The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Monday, April 4, 2011
Victims & advocates blast NH bishop in court case
NH bishop tries to force abuse victim to disclose his identity
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, [email protected])
Bishop have a clear choice. They can act like cold-hearted CEOs or like compassionate shepherds. McCormack chooses to act like a cold-hearted CEO.
There are two ways to fight - clean and dirty. McCormack is fighting dirty.
What possible benefit can come from a powerful institution forcing a suffering man to give up his privacy? There’s only one that I can think of – it might make other similarly suffering individuals stay silent about the crimes they’ve suffered at the hands of priests, nuns, seminarians, deacons, bishops and other church staff. It might make this victim, and other victims, accept a quick, quiet settlement with little or no exposure of the cover ups by top Catholic officials. McCormack’s not stupid. He knows this. And that’s why he and his top aides and his lawyers are making this mean-spirited move.
If it hasn’t happened already, it will happen soon. Some young New Hampshire woman who was sexually assaulted as a child by a day care employee will approach a lawyer. She’ll say “Police tell me it’s too late to file criminal charges. But my attacker is still running a day care center and I want to warn others about him.” The victim has kids of her own and will be justifiably concerned about their safety and well-being if she files a civil lawsuit against her predator.
She’ll ask an attorney “I can take legal action as a ‘Jane Doe’ right?” And now, because of McCormack, that attorney will have to say “Well, I’m not sure. New Hampshire’s Catholic bishop is in court right now trying to force a child sex abuse victim to publicly disclose his name. . .”
Talk about a chilling effect.
Two other points bear mention here.
First, McCormack isn’t the only one here who deserves blame. Every single New Hampshire Catholic employee who does nothing is also culpable. When we ignore wrong-doing, we encourage wrong-doing. Every priest, nun, deacon, and parochial school teacher who does nothing about this horrific injustice is just as guilty as McCormack. To put one’s own personal comfort above the safety of kids and the suffering of victims is morally wrong, whether you are a cardinal or a custodian.
Second, McCormack’s harsh legal maneuver puts non-Catholic kids at risk and hurts non-Catholic victims. His move will almost certainly deter a few people who were sexually violated by relatives, camp counselors, music tutors and school teachers from speaking up and alerting the public about predators. So this is not a “Catholic” issue. It’s a public safety issue.
Do you know an adult who was raped or a child who was molested? Do you know any victims of any crime who want and deserve confidentiality? If so, you should be outraged by this bishop’s callousness and should speak up.
(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 SNAPnetwork.org)
NH Voice of the Faithful April 4, 2011
Statement of Carolyn Disco 603-424-3120
Survivor Support Chairman cell 917-620-8172
Bishop John McCormack’s intimidation of clergy abuse survivor unconscionable
We are here today to challenge Bishop John McCormack to honor his pledge to treat all clergy abuse survivors who approach the Diocese of Manchester with care and concern, not harassment through punitive legal measures.
A survivor filed a lawsuit last July related to abuse as an 11-year old altar boy by Fr. George St. Jean at St. Brendan’s parish in Colebrook, NH. St. Jean, whose name was released by the Attorney General’s Office in 2009, was a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, also a defendant in the case. He died in 1982.
The lawsuit was filed under John Doe, to keep his name confidential from the public up to the point of trial, since anonymous trials are prohibited. However, the survivor’s identity was promptly provided to the Court, the Diocese and the Oblate order. All three know who and where he is.
This arrangement is acceptable to the Oblates who do not object to the survivor proceeding now as a John Doe. This is because they have “no desire to cause the Plaintiff (survivor) more pain” by forcing him to disclose his identity publicly in the text of the lawsuit.
Further, “Counsel for the two parties (Oblates and survivor) have agreed to revisit the issue at a later date, should it appear this case will proceed to trial. Sometimes a settlement may be negotiated in the interim, in which case confidentiality is preserved.
The same arrangement was repeatedly offered to the Diocese, hoping McCormack likewise would have “no desire to cause more pain.” Instead, the bishop flat out rejected that approach, and filed a motion to dismiss. Incredibly, the motion includes forcing the survivor to pay the Diocese’s legal bills as well. This is unconscionable.
The case is filled with the usual motions, affidavits, memorandum of law, orders, reconsiderations and objections. But now the outstanding issue is the judge’s ruling on the survivor’s objection to the Diocese’s motion to dismiss.
Earlier, the survivor filed an affidavit that described his reasons for not identifying himself publicly. He mentioned the shame, embarrassment, and fears of the consequences of exposure. His wife is aware of
the abuse, but not his children, extended family, and co-workers.
His health is a serious concern, given a history of depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide – all subject to being worsened by forced disclosure of his identity. In addition, his wife is currently being treated for breast cancer, with all the stresses that accompany such difficult treatment procedures. He is particularly concerned about burdening her strength at such a vulnerable time.
He outlined his fears of people perhaps blaming his parents, possible retaliation in the community for suing a religious institution, and economic consequences in his employment. The anxiety is simply debilitating.
McCormack’s use of scare tactics with survivors dates back to 2002-2003. This involved cases where he ultimately had to release incriminating documents to survivors --- which in turn led to settlement, without survivor names being publicized.
Diocese to pay $6.5 million Union Leader 5/23/03
"… they tried in court to force the clients to identify themselves so they would either withdraw or settle for small amounts."
Prior to damaging court rulings against the Diocese, McCormack insisted the survivors’ names be identified publicly. It was the same threat he is using now.
http://www.bishop-accountability.org/NH-Manchester/JBMcCormack-2002-11.html (third news article from bottom)
Lawyer: Church playing hardball over confidentiality of names (AP 11-26-02 longer version)
“Bishop John B. McCormack repeatedly has said the church must respect the confidentiality of victims. In a June deposition in an unrelated lawsuit, McCormack said victims needed to know they can report allegations to the church in confidence, without it becoming public and rising "to the level of a scandal."
Contradicting himself, McCormack acknowledged in prior legal depositions that privacy is critical for survivors approaching the Church:
McCormack’s deposition: “…we had the policy to encourage people that they could, you know, make it public in some way if they wanted to” p. 127-8
National Survivor Advocates Coalition-April 4, 2011
Nothing good is achieved when accused wrongdoers get to intimidate their accusers.
Pope Benedict XVI's address to the Irish Bishops (October 2006)
"In the exercise of your pastoral ministry, you have had to respond in recent years to many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors. … it is important
to establish the truth of what happened in the past,
to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again,
to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and,
above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes."
Pope Benedict directed Catholic Bishops to "do everything possible" to help wounded victims and stop abuse. Bishop McCormack however, seems to be doing ‘everything possible’ to help this accused molester and ‘everything possible’ to stop others from speaking up about him.
For decades, our justice system has protected the privacy of crime victims, especially victims of sex crimes and particularly, victims of child sex crimes. Manchester's bishop, however, wants to turn back the clock. Instead of making it easier to expose child molesters, he's making it harder.
Church officials know the identity of the accuser in this action. His name was given to them by his attorney. That's the way "John Doe" lawsuits always work. So church officials can do whatever they need to do to investigate and defend themselves in this suit. Church officials just want to scare others – victims, witnesses and whistleblowers – into keeping silent.
McCormack wants his "pound of flesh." He wants to punish a deeply wounded man who has the temerity to seek justice, protect kids, and expose wrongdoers. McCormack is simply heaping tragedy on top of tragedy.
McCormack clearly has two goals. First, he is trying to evade responsibility for a predator priest and to force this brave, suffering man into a quick, quiet settlement giving up the right to any "discovery" - depositions, interrogatories. Second, he is trying to deter others who might expose church corruption and crimes from speaking up.
Shame on him.
Shame on his staff.
Shame on his lawyers.
Paul F. Kellen
Founding Member (MA)
National Survivor Advocates Coalition
781 395 3628
Statement of John Doe Regarding the Forced
Disclosure of His Identity by the Diocese of Manchester
I brought this suit as a John Doe in order to protect my family. This is a very emotional time for my wife and I. On top of the threats by the Diocese to have my lawsuit thrown out of court, my wife is battling breast cancer. I believe that forcing me to reveal my name would cause more hardship and stress for her, which is the absolute last thing that I want. Almost none of our family knows about what happened to me. I am afraid of what will happen to my family if my own personal traumas as a child become public knowledge. My wife needs all the strength she can get right now.
Advocates blast NH Catholic officials
Church tries to “out” abuse survivor who Is suing
Groups: “Violating victim’s privacy is a cruel tactic”
NH bishop is among “a handful” of prelates doing this
The effect, victims say, is to “further hurt those who suffer”
And it endangers kids by protecting pedophiles & silencing victims and witnesses
Organizations urge parishioners to “donate elsewhere” until McCormack stops it
One national group will also urge New Hampshire Catholics to “donate elsewhere” until Manchester’s bishop stops this “intimidation.”
But on February 14, Manchester Catholic officials took legal action to force the abuse survivor to publicly disclose his name or have the suit tossed out of court. On March 1, the victim’s lawyers filed an objection to the diocese’s move. The judge could make a decision at any time.
The groups are outraged by the maneuver. For decades, the group says, courts have let sex crime victims (especially those assaulted as children) to protect their privacy. The organizations believe Manchester’s Catholic bishop is violating the letter and spirit of the church’s national abuse policy. His goal, they suspect, is to scare other victims, witnesses and whistleblowers into staying silent about clergy sex crimes and cover ups.
According to a 2009 report from the NH Attorney General, St. Jean is also accused of molesting at least one child in either Tyngsboro, Lowell or Dracut, MA. And in May 2010, Plymouth NH resident John Labbe sued St. Jean for sexually assaulted him about 100 times as a boy growing up in Colebrook in the 1960s, when St. Jean was assigned to the Shrine of Our Lady of Grace in Colebrook.
St. Jean worked in at least three New Hampshire towns including Colebrook (1958-59 and 1965-72, Novitiate of Our Lady of Grace), and Hudson (1962-64 at the Oblates Retreat House). He also had at least two Massachusetts assignments (Natick, from 1973-74 at the Oblate Center and Lowell from 1975-77 at the Oblate Fathers Residence), and one in Connecticut (Williamantic, from 1960-61 at the Immaculata Retreat House). He may have also worked in Nashua area, including Merrimack.
The victim in the new lawsuit is represented by Miami FL attorney Jessica Arbour (305 931 2200, [email protected]). The diocesan defense lawyer is Gordon MacDonald (603 628 4000).
The groups want New Hampshire’s Catholic church officials to use their websites and parish bulletins to alert their flock that St. Jean spent time in New Hampshire and the allegations against him. The group also wants the church hierarchy to do what 24 other dioceses have done, and post on their websites, for the sake of public safety, the names, whereabouts and priestly status of child molesting clerics who are or have been in the state. The organizations consider this a simple, inexpensive, common sense way to safeguard children and young people. (In the last two years, bishops in Boston and Springfield MA have committed to do this too.)
According to a Boston-based independent research group called BishopAccoutnabilty.org, there are 91publicly accused child molesting Catholic clerics (diocesan and religious order) who molested while in the Manchester diocese). SNAP notes that the actual number of area pedophile priests is likely higher because BishopAccountability.org lists only those clerics against whom allegations have been made ‘public’ – in civil lawsuits, criminal prosecution or news accounts.
In 2002, Baltimore became the first US diocese to disclose names. Even the much-maligned Philadelphia archdiocese has posted such a list: http://archphila.org/protection/Updates/update_main.htm. Here are all of the dioceses that have disclosed alleged predators’ names: http://www.bishop-accountability.org/AtAGlance/lists.htm
CONTACT – Carolyn Disco of Merrimack NH 603 424 3120 home, 917 620 8172 cell, Anne Barrett Doyle of Reading MA 781 439 5208, Paul Kellen of Medford MA 781 526 5878, David Clohessy of St. Louis MO314 566 9790, [email protected]
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests