Victim support and/or mandatory reporting?

Short extract from http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/snap-subpoenas-harm-key-ally-victims about legal moves to force SNAP to hand over records:

If SNAP leaders are compelled to testify in cases of clergy accused of sexually abusing minors and are forced to turn over confidential correspondence from victims, whistleblowers and media, the advocacy group will be irreparably harmed and victims of clergy sexual abuse will have lost a key ally in their fight for justice.

The subpoenas are wrong on a number of counts.

First, the extraordinary breadth of material the subpoenas order SNAP to release is a kind of legal carte blanche that courts should protect against. Lawyers defending accused priests seek documents and correspondence dating back to the organization’s founding 23 years ago — including emails, press releases, drafts of press releases, and any correspondence with members of the press, lawyers and the public, if that correspondence mentions the dioceses, the bishops, the defendants or the accusers.

The lawyers also seek any document that makes mention of “repressed memory.” That opens the possibility that the identity of someone who has never gone public with their story but had written to SNAP at some point mentioning the phrase “repressed memory” would now be revealed. The judge in one of the cases has made one concession to victims’ right to privacy by requiring SNAP to provide the court — not opposing legal counsel — with a log showing dates and times of contact with victims.

While the subpoena might lead the public to believe that SNAP’s primary mission is lining up plaintiffs to sue the church, the reality is quite different. According to SNAP’s director, David Clohessy, “the overwhelming majority” of victims the group has dealt with “never consider or take legal action or go public.”

If SNAP does not hand over their records concerning that “overshelming majority”, can they be charged with “cover-up”? Should pastoral care of victims sometimes take precedence over mandatory reporting to the legal system?

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  1. Mary o Vallely says:

    Most victims simply want to tell their story and to be believed and any support group should provide that confidential safe outlet. To be obliged by law to hand over such confidential details is to subject a victim to further violation when every vestige of human dignity and privacy has been destoyed by the abuse. It is a double violation and how can trust ever be regained? Seems to me this is all game playing by boys/girls in suits and smacks of one-upmanship. What is the Catholic Church about if it is not about protecting the vulnerable, nourishing the soul, modelling Christ’s great love and compassion for all especially innocent children.How much more do victims have to suffer? The Catholic Church has had to be dragged slowly into admitting any culpability and I hope there isn’t going to be more of the triumphalist attitude of Bill Donohoe and the US Catholic League which printed the most unchristian and crass cartoon of a wailing child in a nappy beside the article “Boston Victims’ Summit Bombs” on their website this week. It was an appalling,callous thing to do.
    The child victim of abuse should always take priority as our Saviour pointed out to us. This is not to negate the suffering of any innocent priest who must wait for the due process of law to acquit him but he at least is aware of God’s loving presence in his life. The victim of clerical sexual abuse has not been so blessed and we need to stretch out the hand of friendship and support to make up for that deprivation. I despair sometimes at the lack of compassion and love shown by the official Church. No, SNAP should not be forced to hand over this sensitive and confidential material. Where would a victim go to feel safe then? How many more suicides would result?

  2. Kurt Gladsky says:

    Wow! At last some common sense from Catholic Priests. Apart From Fr.Thomas Doyle {who got fired for telling the truth by our current Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien} I haven’t heard of too many willing to help us. Maybe they should start reading the Bible instead of Catechism.
    Kurt Gladsky, Founder: Christian Brothers Sexual Abuse Survivors Network. Baltimore Maryland, Member, Maryland SNAP

  3. Thank you, Pádraig, for drawing attention to this piece. I have been following this story on the NCR site for the last couple of weeks with an ever-increasing sense of horror. Do the American bishops really think that this strategy, of employing their expensive laweyers to undermine the work of SNAP, is really the best way to restore credibility and respect for our church among the millions of decent Catholics who have been appalled by the sex abuse scandal and the cover-up. I’m also pleased that attention has been drawn to this on the ACP site following the interview conducted by the Catholic World Report with Dave Pierre. Any attempt to minimise the extent of the scandal makes me feel very uncomfortable. Of course, it is awful for anyone to be falsely accused of this kind of crime and those responsible,such as RTE in the Fr. Kevin Reynolds case, deserve our condemnation. But, sadly, as we all well know, the overwhelming majority of this kind of accusation has been well founded. If it had not been for the media the innocent victims of these heinous crimes would never have had their voices heard. In the process of exposing the scandal,the media has also, without doubt,saved countless innocents from the same horror. We owe a great debt of gratitude to to the courage of those such as Mary Raftery who died last week -and it did require courage — to take on the all-powerful institution. May God rest her soul.

  4. There is another interesting piece on the National Catholic Reporter site just now– Actor’s Play Exposes Irish Hell–written by Ritte Blaney about a one-man play by an abuse victim, Gerard Mannix Flynn. The play, ” James X “, is being performed in New York at the moment.

  5. SNAP is a disgraceful organisation that has gone from victim advocacy to victimising any accused priest and never, ever accepting that some of the claims, might be false and motivated by the very large financial awards made by courts. They have cast doubts on the innocence of priests cleared by courts (an unusual occurrence often requiring unassailable proof of innocence). One of its own ‘experts’ pleaded guilty to storing child pornography on his computer and their spokesman went to court to speak in mitigation! (They weren’t very concerned about his victims). If the guilty man had been a priest, they would have been outside the court loudly demanding a lengthy sentence.

  6. Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh says:

    As a Catholic physician who has met many who have been sexually abused by predator priests, I have great respect for the work of Barbara Blaine and David Clohessy of SNAP.
    I know that SNAP is focused on helping the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church make predator priests accountable for their criminal actions.
    The leaders of SNAP were sexually abused by priests when they were innocent children, and they want to do all they can to protect other children from clergy sexual abuse.
    As an Irish-American and medical graduate of Trinity College Dublin, whose parents were from Castlebar and Swinford in County Mayo, I have great respect for the way that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin and Prime Minister Enda Kenny are honestly dealing with clergy sexual abuse in Ireland.
    Sadly, the hierarchy in the States are dealing with the issue in a very immature way, the American bishops are still protecting predator priests and re-victimizing the victim/survivors through their lawyers, instead of acting as Good Shepherds.
    Ireland has become an excellent model of doing the right thing in handling clergy sexual abuse cases.
    Pope Benedict XVI and other members of the hierarchy could learn from Ireland and the way that the clergy in Ireland are dealing with making the predator priests accountable, and listening to and helping the victim/survivors to heal.
    Thankyou for your witness to the truth!
    Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, Illinois, USA

  7. As someone who experienced abuse at the hands of a doctor and a dentist, I have the deepest sympathy for those who were abused by priests. I also have great compassion for those who have been innocently accused of abuse. I recently read a poem by John O’ Donohue dedicated to the parents of of a son who has committed a crime. It touched me very deeply. I can’t begin to imagine the grief and shame of the parents and siblings of the perpetrator. I’m sure their sorrow must be great after all they face the stigma and shame of their sons crime on a daily basis in the community they live in. Maybe be we could remember them in our prayers ……they are victims too.

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