The victims support group SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) has vowed to fight a subpoena that they argue is meant to intimidate and harass victims of sexual abuse by priests, according to the Boston Globe. Lawyers for the Catholic Diocese of Worcester in Massachusetts have subpoenaed the leaders of SNAP, seeking information about five women who filed a civil lawsuit against the diocese for failing to protect them against convicted rapist and priest Robert E. Kelley, as well as the names of “all persons” who have alleged abuse by Kelley, according to the Associated Press.
Wendy Murphy, the lawyer representing the women in the lawsuit, argues that the case against Kelley is strong enough without the names of persons alleging abuse who are not involved in the lawsuit, the Globe reports. In addition, SNAP leaders worry that victims of sexual abuse will not feel comfortable taking part in a support group if their names could then be exposed without their consent, according to the Globe. Paul Baier of Voice of the Faithful, a group of lay Catholics that formed earlier this year at the beginning of the priest sex abuse scandal, also expressed to the Globe his worries that if this subpoena is successful, it may jeopardize the work of other confidential victim support groups, such as rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters.
Kelley spent several years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of rape in 1990, and he has admitted to sexual abuse of 50 to 100 girls 20 years ago, according to the Associated Press. Though he has not been active in the Church since 1986, he has not been defrocked. Although media reports of priest abuse in the past year have focused on male victims, some experts estimate that as many as half of all victims are women, according to the Kansas City Star.