Home / News / Advocates for abuse survivors targeted in a fact-finding mission by Catholic lawyers — New mini-documentary shows the prevalence of religious sexual abuse of children (and it's not just Catholics)
Advocates for abuse survivors targeted in a fact-finding mission by Catholic lawyers — New mini-documentary shows the prevalence of religious sexual abuse of children (and it's not just Catholics)

Advocates for abuse survivors targeted in a fact-finding mission by Catholic lawyers — New mini-documentary shows the prevalence of religious sexual abuse of children (and it's not just Catholics)

priest kissing a childWhen it comes to sexual abuse of children, religions are not forthcoming about their crimes.  The Catholic Church has most famously been the target of investigations of child abuse, but it appears to be a phenomenon across many religious practicies.

SNAP – the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests — is perhaps the largest volunteer advocacy group for people who have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy, Catholic or not.  In its work associated with Catholic victims, SNAP and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a criminal complaint in the international court against the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI in September 2011.

SNAP is now the target of depositions and subpoenas by the Catholic Church. In January, its director, David Clohessy, was deposed by lawyers for the Catholic church for over six hours as part of a lawsuit that a anonymous victim has brought against Fr. Michael Tierney, a priest in Kansas City. According to SNAP, "[M]any of the questions had rather little to do with Tierney or other priests accused of sexual abuse in Kansas City. Instead, they had a lot to do with how SNAP operates, and appeared to be an attempt to establish that SNAP is not a rape crisis center under state law."

SNAP characterizes this discovery process as a crisis, noting:

Catholic officials in two Missouri dioceses are trying to force key SNAP staff people to answer hours of questions under oath about and turn over thousands of pages of confidential communications with victims, witnesses, whistleblowers, police, prosecutors, journalists and concerned parishioners. It's an unprecedented assault on crime victims, on those who help crime victims and on our self help group.

This potentially affects any crime victim who wants or needs privacy. It also affects police, prosecutors, journalists, witnesses, whistleblowers, victims, self help groups, counseling agencies – literally anyone who helps victims and exposes criminals. Emboldened by church officials' legal successes, a rapist may now seek, and perhaps get, records and depositions from staff at the center his victim went to for help. A violent husband might get documents and depositions from staff at the domestic violence center where the spouse he battered sought refuge.

This is the most severe threat we in SNAP have ever faced, for at least three reasons. First, fewer people are stepping forward and seeking help, fearing that their identities and experiences will be turned over to lawyers for predator priests and corrupt bishops. Second, these legal attacks consume massive amounts of time that our volunteers and staff need to devote to protecting kids, exposing predators, helping victims, reforming laws, and deterring future child sex crimes and cover ups. Third, these moves are driving SNAP toward bankruptcy. (We've had to suddenly spend tens of thousands of dollars just fighting and dealing with the first subpoena and church officials seem determined to drag out this process for months and months.) Some of our current members now fear that we will turn over their private information. As such, they have requested that we remove from them our member list.

Bill Donohue's Catholic League has never been a fan of SNAP, accusing the organization of hiding its own child molesters.  Today, the Catholic League claimed that the organization has "snapped" as a result of the depositions, adding:

“We believe that there are two standards of transparency,” Clohessy said. He maintained there is one standard for “institutions that have enabled thousands of pedophiles,” and another for “organizations that enable kids to be safer and expose heinous crimes.” In other words, there should be one standard of justice for the Catholic Church, and another for SNAP.

A defense lawyer seized the moment. He noted that Clohessy wants bishops to suspend accused priests “the minute they are sued for abuse.” Accordingly, he then asked, does this mean SNAP should close its doors immediately if it is sued for defamation or libel? Clohessy flatly said, “No.” Interestingly, Clohessy refused to answer many questions during his deposition, complaining that “Church defense lawyers will likely ask that we be found in contempt of court and possibly fined or possibly jailed.” Reporters described him as looking “shaken and teary-eyed.”

Donohue claims that there is an anti-Catholic sentiment in the country and has insinuated that it is gays and the abuse victims who are responsible for the church's problems, making remarks such as "There is a huge difference between being groped and being raped, so which was it Mr. Foley? Second, why didn’t you just smack the clergyman in the face? After all, most 15-year-old teenage boys wouldn’t allow themselves to be molested. So why did you?"

Last April, Donohue took out a full page ad in the New York Times defending the Catholic church.    In the ad, he noted that it is not just Catholic priests who have been child predators — he pointed to secular institutions and other faith groups.  On that, he's right.  It's not just the Catholic Church that has harmed children.

THE ABOMINABLE SEXUAL CRIMES OF RELIGIONS (video embedded below) documents:

  • Circumcision rites done to 3, 4 and 5-year old boys where boys genitalia are sucked with the mouth and other accounts of sexual abuse by Jewish rabbi;
  • Islamic pre-arranged marriages, where children are married to old men and often abused (60% of women in Afghanistan are still married as children, often at the ages of 9 and 10); and
  • A Hindu swamy in Texas who was arrested on 20 counts of child abuse.

The video might be disturbing for some:

About D. Beeksma

One of the growing crowd of American "nones" herself, Deborah is a prolific writer who finds religion, spirituality and the impact of belief (and non-belief) on culture inspiring, fascinating and at times, disturbing. She hosts the God Discussion show and handles the site's technical work. Her education and background is in business, ecommerce and law.
  • sheldon

    I have always said the catholic church has an insatiable need for justification… this is simply more proof of that. Why not allow the accused to be tried in a secular court and judged by good and honest men and women of no religious affiliation? Why go to great lengths to prevent that from happening?

    It would seem the church is more interested in its reputation than in ministering to the needs of those ravaged by a sexually repressed and abusive clergy the church put in place and now sees fit to protect.

  • http://www.houseofbetazed.com Mriana

    I couldn't get even 1/2 way through this report without feeling like the abuse was happening all over again and my situation happened within the Church of God and Free Methodist sects. Even the picture I found disturbing and off-centering.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1065937918 Judy Block-Jones

    http://www.goddiscussion.com/god-discussion-show/ Thursday evening at 8-pm central time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002537794227 Bonnie Richard

    this looks strange

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1065937918 Judy Block-Jones

    listen to program on your computer.. Thursday 8-pm central..

    • http://www.houseofbetazed.com Mriana

      I'll be co-hosting with Deborah. After all these years though, it's still difficult for me and I still have a lot of anger over it and now the Catholic Church and the Religious Reich wants to control women and their bodies via our government, placing their imposing dogma on a vile deity created by humans. It's appalling to me, which is part of some the ranting articles I write here. Even after writing my book, I still have a lot to say on this subject.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1467003330 Gary Dell

    Judy, I must admit that at first I found this photo unsettling…only to realize that a "soft touch" no longer is an option. Thank you for continually challenging folks and waking us up. BIG HUGS!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1065937918 Judy Block-Jones

    YES.. the photo is disturbing big time…!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1481703853 John Shuster

    It is proper for adults to kiss children on the head or maybe the cheek but never on the lips.

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