Roster of Statements


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New UK report on clergy sex abuse; SNAP responds

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, [email protected])

We are grateful that more suffering survivors are stepping forward. We hope they will continue to do so. Staying silent helps no one. It’s a tempting but dangerous strategy. Only by stepping forward, exposing wrongdoers, and calling police, can we begin to heal ourselves and protect others.

We urge victims to contact independent sources of support. And we beg them to call police officials, not church officials. Often, when a victim contacts a Catholic employee, the cover up intensifies and records are destroyed, victims are threatened, whistleblowers are discredited, witnesses are intimidated, alibis are fabricated, and the truth is even more subtly and shrewdly hidden.

It is painful to read in this report (p. 16) that “further work” must be done toward “determining what would be an appropriate pastoral response” to the abuse and cover up crisis. Catholic officials have had centuries to do this, and it’s not rocket science.

Over our twenty-three years, we’ve read hundreds of similar reports by church sponsored hand-picked panels. On paper, early everything they write sounds nice. But in reality, little changes. Bishops continue to have virtually all the power and so continue to handle abuse cases however they like. And no wrongdoer, besides the child molesting cleric, ever experiences any consequences for hiding or enabling abuse.

Has even one individual church employee lost even one day’s pay for violating even one provision of these plans? We doubt it. So that means that every Catholic employee in the UK acts perfectly in child safety cases. Perhaps it’s just too early to say whether these panels, policies and procedures are making any impact whatsoever. More realistically, we believe that they are meaningless moves that resemble giving aspirin to a cancer patient – short term relief and distraction, not a cure.

The cancer, in this case, is the nearly limitless power of prelates and their continuing obsession with trying to quietly handle horrific child sex crimes quietly and ‘in house,’ rather than in the criminal and civil justice systems.

The church hierarchy’s power is illustrated with the review board: All the impressive titles and resumes mean nothing because these well-meaning individuals essentially depend on secretive, self-serving Catholic officials for virtually all of the “information” they supposedly get to see. Without any real power to force the church hierarchy to disgorge long-held records about child molesting clerics and their complicit church supervisors, such hand-picked lay panels are basically meaningless. They provide excellent public relations “cover” for bishops and the appearance of “making a contribution.” They are merely a more sophisticated part of the ongoing cover up.

These individuals would help bring genuine reform if they lobbied to change predator-friendly laws and prodded secular authorities to conduct real investigations, rather than just re-packaging the crumbs offered to them by bishops and pretending their words make a difference.

This report is part and parcel of the church hierarchy’s long-standing practice of suggesting that kids will be safer if only the right panels, policies and procedures are in place. That’s nonsense. It’s no lack of panels, policies and procedures that cause bishops to ignore and conceal horrific child sex crimes while transferring predator priests to unsuspecting communities. It’s a lack of courage.

If we want change, we need victims as whistleblowers to step forward, expose wrongdoers, and call police. We are grateful that more suffering survivors are stepping forward, and we hope they will continue to do so. Silence is tempting, but it helps no one. By speaking, can we begin to heal ourselves and protect others.

If we want change, we need stronger, more child-friendly secular laws that are vigorously enforced. Police have been far better help to victims than Catholic employees.

If we want change, we need top church staff to start defrocking and demoting other church staff who ignore and conceal heinous child sex crimes. Often, when a victim contacts a Catholic employee, the cover up intensifies and records are destroyed, victims are threatened, whistleblowers are discredited, witnesses are intimidated, alibis are fabricated, and the truth is even more subtly and shrewdly hidden.

Bishops know what’s right. They simply won’t do what’s right. They lack the will and the compassion – not the policies and procedures – to oust child molesting clerics promptly and discipline their enabling colleagues and supervisors severely.

Because of this failure, victims must contact independent sources of support. We beg them to call police officials, not church officials as they seek justice and healing.

(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])

Pope's UK visit prompts increase in sex abuse allegations against church

Body set up to improve Catholic church's response to abuse reveals three-fold rise in allegations in 2010

The Guardian, Thursday 28 July 2011

Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Britain last year led to more reports of sexual abuse allegations, finds the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission, the body set up to improve the church's response to abuse claims.

Publicity surrounding the pope's four-day tour, in addition to his statements on the paedophile priest scandal, saw the numbers of abuse allegations rise in 2010 from 20 a year to 63.

The commission, which was established in 2008, said the three-fold jump concerned incidents from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

In its annual report the NCSC also revealed that 37 clergy have been laicised, or dismissed from the clerical state, since 2001. Of these, 23 were diocesan priests and 14 were members of religious orders.

The NCSC said "the overwhelming majority" of the 37 would have criminal convictions but it did not know how many of the convictions dated back to 2001..

The group said the publication highlighted the "many positive developments" in child protection within the Catholic church in England and Wales while acknowledging there was "no room for complacency", especially in the way it dealt with abuse survivors.

"The NCSC is both challenged and heartened by the fact that last year and, in particular, following the pope's visit more people have felt confident enough to come forward to report incidents of abuse in the hope of finding some kind of reconciliation and closure. Overall, however, we are aware that our response [to survivors of abuse] is not always sensitive, timely or appropriate."

The commission's chair, Baroness Scotland, said she was aware there was "still much to do". In a foreword she wrote that a point of focus should be development of "a more sensitive and pastoral response to the victims and survivors of abuse".

Richard Scorer, a solicitor with Pannone LLP, who has been involved with several claims against the Catholic church, said that "intense public debate" about the church's failings at the time of the papal visit "undoubtedly emboldened" many victims to break their silence. But he warned that it could be years before a full picture emerged.

He said: "It is a well-recognised pattern with child abuse that it produces shame and fear and these often make victims reluctant to disclose often until many years after the event, if at all. We simply will not know for some years whether the child protection policies adopted by the Catholic church since reforms in 2001 have been effective or not. Victims of abuse in the last decade may well wait 10, 15, 20 years to disclose."

Scorer accused the church of not taking its legal and moral obligations seriously, citing the lengthy laicisation process and a high-court case in which the church is claiming that it is not responsible for priests' actions.

He added: "Compare how long it takes to defrock paedophile priests with how secular organisations work. We would appalled if a teacher convicted of child abuse had still not been banned from teaching by the General Teaching Council three or five years after the conviction."

The NCSC report comes at a time of renewed criticism about the way the church deals with abuse allegations.

This week the Vatican recalled its Irish ambassador after the country's prime minister, Enda Kenny, denounced Rome for its role in the alleged cover-up of abuse in the County Cork diocese of Cloyne.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests