SNAP: How Does Support Group Check out Allegations of Clergy Abuse?

KSDK [United States]
February 23, 2006

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, also known as SNAP, has spoken out on behalf of many plaintiffs suing priests for sex abuse. Because those allegations can ruin a person's reputation we asked the national director how SNAP determines what makes an accusation credible.

David Clohessy explains, "We are a 17 year old self help group for men and women abused by clergy. We basically have 2 mission. One is to help heal the wounded. A second is to help protect the vulnerable."

Since the sex abuse scandal broke 4 years ago in the Catholic Church, SNAP has called many press conferences to single out priests accused of sexual abuse in civil lawsuits. Many allegations, including the latest involving Father Robert Osborne from Vianney, are revealed publicly by SNAP before prosecutors determine if criminal charges will be filed.

We asked Clohessy what measures his organization takes to determine an accusers credibility. "I've talked to literally hundreds if not thousands of men and women who have been abused by clergy, and I've got a pretty good radar. I want to say we don't have private eyes on staff. We don't have the capability to do major investigations, but I would just go back to that track record."

Clohessy says in 17 years only a handful of abuse lawsuits have been thrown out. "I've certainly talked to people whose stories don't add up, and typically I think if they file a lawsuit they will have a hard time finding a lawyer."

Clohessy acknowledged 24 Catholic priests have been cleared of wrongdoing in the past 4 years. "I don't mean to minimize the horror those men have gone through, but to the best of my knowledge they are functioning as pastors. They are not suicidal, as best I can tell.

Clohessy says he is so passionate about the issue because his brother was a priest who abused children.

According to an attorney referred by SNAP, in the past four years 65 sex abuse lawsuits have been filed against 20 members of local clergy. 32 have been settled for $2.7 million and the remaining 33 are pending. 3 of the priests were convicted in court.


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