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SNAP director admits to publishing false information
By Michelle Bauman
David Clohessy, national director of SNAP and Barbara Blain. Credit: Mike Theiler, Getty Images News/Getty Images
David Clohessy, national director of SNAP and Barbara Blain. Credit: Mike Theiler, Getty Images News/Getty Images

.- The leader of a group that works with clergy sex abuse victims admitted during a recent deposition that the organization has published false information and that he is unsure about whether the group employs licensed counselors.

David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, was deposed on Jan. 2 in Clayton, Mo. amid accusations that the group had printed restricted information in a press release.

The accusations centered around concerns that an attorney violated a court gag order by revealing information about an abuse lawsuit to the organization.

Clohessy was ordered by a judge to answer questions in an out-of-court testimony that may later be used for legal purposes in an ongoing attempt to determine whether the gag order had been violated.

In the text of the deposition – posted online by The Media Report on March 1 – Clohessy was asked by attorneys, “Has SNAP to your knowledge ever issued a press release that contained false information?”

“Sure,” he responded, without offering any defense or explanation.

Clohessy refused to answer numerous questions posed by attorneys after his own lawyers objected and claimed that the organization was not required to provide the information under the Missouri Rape Crisis Center Statute.

However, he acknowledged, “I don’t know under the Missouri statutes exactly what constitutes a rape crisis center.”

He added that he was unsure if SNAP had ever sent out literature identifying itself “as a rape crisis center” and explained, “we don’t hold ourselves out to be formal licensed counselors.”

The group director also admitted that he does not have “any formal education or training with regard to rape crisis counseling.” And while he stated that the “overwhelming majority of our staff time is spent counseling victims,” he also said that he was uncertain whether any SNAP employees are licensed counselors.

Clohessy did not know if SNAP had ever paid for a victim to receive counseling from a licensed professional and acknowledged that the organization spent less than 600 dollars on “survivor support” in 2007.

He also could not give definitions for “rape trauma syndrome,” a “safe exam” or “repressed memory.”

In the deposition text, Clohessy declined to answer whether SNAP had a list of attorneys that it refers people to and how much money it receives in donations from attorneys. He did, however, admit that they “talk to lawyers who file lawsuits.”

He additionally refused to respond to questions about how he has been able to publicly post lawsuit information on the group’s website before it was filed with the court, although he did admit that part of what SNAP does “is to publicize lawsuits against priests.”

The deposition, which took place only after Clohessy lost an attempt in court to avoid being forced to testify, was part of an effort to determine whether a court-imposed gag order had been violated in the case of a Missouri priest accused of abuse.

During the deposition, Clohessy criticized the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a set of procedures adopted by the U.S. bishops to address allegations of sex abuse, as being a “belated, begrudging and small step forward.”

SNAP has repeatedly argued that Catholic dioceses need greater transparency.

However, one day after the deposition, Clohessy told CNA that his organization should be held to a “different standard” of transparency than Church leaders and dioceses, which he described as “organizations that enable and conceal thousands of pedophiles to rape tens of thousands of kids.”

SNAP maintains that its goal is to heal the wounded and prevent future abuse, but critics of the organization say that it does little to actually help victims and instead focuses its time and money on attacking the Catholic Church. 

A ruling in coming months will determine whether Clohessy can be required to respond to questions that he refused to answer in the Jan. 2 deposition. 


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