How Clergy Abuse Survivors Are Challenging The Church's Cover-Ups
Over the past few decades, sexual abuse survivors, whistleblowers, and journalists have exposed a horrific pattern of sex abuse and cover up in the Roman Catholic Church. As a Catholic millennial, I have never known a church unmarked by the abuse crisis. In the bathrooms at my Catholic high school and my small Midwestern parish, I distinctly remember posters detailing who I should call if I was abused or assaulted by an authority figure. Last year, the Pennsylvania grand jury report and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick revelations made my generation aware of this crisis in a renewed way. Too often, in responses, the voices of survivors themselves are lost.
I recently had the opportunity to discuss the current state of the Roman Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis with Tim Lennon, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse. Lennon is the president of the board of directors of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a nonprofit support network for survivors of sexual abuse by religious and institutional authorities. The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity.
John Noble, Sojourners: Tell me about the history of SNAP.
Tim Lennon: SNAP was originally founded in 1988 by Barbara Blaine, a survivor of sexual abuse by her parish priest. She found others abused within the Church, started support groups, and that grew and grew. Now SNAP is a network of over 25,000. We’re a peer network. None of us are experts. We’re survivors helping survivors. Our mission is to help survivors, protect children, and do advocacy around laws around exposing predators and those that cover up for predators. Most survivors of abuse, especially child sexual abuse, never come forward. We provide an opportunity for people to tell their story within a community where they are believed and supported.
What happened to me as a survivor should not happen to another child. But that takes us into conflict with those who see their power and prestige as more important than the safety of their children and their community. And in that respect, we’ve taken bis...