SNAP Reaches out to Victims of Clergy Abuse

By Linda Leicht
The News-Leader
February 28, 2011

David Clohessy drove to Springfield from his home in the St. Louis area to stand alone in the cold in front of the Catholic Center in Springfield with a small sign that simply read, "SNAP."

Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, had a simple goal -- to alert anyone who may have had contact with Thomas J. O'Brien in the early 1950s when O'Brien was a priest at St. Agnes Cathedral.

O'Brien, who faces several lawsuits in Kansas City -- the most recent one filed this month, has been accused of sexually abusing minors while serving as a parish priest. He retired in 2002 as a monsignor.

Clohessy, who held a similar event in Kansas City earlier this month, said his reason is threefold:

First, he hopes to raise awareness about O'Brien. "As remote as the chance may seem, we really would like to see O'Brien prosecuted and jailed and kept away from kids," Clohessy said.

He also said he hopes to reach out to any victim of clergy abuse. "If there is even one person in the Springfield area who has been abused we want them to know that they are not alone, that is wasn't their fault and that they can get better."

Finally, SNAP is asking James Vann Johnston Jr., bishop of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese, and other bishops to post the names, whereabouts and priestly status of all clerics accused of sexual abuse who have ever served in their dioceses.

Johnston, responding to a request for comment, replied in writing: "The diocese maintains its strong commitment and the allocation of resources toward creating and maintaining safe environments. We strive to respond to anyone who comes forward as a victim of abuse with care and respect, and with assistance to find needed healing."

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