SNAP responds to Archdiocese of Chicago's new "disclosure" rules

Imagine if a gang member with a long criminal record announced he was reforming and would start cooperating with police voluntarily, but in reality he continues to submit to police questioning only when subpoenaed? Does that sound like a genuine change of heart? That’s essentially what the Chicago archdiocese is doing with clergy sex abuse and cover up lawsuits.

For years, Chicago Catholic officials have promised to be “open” about clergy sex abuse and cover up cases, but yesterday the archdiocese showed again it will keep being secretive about pedophile priests unless absolutely forced to do otherwise.

They essentially admitted that they will keep documents about predator priests hidden unless

--compelled to release them by an assertive victim and his or her attorney, and

--only if that attorney is Jeff Anderson, and

--only if the pedophile doesn’t object.

Don’t take our word for it, read what the Sun-Times reported: “The new protocol for releasing files will be applied . . . only to other priests Anderson’s law firm has brought cases against.”

And also what the Tribune reported: “the archdiocese will be required to release information about 35 priests accused of sexual misconduct,”,0,4278157.story

Think about what this means: no disclosure unless it’s forced on the archdiocese, and even then, only partial disclosure. This suggests that:

-- No matter how egregiously or often a Chicago archdiocesan priest, nun, brother, seminarian or bishop sexually assaults kids, information may or may not be released to the public, unless one of the victims hires Jeff Anderson.

-- Even if a victim hires Jeff Anderson, information about a priest’s crimes or a church supervisor’s duplicity may be kept quiet until a legal case is filed.

Does that sound like reform? Does that sound like a true commitment to all those pledges of “openness” and “transparency” bishops have talked about for almost a decade?

Because of the coverage of yesterday’s settlement, we fear that some victims and Catholics will get their hopes up, only to be dashed later. It’s important to remember that (according to the Tribune) “It would likely take several months of legal wrangling for the information to be made public.” and (according attorney Jeff Anderson) credibly accused priests “have the opportunity to object” to disclosure and if they do “we’ll see further delays.”

The bottom line: don’t expect much change – if any – any time soon.

For the safety of kids, the healing of victims and the health of the entire community, Chicago Catholic officials should end their long-standing and dangerous obsession with secrecy and post the names and release the records of all proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics. They should do this not just when they are forced to and not for just those who are sued and not for just those whose victims hire Jeff Anderson. They need to do this even if the predator objects.

Finally, the official archdiocesan statement merits explanation. Cardinal Francis George’s public relations staff said “The settlement announced today confirms that . . . attorneys need not put their clients through the ordeal of litigation.” George is telling victims “please doing insist on an open public trial. Please don’t reveal our corruption for all to see. Just come on down to my office and we’ll try to work things out quietly just like Catholic officials have for decades.”

We hope some brave victims will ignore George’s plea and find the strength to expose as much corruption as possible through the time-tested US justice system, so that future crimes and cover ups may be prevented

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected]), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])

SNAP Network is a GuideStar Gold Participant