SNAP refuses to obey court order for abuse documents
Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Ann Mesle
Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Ann Mesle

.- A group claiming to advocate for clergy sex abuse victims says it will not comply with a court order asking it to turn over documents, amid concerns that it had received information in violation of a judge’s gag order.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, has said that it will refuse to submit to a judge’s request for information involving allegations of sexual abuse against a Missouri priest.

SNAP director David Clohessy told CNA on Jan. 3 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.”

The order was issued by Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Ann Mesle in an abuse lawsuit brought against Father Michael Tierney and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Sept. 2010.

The plaintiff in the case has alleged that Fr. Tierney sexually abused him in the 1970s. Fr. Tierney, who denies any wrongdoing, has been barred from doing public Church work.

SNAP has been ordered to produce all documents and correspondence relating to the plaintiff, the accused priest and other priests in the diocese, as well as documents referring to repressed memory. The accuser in the lawsuit said he repressed memories of the abuse for many years.

The order came after defense lawyers raised concerns that the accuser’s attorney violated a gag order by revealing information about the case to SNAP. The lawyers say that SNAP printed the restricted information in a press release.

Clohessy said on Jan. 3 that SNAP “is refusing” to turn over the requested documents and will fight the order.

The group also vowed that it would “blast Catholic bishops” who allow the use of “hardball tactics” against them, at a media event scheduled for Jan. 3 in front of the chancery for the St. Louis archdiocese.

For years, SNAP has attacked Church officials for their “reckless secrecy” and demanded greater transparency within the Church.

But Clohessy said this same transparency within his own organization would violate speech, press and privacy rights.

Judge Mesle acknowledged the importance of protecting privacy interests in connection with the documents requested. She said that Clohessy could identify confidential documents to be viewed privately. 

However, Clohessy insisted that he will not turn over the documents, saying that the lawyers who pushed for the order “should be ashamed of themselves.”

SNAP outreach director Barbara Dorris called the order a “bullying effort” designed to “invade the privacy of victims” and “protect predator priests.”

She criticized Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph for not calling off the “expensive, cumbersome fishing expedition.”

In its mission statement, SNAP says that its goal is to heal those who are wounded and prevent further abuse.

However, the organization’s critics argue that it does little to actually help victims and instead concentrates its time and money on undermining the Church.

According to the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference, dioceses across the country have paid about $3 billion in settling abuse claims over the past 60 years.

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