SNAP praises 44 brave victims

We belong to self-help group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests Our mission is to heal the wounded and protect the vulnerable.

In 2002, after decades of widespread and heinous clergy sex crimes and cover ups and facing a firestorm of public outrage, every US bishop promised to reform. They promised to to be honest about clergy sex crimes.  They promised to promptly suspend suspected predators. They promised to immediately call police.

And, most deceptively, they promised that small panels of lay Catholics, hand-picked by bishops, at both the national and local level, would “oversee” and enforce their new, allegedly binding policy.

At the time, we in SNAP predicted violations, backsliding, hair-splitting and word-parsing. Why? Because there was no one to really enforce these promises and punish wrongdoers.

And that’s precisely what has happened and keeps happening. These lay panels, portrayed by bishops as “watchdogs,” are in fact, “lapdogs.”

Many bishops have broken these promises, though none, perhaps, as clearly repeatedly and as egregiously as Bishop Robert Finn. Little girls, perhaps dozens of them, were hurt by child porn images that may well circulate across the globe and surface - sporadically and perhaps publicly - for decades to come. Many of the girl’s parents, relatives, teachers and care-givers are no doubt experiencing tremendous pain, anger, betrayal and fear. Our hearts ache for each one of them. Their suffering was clearly avoidable.

That brings us to today’s action.

In 2008, 47 victims resolved their clergy sex abuse and cover up lawsuits against the KC MO diocese. As part of that deal, they insisted that Bishop Robert Finn and other top church officials commit to 19 non-economic reform steps. Now, in an unprecedented move, 44 of those victims are charging that Finn and his colleagues have broken six sections of the agreement, a total of roughly 20 times, in part by keeping two priests in ministry (Fr. James Tierney and Fr. Shawn Ratigan) despite credible allegations against them and by not reporting suspicions and knowledge of child sex crimes promptly to police and prosecutors.

Finn also hasn’t honored his pledge to defrock four suspended or credibly accused clerics.

The 19 non-economic steps were a written contract with a provision that assured arbitration if any dispute about implementation arose. Months ago, these victims asked for arbitration but the diocese is refusing.

So we commend these brave, wounded but caring 44 victims. They were brave enough to speak up, expose wrongdoing, warn parents, protect kids and achieve some measure of healing, justice and closure. They could have walked away. They could have given up. They could have said “I’ve done what I can. Now it’s up to someone else.”

But they aren’t doing what comes easy. They’re choosing the tougher path – continued concern, compassion, and courage. Why? So others won’t have to suffer as they have suffered and are suffering.

They are to be praised for their vigilance.

Increasingly, across the US, victims are pushing for and winning similar abuse prevention agreements. That’s because victims now realize that most dioceses – with extensive wealth and insurance – aren’t reforming just because they settle civil lawsuits. So more and more often, as part of settlement discussions, victims are devising and fighting for specific commitments by church officials to prevent and reform how they deal with abuse cases in the future. And, as more bishops violate these agreements, we in SNAP predict we’ll see more suits like this one.

Abuse victims shouldn’t have to force Catholic bishops to better protect children. But as Frederick Douglass said “Power concedes nothing without demand. It never has and it never will.” So we are grateful these brave victims are demanding that Finn honor his promises and protect his flock.

(NOTE - According to a Boston-based research group, at least 22 KC Catholic clerics stand accused, often several times, of molesting kids. Yet not one of them (nor a single complicit church colleague or supervisor) faces or has ever faced criminal prosecution - with the recent exception of Ratigan who is jailed on child porn charges.)


The actions of the Bishop and Diocese are tragic -- for the children who have once again been victimized by arrogance and avarice -- and for believers trying to live in a way that is good, right and spiritual.  One word describes the Diocese’s response to allegations of childhood sexual abuse:  hubris.  The modern definition is overbearing pride or presumption.  In Greek tragedy, it is excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis. Why should we 47 be required to stand in the breech between children and pain?  Because the hubris of the Bishop and his constant denial have put us here. They have no empathy for toward us, no feeling for our having to relive this each and every day, no matter how much we say we aren’t.  With one hand they shook our hands proclaiming their intention to create a sea change protecting the vulnerable while with the other they were protecting abusive priests. Shame on them.  We are here today to once again stand shoulder to shoulder, to show our resolve that what happened to us cannot be visited on our children.  We never intended to be a nemesis to this Church. We want to be whole but the Church has foisted this responsibility upon us.  We do this so we can wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and know we have been true to ourselves. 


Unfortunately the Diocese has not been accountable for their actions.  I feel slighted, angry, ignored and discounted.  My family was devastated by the suicide of my brother, Tim Higgins.  Tim killed himself because he was being abused by Father Reardon.   Unification is impossible when the leadership has corrupted itself.   How can anyone in good conscience unify behind leadership that has allowed children to be harmed?
There need not be any more suffering at the hands of clergy.  I encourage the Church and laity to stand up against these atrocities.  Let Tim’s picture be a reminder of the pain that abuse can cause.


The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City is in violation of the contact that they made with myself and others back in 2008 regarding child molestation and abuse of children by priests. By not living up to their agreement, they have again put children they are entrusted with in harm’s way by neglecting to take the steps outlined in our agreement, and by intentionally not notifying the authorities when these abuses by priests take place. It is my intention that EVERY legal means be taken to insure that this never happens again (as was the intention of our original agreement),and to fully hold the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City responsible for their breach of contract and the harm that this breach has caused additional children".  This abuse of children by priests has got to stop.


Do you think they will ever learn?  With all the scandals to hit the Church here and in other countries, it still seems as though there is little concern for children’s safety at any level of the Church’s authority.  I did feel that by the non-monetary commitments made the Church would at least have to live up to higher standards than in the past.  My sorrow goes to the children who have once again been violated and lives devastated.  Hopefully they will be identified and given help before they have to live in secrecy for many years.

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  • Barbara Dorris
    published this page in Media Statements 2011-10-06 14:48:00 -0500

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