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

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse in Maine can now seek justice

The state of Maine is now safer for children because of a law that went into effect on October 18, 2021, that will help expose dangerous child predators. Adults of all ages who were abused as children will now be able to file lawsuits for child sex abuse, even if their claim was expired under the prior law. This change opens the courthouse doors to victims who, until now, were denied justice. It also means that at least some child molesters - and any colleagues or supervisors who helped them hide their crimes - can no longer hide from the eyes of the public.

We understand that no amount of money can make up for a lost childhood. But when survivors are allowed to use the tried-and-true civil justice system to name their abusers, obtain secret records, exposing cover-ups, and provide valuable evidence to law enforcement, today's children are safer, and victims can begin to heal. Similar laws in California, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware have helped to publicize the names of hundreds of perpetrators, and thousands of pages of evidence of abuse have exposed cover-ups and in some cases even led to criminal prosecutions.


SNAP extremely frustrated that Catholic sexual abuse does not appear to be on the agenda for President Biden's meeting with the Pope

The White House announced on October 14th that President Joe Biden will meet with Pope Francis at the end of the month. We are very disgruntled that the topic of sexual abuse within Catholic institutions in the United States does not appear to be on the meeting's agenda.
 
A recent report commissioned by the French Catholic Bishops documented the cases of 2,900 to 3,200 priests who abused  216,000 minors and adults since the 1950s. The number of survivors in France is 320,000 if you add "lay" perpetrators who taught, coached, or advised in Church institutions.
 
In the United States, we are currently seeing an average of two arrests per month of trusted figures in Catholic facilities. SNAP statistics reveal that there have been 350 clergy and laypersons charged with abuse since 2004. BishopAccountability, the largest public library of information on the Catholic sex abuse scandal, has documented 3,000 more perpetrators since 2004. This number, added to the initial 4,300 plus names acknowledged by Church officials in the John Jay Report, brings the staggering total to over 7,000 abusers, and this figure is growing monthly. If the rate of clergy abuse in this country is similar to that in France, there are probably as many as 472,500 victims of Catholic clerics in the United States, 700,000 survivors of abuse in Catholic institutions, if you include those abused by lay brothers, nuns, employees, and volunteers.

VA school district failed to report an accusation of sexual assault, moved abuser; SNAP responds

We are stunned by the apparent callousness of the Loudoun County Public School District for failing to report alleged sexual assaults. Moreover, the District apparently compounded their mistake by allowing the accused perpetrator to transfer to another school, where he is alleged to have assaulted another student in the exact same manner.

We hope that these failures are thoroughly investigated and that charges are pursued against the responsible parties where possible. There is absolutely no excuse for keeping silent about child sex abuse reports, or for exposing additional children to possible assaults. 

Sadly, those who ignore or conceal child sex crimes, or who endanger additional young lives, are rarely prosecuted. We hope this case is timely enough to make criminal charges possible. If not, we hope the state of Virginia or the federal government will continue changing the laws in the future. Mandatory reporters are often children's first line of defense, and failure to report and endangering additional children should not be taken lightly.

We echo the thoughts of Virginia State SNAP Leader Becky Ianni who said, 'How can parents protect their children if they don’t know there is danger?' 

CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager,( [email protected], 267-261-0578) Becky Ianni, SNAP Virginia State Leader ([email protected], 703-801-6044), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

 


Second victim speaks out publicly in the case of Fr. David Huneck; SNAP applauds her bravery

Yesterday the second victim of Fr. David Huneck also spoke out publicly. We admire the bravery and courage it took for her to come forward. We hope that these two teens know that in reporting what they experienced with Fr. Huneck, they may have helped to save others from a similar fate. Hopefully, both of these brave survivors are getting all the help they need to heal. We are confident that others will hear them and also find the strength to disclose their own suffering to family, friends, law enforcement, or groups like ours.

It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward and talk about their abuse, especially if their perpetrator is a trusted religious authority figure. It is even more difficult to come forward at a young age. The average age for a survivor to disclose their abuse is 52

In a statement to WANE-15 news outlet in Indiana, the second survivor said “this road has not been easy. I have been on a roller coaster of emotions. I am hurt, embarrassed, confused, and sad to have lost a trusted role model.  Most importantly, I am relieved to finally be speaking up. I am ready to be a light to all girls affected by abuse. I want to help, just like I have been helped. I want victims to know that there is a light, even though it may not seem like it now.”

We feel it is important for all victims who have suffered through the horror of abuse to know that these feelings are completely understandable, and we empathize with them. Those who have suffered sexual assault by trusted figures in their life, especially at the hands of clergy, suffer from many challenges that can last a lifetime. Some survivors even refer to such assaults as ‘soul murder.’ The most important part of the journey and the biggest first step is speaking out. The two girls in this case are ahead of the curve by many years and we know their story will inspire others. 

CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager, (267-261-0578, [email protected]) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected]), Melanie Sakoda, Survivor Support Coordinator (925-708-6175, [email protected]) 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 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is www.snapnetwork.org)

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SNAP echoes advocacy group concerns about how a Philadelphia priest ended up in Tennessee, where he was accused of sexual assault

Catholics4Change, an advocacy group that serves as a forum for those with concerns regarding Church accountability, issued a statement yesterday about a priest who was ordained by and who worked in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, but who was quietly allowed to move to the Diocese of Nashville where he was accused of sexual assault. We echo Catholics4Change's concerns about what the cleric was doing in another state, and why the Tennessee allegations were not shared with parishioners in the Archdiocese.

Fr Kevin McGoldrick was ordained for the Archdiocese in 2003, but his known assignment history there is spotty. An article in Catholic Philly indicated that the clergyman was assigned as parochial vicar at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in South Philadelphia in 2008. Catholics4Change reported he was also associated with the Theology of the Body Institute in Downingtown. We wonder exactly where Fr. McGoldrick was during the 10 years between his ordination and 2013, when he was transferred to Nashville?  Catholics4Change also observed that Fr. McGoldrick was approved by Archbishop Chaput for an assignment in Nashville when there was a shortage of priests in the Archdiocese and that there was no announcement of the Tennessee allegations against Fr. McGoldrick in Philadelphia. To us, these are all red flags suggesting that Fr. McGoldrick was a problem before he even arrived in Nashville. 


Special judge to be appointed in the case of a recently charged Catholic priest in Indiana; SNAP commends the judiciary for this decision

Fr. David Huneck was recently charged with sexual abuse in a case involving two teen-aged girls. In the initial hearing held this week in Whitley County, Indiana, Judge Douglas Fahl, a member of St. Paul of the Cross Catholic Church where Fr. Huneck had worked until his arrest, recused himself from any further court proceedings. The Judge noted that the normal procedure would be to have the circuit court judge take over. However, the circuit court judge was also a member of St. Paul's. For Fr. Huneck’s next court appearance in November, a special judge from another county will oversee the case.

We applaud Judge Fahl for making the appropriate decision to recuse himself and appoint a special judge. However, we cannot help but observe the reach and influence of the Catholic Church in Whitley County, when both the sitting judge and his usual replacement were members of the accused's congregation. We believe there would have been a time in the not-so-distant past where a special judge would not have been appointed, and the integrity of the judicial process would have been compromised. We are encouraged that Judge Fahl did the right thing in this case.


Catholic Diocese of Camden seeking approval for a plan to pay only $26 million to more than 300 claimants; SNAP calls the proposal an "insult"

The Diocese of Camden is seeking the approval of the bankruptcy court to set up a $26 million dollar fund to compensate at least 320 survivors of clergy sexual abuse. This translates to an average payment of about $81,250 per victim. We stand with the survivors and agree with their lawyers who called this offer an "insult" to those sentenced to a lifetime of suffering.

Victims sued the Camden Diocese for child sexual abuse under the "window to justice" opened in New Jersey. In response, the Diocese sought bankruptcy protection. We believe that this was done not just to protect its assets, but also to prevent information about the way it handled abuse cases from being revealed to the public.  Camden is now attempting to further protect their assets by providing an insultingly paltry fund to compensate the victims it created with its moral bankruptcy. Attorneys representing the claimants are not only outraged at the inadequate offer, but they have also accused the Diocese of attempting to conceal assets.


Former Michigan priest ordered to stand trial for sexually abusing a minor in the 1980s

We are grateful that former priest Neil Kalina will face a criminal trial in Michigan.  For far too long, in far too many cases, Catholic officials who concealed child sex crimes succeeded in “running out the clock,” allowing perpetrators to escape responsibility for their damaging crimes. We applaud the tremendous work of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office (OAG) in its ongoing investigation into abuse by the clergy.

Kalina was a priest at St. Kiernan Catholic Church in Shelby Township from 1982-1985, and he is accused of sexually abusing children 13-15 years old there. He was first charged in May of  2019 and was arrested in Littlerock, California, where he operated "a faith-based service program for at-risk young men” in LA County.

On Tuesday, a judge ruled there was enough probable cause to send Kalina’s case to Macomb County Circuit Court for trial. He is charged with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC) against a child 13-15 years old, punishable by up to life in prison, and two counts of second-degree CSC against a child 13-15 years old, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. His next court appearance is set for November 1.


European Court of Human Rights dismisses a lawsuit from survivors of abuse by Catholic clergy; SNAP responds

On Tuesday the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) dismissed a lawsuit from survivors of abuse by Catholic clergy, ruling that the Vatican cannot be sued because it is a country. We can only agree with Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability, who said in response that the decision is "a galling reminder of the Vatican's impunity, made possible by its status as a sovereign state."

A group of 24 survivors from Belgium, Holland, and France, who had been abused by Catholic clergy as children, had appealed to the ECHR after Belgian courts ruled they had no jurisdiction given the See of Rome's immunity as a sovereign state. After battling since 2011, the survivors argued in the ECHR that they had been denied the right of access to a court under article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that everyone is entitled to a fair trial.


SNAP praises ‘victim one’ for speaking out publicly in the case of a Catholic priest recently charged with child sexual abuse

We are in complete awe of the courage and strength of Mariella Warney for publicly identifying herself as a 'victim one' in the case being prosecuted against Fr. David Huneck. It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward and talk about their abuse, especially if their perpetrator is a trusted religious authority figure. It is even more difficult to come forward at a young age. The average age for a survivor to disclose their abuse is 52

We want Mariella and 'victim two' to know that their bravery in reporting what they experienced with Fr. Huneck may have helped to save others from a similar fate. Hopefully, both these courageous young survivors are getting all the help they need to heal. Mariella in particular should be greatly admired for speaking out, acknowledging publicly the devastating impact this has had on her and her community. We are confident that others will hear her voice and also find the strength to disclose their own suffering to family, friends, law enforcement, or groups like ours.


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