Sunday, February 26, 2012

When Shepherds Hunt The Sheep To Silence All The Bleating

SNAP may have been too good at going after the wolves in sheep's clothing

One story I have been following with a great deal of interest (and anger)  is the one involving SNAP and their battle with the Archdiocese of St. Lois and the Diocese of Kansas City-St JosephIn both cases attorneys  have asked that SNAP directors, specifically David Clohessy and Barbara Dorris,  be deposed and internal SNAP correspondence be turned over to the court. The stated justification for this action centers on SNAP as a source of discovery for the defendants in civil trials in both dioceses.  There are an additional five cases where defense attorneys for priests in the Kansas City trial have filed a 'cross-notice' allowing these lawyers to also access SNAP files and depose David Clohessy.  The defense attorneys are diligently trying to make a case that SNAP has no rights to any claim for the legal confidentiality of their correspondence or contacts with abuse victims, that it is not in fact a rape crisis center, and so is not covered by Missouri's rape crisis center confidentiality protections.  It's important to remember that SNAP is not a party in any of these law suits.  The following excerpt is from an article by Joshua McElwee at the National Catholic Reporter.

.....Rebecca Randles, the attorney representing the plaintiff in the abuse case, said in a phone interview Thursday that she thought the motion's arguments that SNAP could not qualify as a rape crisis center were not "very weighty."

Referring to one of the arguments the motion makes against SNAP's qualifications to fit into that definition because Clohessy works out of his home, Randles said the determination for protections under Missouri law come from the substance of what an organization does, not where it is located.

"You have to look at the substance," Randles said. "The whole question really is: Do people go there because they're in crisis from sexual assault? And the answer is absolutely, yes they do."
"The vast bulk of what they do is support victims of rape and assault, so they have to be a rape crisis center," she said. (I suspect it's not the support issue that is really at stake here.  It is the advocacy issue, and specifically the advocacy done by David Clohessy.)

Following news of the subpoena requesting Clohessy's deposition in December, 10 victims' advocacy groups filed an amicus brief on behalf of SNAP to Missouri's Supreme Court, writing that Clohessy's testimony would amount to a "violation of the anonymity and confidentiality" of SNAP members and volunteers and is "plainly unconstitutional."

Included in that group of organizations were the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse, the KidSafe Foundation and The National Child Protection Training Center.

Beyond claiming that SNAP should not be considered a rape crisis center under Missouri law, the motion also alleges that were the group to be considered such a center, its conversations with some survivors would not be covered by confidentiality privileges.
Noting that lawsuits filed on behalf of abuse victims regularly include language about how victims have suffered some sort of mental injury from their abuse, the motion alleges that SNAP is "not entitled to the protection of a privilege due to the alleged victims placing their emotional state and mental conditions at issue." (This is an interesting argument and a highly dangerous one for any organization that deals specifically with trauma and abuse.  People don't contact SNAP to discuss baseball scores.)

Specifically, the motion alleges that because several victims in the Kansas City cases claim their memories returned to them years after the abuse, the fact that Clohessy would not discuss the matter indicates they are "trying to shield the very information that would lead a jury to understand that person's medical history." (Of course the real story here is that these attorneys want to put the victim on trial, not their client.)

"The matter before this Court involves repressed memory, physical, emotional, and mental injuries," reads the motion. "The Plantiffs have placed their physical, emotional, and mental conditions at issue, and, therefore, the information possessed by SNAP on these issues is clearly relevant, and any privileges, if any, have been waived."....(This same criteria could be taken with AA or any other 12 step group with which any victim was associated--or for that matter, their favorite bar tender or hair dresser.)


One comment following this article, of which there are a lot, came from Jim Jenkins.  Jenkins was on the San Francisco diocesan review board when Cardinal Levada was head of the Archdiocese, and is intimately familiar with how our leadership does it's business.  Jim is responding to this comment from Bill Lyndsey

I concur completely.
Unfortunately, from my time as SF review board chair I know that the Catholic Church's strategy in court against survivors was always "search and destroy." What is being done to SNAP is consistent with the hierarchs' legal strategy over the last two decades: Defend the church's assets, and the bishops personally, at all costs no matter who gets destroyed in the process.

The hierarchy has adopted a fully offensive legal modality for confronting in court survivors and their advocates, public apologies by popes, cardinals and bishops to survivors not withstanding. The apologies are only for the media in order to blunt and contain the public revulsion at the hierarchs' complicity and corruption.
The hierarchs' chief American legal strategist, attorney Jeffery Lena, once very threateningly asked me, "Do you just want to surrender to them?" when I challenged his plans for the "Catholic Church" to attack the credibility and personal history of survivors of rape and sodomy by priests in court in order to intimidate them into not going forward with their suits to seek justice and redress for their assaults.

Is this the same church to which Jesus entrusted the commandment, "Love one another"??? (Nope.)

The hierarchs can get away with these sleazy legal tactics because they have unfettered and unaccountable access to literally $billions in their investment portfolios. What is spent on the hierarchs' legal defense will just be restored by the hierarchs diverting more money from the charitable donations of unquestioning and unaware pew Catholics. All the hierarchs have to do is sell off more parishes, close more schools, in order to maintain the phalanx of lawyers and media consultants necessary for them to hold onto political power. Or as in the case in Kansas City, stay out of jail!
This kind of support for the congenital narcissistic hierarchs by Catholics must end. It is long past time that we Catholics separate the MINISTRY from the MONEY.

Sleazy legal tactics is exactly right, but then this campaign to destroy SNAP hardly began with these legal motions.  SNAP has been the favorite punching bag of Bully Bill Donohue for seemingly ever. As I slogged through the comments after the article it was amazing how many of those supporting the bishops took their information directly from articles Donohue had written for the Catholic League.  As good an advocate as David Clohessy is, he missed his chance at the really big bucks.  He could have been the director of the Catholic League, quadrupled his salary, worked for an organization which would always have big bucks for lawyers, and he wouldn't have had to work out his home.  He could have worked in a DC office right there with the USCCB. But then Jesus didn't even have a home, or a salary, much less an office in the Jewish High Temple.

If SNAP has made an error, it's that it has become too good at the advocacy end of what it does.  Do they sometimes get over the top?  Well, if you read any of Donohue's attacks, SNAP gets over the top all the time, but if you compare SNAP to Randal Terry's pro life advocacy, SNAP isn't even close to being over the top. It's all in the eyes of the beholder.

As to the legal arguments, these cases represent a serious threat to journalism, advocacy work, and rape and abuse crisis centers, especially those that are staffed by volunteers.  Professional therapists and counseling centers have their own protections, but volunteer agencies are more legally nebulous.  The truth is many of these SNAP type organizations do more good and give more help than any more formal therapy precisely because the volunteers understand the issues from a personal rather than educational point of view.  It isn't all theory for these volunteers.  It's as real as real can get, and presumed confidentiality is a critical component of their effectiveness. That's why this story really angers me, because in this pissing match between the Roman Catholic Bishops and their self defined 'arch enemy' SNAP, a really really awful legal precedent could get set that would harm a lot more organizations than just SNAP.

One last thought, there were a lot of comments suggesting SNAP is experiencing a form of 'just karma'.  The idea being that SNAP's demands for transparency and accountability from Catholic bishops and dioceses is just coming back to bite them in the ass.  The problem with this simple logic is that Catholic bishops and dioceses were protecting the criminal predators, and SNAP is protecting the victims of those predators and their bishop enablers.  This isn't about karma at all.  This is about the shepherds deciding to hunt down some of their bleating sheep in order to silence them once and for all.


  1. And we are supposed to take instruction in morals, particularly sexual morals from a patently immoral bunch like the Catholic bishops?!

    1. I don't think I'd want to take instruction in how to run a business either.

  2. What this case says to me is that the RCC has not changed its position one iota regarding priests sexually molesting children, young people and seminarians and will continue to harbor, protect the perverted morals and assets of the "church" which belongs to the People of God. It's all about the money to them. That's it.

    Who cares about the victims or the truth. Send the dogs, the enabling lawyers, onto the victims again in court no less is the attitude & agenda. It is a total betrayal of what Jesus taught. I wish that people in the pews would get a real clue here and do something instead of the enabling by their silence, giving up being aware for Lent, and other hogwash to fill themselves up with a sense of self-righteousness in sackcloth and ashes.

    This court case is not divinely inspired. It is inspired by the corrupt morals of the US Bishops and it is they who need to take a look in the mirror and see the monster they are helping to create.

    These priests were caught with their pants down and it is truly despicable to then go after the victims and SNAP, those trying to help them to mend from some awful wounds by priests. These are wounded people they are doing this to. It is despicable!

    Colleen, this is justifiable reason to be angry at this scenario taking place in the court room, setting a precedence for similar hunts and dismantling of the forces for good, truth, justice, healing the victims.

    On more than one occasion I've heard the unaware (or just willfully stupid)-enabling-forgiveness-line from the priests saying to the laity with more sympathy towards the priests who have inflicted great harm sexually to innocent people. They are angry in a destructive way towards the laity in which true justice is not served. In court, however, the RCC allows lawyers to do as you say, Colleen, go after the victim again. This also slows the process down and increases interest in their bank accounts as they drain the accounts of the poor with attorney fees, or who are relatively much poorer than the RCC.

    This is like a bad dream being played out. Especially for victims of sexual molestation. Especially to those who know how abuse drains a person of their life and existence into sorrow or despair, and worse, to suicide. I am so repulsed that I cannot even go to church anymore, knowing this Church arms itself with lawyers against victims of terrible sexual abuse and is willing to destroy an organization designed with the sole intention of helping victims. If the Church continues in this direction, there will be nothing left of it but the meanies teaching others how to be mean in a meaner world.


    1. I love your last line Fran. The meanie thing all stems from abuse dynamics. It's the abusers teaching their abused how to abuse in an abusive world. SNAP stands right in the middle of this dynamic so it's no wonder our abusers in chief are abusing them. Unfortunately for the abusers in chief, once an abuse victim passes through the survivor mode, they are very free agents. They not only know how to survive, they know how to thrive.

  3. There is no such thing as a "Good Catholic Priest." There are 5 catagories of Cathoilc priests;
    1. The alcholic
    2. The womanizer
    3. The homosexual
    4. The child sex abuser
    5. The SPINELESS; the ones who just look the other way, the ones who cover-up the scandal, the ones who make the decisions to allow the sex abuses to continue their abuse.
    The pope is the chief of the Catholic church, it is said that his assistants "filter" bad news from him. The pope needs to step down now, since he has demonstrated that he is not capable of doing his job. This is not an attack on the Catholic church, it is a revolt against the evil people running the Catholic church. The child sex abuse scandal has been going on way too long, just talking about it doesn't FIX the problem, paying out financial settlements doesn't FIX the problem, creating BS programs to keep "God's Children Safe," doesn't FIX the problem. What will Fix the problem? Remove the cause, Catholic Priests- all of them.
    The Catholic faithful should boycott EASTER Sunday Mass and don't donate to the Catholic church this Easter Sunday. Right now, the Catholic church is all about MONEY & SEX and when they get caught more money spent on defense lawyers & settllements. It will certainly send a message to the Vatican that the Catholic faithful don't approve of child sex abuse and it's cover-up. That they are no longer willing to be embarrassed being a Catholic that participates in harming children and doing nothing to STOP IT.

    1. I doubt that our current Pope is going to step down, or to put it differently, be allowed to step down. The entrenched Vatican curia loves nothing better than a Pope who won't or can't do his job. There is nothing like unsupervised freedom when it comes to pushing forward the agenda of the entrenched.

      I agree that our hierarchy is mostly about sex and money, unfortunately, with the price of gold where it is, the faithful would have to stop contributing for a very long time before their lack of donations would be felt at the Vatican level. I see no other solution than for the laity and the 'good priests', and there are many of those, to TAKE BACK their Church. If that means a de facto schism than so be it, for as Dr Porch has written many times, the hierarchy is already in schism as far as the laity is concerned.

  4. I think the trouble here is not primarily the abuse of the wolf-bishops. I'm NOT saying this to defend them - clearly they can put a leash on their lawyers if they were so motivated. I think it has more to do with the adversarial nature of our criminal and civil court systems. This is a problem with the way our system works. Any person who has been abused by another has to face this kind of tactic whether it be a bank that's been robbed, a woman beaten to a pulp by her legal husband and looking for a divorce or a child who has been raped by a priest and looking for protection. I do have great sympathy for the people who've been victimized and who must find the courage to deal with more and different kinds of abuse in order to face down the perpetrators through the legal system.

    It does rather point out the advantages of the biblical forms of redress. Trouble is there are too many people who won't take seriously in full conscience the more collaborative forms the Bible prescribes. Beginning, apparently with the wolf-bishops.

    1. Veronica I can agree with your observations on our adversarial court system. Victimizing the victims is a tried and sure strategy. What I find highly suspicious in this situation is the timing and the direct attack on SNAP. I can't forget Kansas City-St Jo is also Bishop Finn's diocese and SNAP has been a leading voice in asking for a jail term for Finn.

      If you couple these attacks on SNAP in KC-St JO and St Louis with what Lynn's attorneys in Philadelphia are doing---hanging the entire Philly mess on the dead Bevilacqua, you can't help but shake your head. The closer Justice gets to holding one of the upper clergy accountable, the sicker the defense strategies. And then of course, the common link in all three situations, is Cardinal Justin Rigali.

    2. Absolutely agreed with you. Certainly if the bishop is allowed by the court to pursue SNAP like this, it is a problem for public policy. The amount of space any one individual is allowed for private communications for such basics as health care grows smaller almost by the minute.

      I was just musing over the cafeteria Catholicism of the bishops in this instance. The New Testament gives very specific instructions on how to handle grievances within the church. In order for that to be effective though, all parties must trust the other side is acting out of common mutual best interest and for the welfare of each. I'm not sure those instructions will work at all in an instance where just one side is acting only in self interest - I can't imagine any abuser being able to act in any sort of mutually beneficial way. Nor should the person who is hurt by that abuser be required to trust the abuser to enter into mediation fairly. The relationships are irreparably broken.

      So instead of acting as true spiritual leaders, the bishops respond to the challenge to their authority and act to isolate the abused. One method they use is to thoroughly trash any outside source of assistance the hurting person gets. Just as an abusive husband will track down the estranged wife to her parents house to kill her and as many of her family members who try to protect her from him.

      And every time I start to think the bishops can't make themselves look any worse, they find a way to lower the bar. Some one of them needs to seriously listen to the Holy Spirit's promptings, step up and say 'ENOUGH'. I'm envisioning a Jesus and the moneychangers sort of church cleaning, and I'm pretty certain I'm not the only one thinking this.

    3. Oh, I know what you mean when you write 'every time I start to think the bishops can't make themselves look any worse, they find a way to lower the bar.' That is exactly how I felt when I read Msgr Lynn's defense was attempting to hang the whole Philly mess on the dead Bevilacqua and just two weeks after his funeral. Since Archdiocese is footing the bill for this defense I'm almost tempted to say the bar can't get any lower. Almost.

      I know a lot of victims went first to the Church for two reasons, one was to protect the Church they and their parents loved from the scandal, and the second was to have their faith in the Church reconfirmed by a higher clerical authority. They got the first reason filled, but not the second and so they were abused and betrayed twice.

      This is really very similar to family abuse victims who eventually find out they are just as angry, if not more so, with the parent and family members who wouldn't believe them as they are with their abuser. Cowardice and denial can be just as abusive as the actual abuse.

      I sometimes think when Jesus was on the Cross and is quoted to have said "My God My God why have you forsaken me?", He wasn't referencing his Father, he was expressing His dismay with the betrayal of His apostles.

    4. Wow. I just do not get creative enough when reading sometimes. Because I've never understood that line. And all of a sudden the lightbulb goes on. A 'Duh' moment for me. Because turning it around that way suddenly makes such obvious sense.

  5. The problem is the Catholic church has corrupted the court system.
    Just take a look at the Jesuits in Chicago and their involvement with the McGuire cases.

    1. Yes, you do have a point about corrupting the court system, and the McGuire case is exhibit number one. This was also true of the police when the departments were heavily Catholic. It's amazing to see how otherwise tough adults turned to brainless children when the criminal was a priest. Anyone who says early childhood programming isn't a powerful influence in the adult mind, needs to study the McGuire case in Chicago, and some of the more high profile cases like Geoghan's in Boston--and this sort of thing with police and DA's happened everywhere.