SNAP in the crosshairs II / Thomas Doyle

Photo of Tom DoyleRev. Thomas P. Doyle, who has a doctorate in canon law and five master’s degrees, sacrificed a rising career at the Vatican Embassy to become an outspoken advocate for church abuse victims. Since 1984, when he became involved with the issue of sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy while serving at the Embassy, he has become an expert in the canonical and pastoral dimensions of this problem. The first part of his commentary on SNAP was published earlier in this blog.

As soon as the media announced that the two leaders of SNAP had resigned and that a former employee had filed a lawsuit, the usual suspects came out of the woodwork to hammer SNAP, Barbara Blaine, David Clohessy and several others who have been connected with SNAP in one way or another. The information they broadcast about SNAP and its problems all came from the complaint that initiated the lawsuit. No one has any “inside information.”

A complaint in a lawsuit is exactly that: a list of things with which the plaintiff took issue. The purpose of the legal process is to determine whether these complaints are true.

The complaint about SNAP and its central leadership tries to give the impression that the entire organization is somehow corrupt and working against sex abuse victims. Nothing could be further from reality. Nor is the national leadership the totality of SNAP, and vice versa. Thus, while the lawsuit names SNAP, the fact is that it’s really about less than a handful of members.

Most of the news stories triggered by the lawsuit have not vilified SNAP or its leaders. The exceptions come primarily from two notorious sources: David Pierre and Bill Donohue. Both of these individuals consistently deny the scope of clerical sex abuse and attribute the actions of survivors and their supporters to anti-Catholic sentiments instead of to a thirst for justice.

Pierre operates a web site called the Media Report, which I have read only once or twice and was singularly unenlightened each time.

Donohue has complained for years that SNAP promotes anti-Catholicism, and he endorses the baseless claim made in the lawsuit that SNAP leaders have a “pathological hatred of the Catholic Church.”

It’s a silly accusation. Yes, of course a lot of sex abuse survivors and those who support them are highly critical of the institutional church—and of bishops in particular. It’s a natural response to being abused and then having to endure the lying, cover ups, demonization, and manipulation by their trusted shepherds. Whether Donohue likes it or not, sexual molestation of innumerable minor boys and girls by Catholic clerics is a reality. No amount of spin or bombastic raving or charges of anti-Catholicism can make it go away. (The other reality is that the number of false accusations is miniscule.)

The ultimate anti-Catholic behavior, in my view, is the lying, cover up, demonization, and manipulation of victims by the bishops. Indeed, the prime cause of scandal, anger and “Catholic bashing” has not been the sex abuse itself but the behavior of the hierarchy world-wide.

Bishops who have secretly transferred sex abusers from parish to parish, protected them, and then lied about it not only deserve severe criticism but also, according to the Church’s own law enacted last May by Pope Francis, dismissal from office. Why? Because tolerating, protecting and enabling the molestation of children violates teachings that come from the core of the Church’s belief system: the Gospels of Jesus Christ.

Vilifying the victims of the Church’s ministers and attacking those who support them as “anti-Catholic” may generate headlines, but it cannot erase those basic truths. Catholic clergy abused children for decades (centuries); the bishops covered it up; and the Church still has not fully come to terms with that massive failure.

Contrary to the wishful thinking of many in Church leadership, it is not “over.” Victims of clergy abuse are still coming forward. In numerous other countries, the victims are organizing and standing up to the institutional Church just as they did in the U.S. Victims no longer will cower in the shadows. That era ended almost 40 years ago.

The forces who demand honesty, accountability, and transparency will continue hacking away at the False-Church facade so that the real thing, the “People of God,” can emerge to its rightful place.

A final thought about the lawsuit. A number of people who have read the complaint seem to believe there’s something fishy about it. One wonders if the real purpose has nothing to do with justice or whistleblowing but, like some of the other lawsuits aimed at SNAP, aims to use the legal process to force SNAP out of business.

April 20, 2017

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