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Catholic Church Files Case against Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

Attorneys representing the Roman Catholic Church and priests who have been charged in two Missouri sex abuse cases have filed a case in an effort to legally compel the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) to disclose its records from the past twenty-three years. The documents requested include correspondences with victims, witnesses, police officers, and lawyers. SNAP, a network of survivors of religious sexual abuse and their supporters, is neither a plaintiff nor a defendant in the case.

Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal adamantly spoke out against the outrageous attempts to intimidate SNAP and compel its records, stating, “The bishops are playing hardball with survivors of priest abuse and with women’s lives in fighting to limit access to contraception or abortion even in cases to save a woman’s life. But the bishops are not playing hardball with worldwide priest sexual abuse. The Conference of Catholic Bishops needs to focus on stopping cleric sexual abuse and the hierarchy’s cover-ups.”

In the past few months, David Clohessy, national director of SNAP, and SNAP have been subpoenaed five times and questioned extensively about SNAP’s operations by defense attorneys, despite the fact that SNAP is not a party in the litigation. Since SNAP refused to respond to all of the questions in the deposition or submit all of the subpoenaed documents in Kansas City, the attorneys on behalf of the Catholic bishops and priests have filed a motion, scheduled for April 20, in attempt to compel SNAP to comply. “The effort to gain SNAP’s records threatens not only survivors of priest pedophilia but also could set a dangerous precedent for victim advocates in domestic violence or other rape cases,” said Smeal. Ten victims’ advocacy groups filed a supporting amicus brief for SNAP saying the subpoena in unconstitutional since it violates the rights of association and would harm victims.

SNAP criticized the court’s efforts to “unseal” its private records in a statement: “Catholic officials are demanding thousands of pages of private records from child sex abuse victims and others. This has been called a ‘fishing expedition.’ But it’s much worse than that. It’s a cynical, shrewd legal maneuver to deter victims, witnesses, whistleblowers, police, prosecutors, journalists and others from exposing predators, protecting kids and seeking help from SNAP. And it threatens the long-standing privacy protections that almost all crime victims – not just child sex victims of predatory clerics’ victims – have enjoyed for years.”

New York Times 3/13/12; Feminist Majority Foundation 3/13/12