Catholic Church now trying to silence victims’ support group

St. Peter's Square, Rome, Italy - Vincenzo Pinto, AFP/Getty Images


Ten years after Catholic bishops swore to clean up their act after decades of sexual abuse by priests and cover-ups by their leaders, the Catholic Church is proving that old habits die hard.

The New York Times reported last week that attorneys for the church have subpoenaed records from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known to most people as SNAP, as part of sex abuse lawsuits in St. Louis and Kansas City. The subpoenas demand e-mail records and, in some cases, testimony — even though SNAP isn’t directly involved in the suits.

The church demanded 23 years of SNAP’s communication with victims, though the victim in the suit is only 19. They’ve wasted hundreds of hours of staff time and cost SNAP $50,000. Now, SNAP is begging lawyers to work pro bono.

William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, outlined the strategy to the Times: “SNAP is a menace to the Catholic Church,” he said. “There’s a growing consensus on the part of the bishops that they had better … buy some good lawyers and get tough.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops denied turning up the heat, but the Missouri strategy is clear: Make victims afraid to talk to SNAP and bury them under legal fees — the tactic corporations such as tobacco firms use to silence smaller opponents: Intimidate, outspend.

For decades, the Catholic hierarchy — behind the backs of its innocent clergy and millions of parishioners — used intimidation and secrecy to hide accusations that priests molested children. Now, it’s using the same tactics to silence a group that gives aid and comfort to the priests’ victims.

So far, the new tactics appear limited to Missouri. None of SNAP’s four New Jersey chapters has been targeted.

SNAP is a support group, a referral center for victims. But the church sees SNAP as ringleaders and organizers. They want to bust SNAP the way sweatshops busted labor unions.

The church’s new legal assault on SNAP is unconscionable. For decades, pedophile priests created thousands of voiceless victims. SNAP gives those victims a voice — and now the bishops want to silence that, too.

New Jersey News | Star-Ledger Editorial Board | 19 March 2012

One Response to Catholic Church now trying to silence victims’ support group

  1. Judy Jones

    We are learning that church officials will use any tactic they can get away with:
    –to keep their power
    –to protect their image
    –to not be held accountable
    –to keep themselves out of jail… for covering up sex crimes against kids.

    To all victims who have been sexually abused by clerics, your voices are strong, powerful, and being heard…!..
    The church officials can’t shut us up. They can’t shove all the victims back under their control of silence.

    Crimes have been committed and the can of worms has been opened, and that is only because very brave victims of clergy sex abuse are speaking up, coming forward, contacting the police, exposing the truth, and trying their hardest to not allow another child to be given the life sentence of harm which they were dealt.

    For those who wish to help …On our website – – are simple suggestions for helping victims beat back this assault against them by top Catholic officials. Please check it out. Thanks.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511
    “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests” and all clergy.

    (SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims.
    SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 12,000 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 and increasingly, victims who were assaulted in a wide range of institutional settings like summer camps, athletic programs, Boy Scouts, etc. Our website is

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