergyman was not placed on the Diocese's list of abusers until this week. We know that false accusations of child sexual abuse are extremely rare, and that those who prey on children rarely stop on their own. Our hearts ache for all the young lives that may have been endangered over the past 20 years.

The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and St. Benedict’s Abbey, Atchison, announced on May 27, 2024, that Father Roderic Giller, OSB, who retired from parish ministry in July 2013, was the subject of "substantiated allegations" of sexual abuse of children during the time he was working at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Seneca. Shockingly, the Archdiocese and Abbey admitted that they first received those accusations in July 2004.

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