Abuse Group Tries for Church Reforms before Trying Lawsuit

By Teresa Mask
Chicago Daily Herald
October 23, 2002

In an unprecedented move, members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is attempting to first negotiate with the Archdiocese of Chicago instead of directly filing a lawsuit.

On Tuesday, the group and the lawyer of an alleged victim told archdiocese officials they would hold off on filing the latest civil lawsuit if the organization agreed to take steps to prevent future abuse.

They used e-mails from a former Roman Catholic priest, William Cloutier, suggesting a conspiracy within the Church decades ago as evidence for a need for change.

But their demands are extremely similar to steps the archdiocese already has taken in past years and recent months. For instance, the archdiocese has an independent review board to investigate allegations of abuse and they also already offer therapy to victims.

But the group said there are subtle differences in their requests. They are seeking a review board that is truly independent, with no ties to the archdiocese, and they want ongoing therapy for victims. They also want the archdiocese to do something they haven't done, which is offer classes to students on what is appropriate touching.

The change in philosophy from a direct lawsuit to negotiations is a shift from the adversarial role SNAP has had with the archdiocese in the past. "We're hoping to get some real reform relatively soon rather than get this young man a good chunk of cash six years down the road," said David Clohessy, a spokesman for the group.

The man, Matthew Dalton, of Berwyn, has accused Cloutier of abusing him in the mid-1980s. Cloutier, who worked in churches in Chicago and Park Ridge, said in e-mails to Dalton that the Roman Catholic Church didn't always do what it could to stop abuse. While he has publicly admitted abusing two boys, he said he doesn't recall abusing Dalton. He responded to Dalton's accusations via e-mail.

Jim Dwyer said the archdiocese has acknowledged its role in covering up abuse in the past. He also said Cloutier was put on administrative leave in 1991 when another allegation of abused surfaced. Cloutier resigned in 1994.

"They keep telling us what we didn't do right in the '70s and '80s - there is no disputing that," Dwyer said. "They keep trying to beat us up for something we didn't do right decades ago."

Neither Cloutier nor his attorney Barry A. Spector, of Chicago, would comment about Tuesday's events.


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