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Kansas City Missouri Judge Orders SNAP to turn over 20-plus years of records to Catholic Church

Kansas City Missouri Judge Orders SNAP to turn over 20-plus years of records to Catholic Church

A judge in Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri ordered Survivors Network of those Abused by Priest (SNAP) to turn over decades of records, concerning victim reports of sexual abuse to the Catholic Church.  However, while the Church wanted all the documents, the judge decided to limit the amount of information searched and disclosed to the Church.

Attorneys for the Catholic Church requested the information because they believe SNAP coached the victims.  SNAP strongly denies coaching victims.  Due to a five-year statute of limitation reaffirmed by the Missouri Supreme Court in 2006, the defense for the Catholic Church would need to prove victims did not suppress the memories of sexual abuse and started remembering decades later.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Ann Mesle said that a broad request for records suited the long timelines of this case, which alleges clergy sexual abuse of a 13-year-old boy in the 1970s.

“The issues of this case are serious,” Mesle said. “Yes, we’re going back 24 years, but this case goes back 40 years.”

Under the 2006 ruling, all subsequent lawsuits have been time barred.

Ruling in a priest-abuse case in 2006, the Missouri Supreme Court upheld a five-year statute of limitations on civil sexual abuse allegations, unless the victim could prove that he or she had repressed the memory. In such cases, the statute of limitation would begin to run whenever the victim recovered the memory and was “capable of ascertainment” that damage had been done.

One of the victims in this lawsuit involves a man who was 13 years old at the time of the abuse.  The defendants are Rev. Michael Tierney and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.  Tierney is accused of sexually attacking and molesting “John Doe B.P.”, as named in the case, when he was 13 years old.  The Church reassigned Tierney, who denied wrongdoing, last June.

"I believe they (lawyers for Tierney and the diocese) are entitled to have information on repressed memory," Jackson County Circuit Judge Ann Mesle said Friday.

The information acquired from SNAP will be used for four other cases, including one in Clinton County Missouri.

Mesle, who gave the order on Monday, expected all sides to appeal the ruling and expects them to “slog it out” in appeals court.  Her order not only orders SNAP to hand over the records, but also limits the information the Catholic Church receives concerning the victims and sexual abuse by priests, such as third party names may be removed from the documents.

According to the defense attorney, Brian Madden, for Tierney, one the accusations is that the Church is trying to out the victims.  Madden denies the accusation.

“One of the allegations in the press is that the lawyers and the diocese is trying to ‘out’ the alleged victims,” said lawyer Brian Madden, who represents Tierney. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Attorney Brendan J. Donelon, who recently joined SNAP’s legal defense team, acknowledged that the group’s stormy history with the church had hindered progress on the document request.

“I’m not trying to be obstructionist,” Donelon said. “I’m trying to get us to a point where we can get this resolved so it doesn’t take a lot of time and resources.”

Donelon stated he will keep his appeals options open.

If it is found that the victims did not repress any memories, then the priests have a “bullet proof” defense for this case and future lawsuits concerning past abuse, regardless if the victim’s memory is true and accurate.

Rebecca Randles, attorney for B.P. said her client never had contact with SNAP and his psychologist, not associated with SNAP, stated they B.P. legitimately suppressed the memories of the abuse.

According to Madden, there are five lawsuits against Tierney and all of them allege repressed memory.  Most lawsuits against the diocese also contain similar allegations of repressed memories.

About Mriana

Mriana is a humanist and the author of "A Source of Misery", who grew up in the Church of God, Anderson Indiana. After she became an adult, she joined the Episcopal Church, but later left the Church and became a humanist. She has two grown sons and raises cats. Mriana raised her sons in the Episcopal Church, but in their teen years, they left the Church and she soon followed. One of her sons became a "Tao Buddhist" and the other a None, creating his own world view. She enjoys writing, reading, science, philosophy, psychology, and other subjects. Mriana is also an animal lover, who cares for their welfare as living beings, who are part of the earth. She is a huge Star Trek fan in a little body.
  • Deborah_B

    This is disturbing on many levels, the first of which for me is the breach of a fiduciary relationship between victims and SNAP.  Does this pave the way for, let's say, abusive husbands to demand records from women's shelters so that they know about the whereabouts of their wives? 

    As we've learned from our God Discussion podcast interviews with SNAP, those approaching SNAP for help took a huge, courageous step in doing so.  Now that trust has been smashed. It's almost like getting raped a second time around by the church.

    • I agree, Deborah, and that's one of the reasons I struggled with this one- it's upsetting and disturbing.  Who can you trust?  Who can you turn to for help?  Who and where is safe?  For me, it doesn't matter any more, because all but three are dead, including the minister involved, in my case, but for others it does and as you pointed out, this could end up including women's shelters, which I've also had to run to in later years.  This is setting a very dangerous precedent, and one of the worst things about it, is that the judge is a woman.  I can fully understand the victims in this case, because those with the power to throw others in prison are using that power to demand and violate individuals' rights, privacy, and safety.  At least one person isn't even involved with SNAP and still SNAP is dragged into this thing, for what logical reason, I really don't know.

      The thing is, this is not SNAP's fault.  This judge is ordering the records, literally using her power to demand these records, violating everything these groups were set up to do for people.  Sadly, the female judge, along with the Church, is raping people again, with her power.  SNAP isn't doing it, but they might be blamed for it anyway, which is sad.

  • This legal tactic against SNAP is just the church officials and their
    lawyers trying to intimidate and re- abusing victims all over again. They have
    been able to get away with it for years, and now that some church officials (who
    cover up these crimes against kids) are so close to being jailed, they will do
    anything to keep their power, image, and control
    They really do still think the are above the law,
    But the truth is finally being exposed in the Philly hierarchy priest abuse
    trial. The Philadelphia diocese is not unique in how the treat victims or how
    they handle child sex abuse within this system.
    To all the victims who were sexually abused by clergy, stay strong, You are
    very brave, your voices are powerful and they are being heard.
    We will not let them shut us up, there is way too much at stake, The safety
    of our children today.Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director,
    USA, 636-433-2511 

    • Deborah_B

      Judy, I'm thinking we need to do some kind of a fundraiser for SNAP.  Intimidation is expensive.

      • Esp when the Vatican has enough money and property to feed the world, as well as a known history to intimidate, bribe, and force others to do their bidding.

        The other thing that got me is the Church is showing classic signs of sexual abusers- classic denial, intimidation, cover up, use of power, and every other means at their disposal to crush and further traumatize the victim.  In order to fight this, the victims in these cases, need all the support and encouragement not to succumb to further abuses, thereby silencing them again.  For the past few years, I forgot about the Colgate and Crest toothpaste, until Judy mentioned smells.  This is not coaching though.  This mentioning something that triggered a memory, which Judy had no idea she'd do with me by telling people this information and what triggers memories of abuse.  She just ran down a list of things, some I realized and some I did not realize, thereby controlling my thoughts, emotions, and memories, until she got to smell… Then memories of Crest and Colgate went through my mind (I won't describe), which only happens when I smell those toothpastes, while my sons always wondered why I said no to buying these brands.  When she said smells, I sudden panic went through me, with memories of the toothpaste.   I shut the memories off simply by avoiding the toothpastes.  Again, this is not coaching, but simply mentioning something that triggered a memory.  Coaching is intentional and direct.

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