SNAP Supporter & Donor Profile: Solidarity, Transparency & Accountability: Tim Stier
This profile was written by Patrick Price, Fundraising and Development Manager of SNAP, to honor our courageous and dedicated supporters and donors.
For twenty-five years, Tim Stier served as a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Oakland, but today Tim is, as he states, “a priest in voluntary exile.” How did that happen? In 2004, while serving his last year as pastor at Corpus Christi Parish in Fremont, California, Tim read in a local newspaper the story of Dan McNevin, who revealed that in the 1970s he had been sexually abused by Father James Clark, a predecessor of Tim’s at Corpus Christi. Tim had been alerted by his diocese (Oakland) ahead of time and believed Dan’s allegations. Later, when asked by a reporter how he and his parishioners were reacting to the story, Tim asked the reporter to let Dan know he would like to meet with him in order to support Dan. Two weeks later, Dan showed up at the rectory to talk. They spoke for more than two and half hours, and upon the conclusion of their lengthy conversation, the full impact of Dan’s heart-wrenching story sank in. Dan had spoken with honesty, sincerity, and a whole lot of pain about the clergy sexual abuse he had experienced. That meeting changed Tim’s life and priorities.
The following year, Tim was due to take a sabbatical, which he used to discern his future as a priest. In March, 2005, he met with his bishop, Allen Vigneron, to discuss the issue of clergy sexual abuse among other issues roiling the Church. Realizing that the Catholic Church would not be open to dialogue on these issues, Tim told the bishop he could not in good conscience accept another assignment but was choosing instead to go into exile. Over the ensuing years, Tim arranged meetings with several abuse survivors in his diocese. Gradually he began working with three SNAP leaders in the Bay Area to support survivors and advocate for transparency and accountability in the Church. His advocacy efforts included writing a book about his decision to go into exile, discussing the need for the Catholic Church to awaken to the rampant clergy sexual abuse problem and its cover-up and to call out the need for structural reform, primarily the ordination of women and allowing priests to marry. In April, 2010, he began a weekly Sunday protest in front of the Oakland cathedral, a protest that lasted for eleven years of Sundays. Today, Tim works with Oakland area SNAP leaders Dan McNevin, Melanie Sakoda, and Joey Piscitelli as a consultant on the sexual abuse crisis in parishes in the Bay Area, researching the history, behavior, and allegations against Oakland Diocese priests. Since he speaks Spanish, Tim occasionally interacts with the Latino media to provide commentary and context on clergy sexual abuse stories.
Tim summarizes his justice work in three principles:
- Solidarity: befriending sexual abuse survivors so they get the help they and their families need to heal and feel empowered as they journey through life.
- Transparency: working with SNAP leaders, abuse survivors, the media, and attorneys to pressure Catholic officials to tell the truth and put the welfare of children ahead of the reputation of the Church.
- Accountability: in collaboration with SNAP, the media, and law enforcement, Tim works to hold bishops and priests morally and legally accountable for abuse and cover-up of abuse.
For these reasons and more, Tim has been a longtime sustaining donor to SNAP as he witnesses the effects of SNAP on helping survivors learn that they are not responsible for the abuse they suffered and that they are not alone in the search for healing and justice. Tim strongly believes that SNAP merits his financial support.