VOTF National Statement — Voice of the Faithful Sees Church Legal Pressure Crippling SNAP Effort to Protect the Vulnerable

NEWTON, Mass., Mar. 13, 2012 – Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful stood with SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) during a press conference in Washington, D.C., today, as SNAP continues its efforts against forceful disclosure of confidential information about sexual abuse victims.

The press conference was held in front of the U.S. bishops’ conference headquarters, where bishops are holding administrative meetings, to express the view that the Church’s recent legal attacks, according to SNAP, “are crippling our work to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.”

Catholic Church lawyers defending clergy in child sexual abuse cases in Kansas City and St. Louis are demanding that SNAP hand over 23 years’ worth of confidential information, even though SNAP is not a party to the law suits. VOTF agrees with law professor and victims’ advocate Marci Hamilton, as quoted in today’s New York Times: “If there is one group that the higher-ups, the bishops, would like to see silenced, it definitely would be SNAP. And that’s what they’re after. They’re trying to silence SNAP.”

Earlier this year, VOTF joined nine other victims’ advocacy groups and the Missouri Press Association in a friend of the court brief asking the court to deny defendants’ requests to compel SNAP to turn over confidential information. The brief argued that anonymity and confidentiality are vital to the well-being of any sexual abuse victims’ group in order to work successfully with victims. SNAP executive director David Clohessy has since been deposed in an apparent “fishing expedition” for information beneficial to the defense. A Kansas City court hearing April 20 will determine whether SNAP will be compelled to turn over subpoenaed documents.

“The Church, whether in the guise of a couple of bishops or several, seems to be bent on continuing its protection of the institution rather than emphasizing compassion for child victims who speak out as adults about how devastating abuse is, not only in their own lives, but also in the lives of those all around them,” said Mark Mullaney, VOTF president. “The Church’s assets are important to its mission and many charitable activities, but not at the expense of atonement for the perpetration and cover-up of crimes against children. We need to get to a constructive way of healing.”

Nick Ingala, 781-559-3360, 617-291-3495 Cell, nickingala@votf.org