The lawsuit prompted a flat denial from SNAP president Barbara Blaine.
“The allegations are not true. This will be proven in court. SNAP leaders are now, and always have been, devoted to following the SNAP mission: To help victims heal and to prevent further sexual abuse,” she said in a statement provided to CNA.
According to the SNAP website, Blaine herself says she was abused as an eighth grader by a priest who taught at her Catholic school.
The lawsuit claimed that the organization receives “substantial contributions” from attorneys sometimes totaling more than 40 or 50 percent of its annual contributions. A prominent Minnesota attorney who represents clergy abuse survivors reportedly donated several six-figure annual sums, including over $415,000 in 2008. Other unnamed attorney-donors who represent abuse survivors reportedly came from California, Chicago, Seattle, and Delaware.
Hammond claimed that the SNAP leadership provided a list of attorneys who were regular donors and “ordered Plaintiff not to reveal to anybody that SNAP received donations from attorneys.”
The lawsuit alleges that during 2011 and 2012, SNAP “concocted a scheme to have attorneys make donations to a front foundation” in order to conceal attorneys’ “kickbacks.”
SNAP describes itself as “an independent, confidential network of survivors of institutional sexual abuse and their supporters” who aim to protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded and expose the truth in an effort to “hold church institutions responsible for enabling abuse and shielding predators.”
Despite the organization’s self-portrayal, the lawsuit charged, “SNAP is a commercial operation motivated by its directors’ and officers’ personal and ideological animus against the Catholic Church.”
The lawsuit cited an April 26, 2011 email from executive director David Clohessy recommending an abuse victim pursue a claim against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee: “every nickle [sic] they don't have is a nickle [sic] that they can't spend on defense lawyers, PR staff, gay-bashing, women-hating, contraceptive-battling, etc.”
Hammond’s lawsuit questions the organization’s treatment of victims. It claims that SNAP “callously disregards the real interests of survivors” and pressures them to “pursue costly and stressful litigation” instead of the survivors’ best interests.
SNAP allegedly uses publicity about victims’ lawsuits to drive fundraising. The group “regularly communicates” with victims’ attorneys, often receives drafts of complaints and “other privileged information” which it would allegedly use “to generate sensational press releases on the survivors' lawsuits.”
“SNAP and survivors’ attorneys would often base their case filing strategy on what would generate the most publicity for SNAP – instead of the best interests of the survivors,” the suit charges.
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It cites an email of SNAP leaders discussing whether publishing a newsletter item would prompt more donations or upset abuse survivors. One leader said: “my initial response is that we err on the side of using it to raise money.”
The lawsuit suit claims the organization would “ignore survivors who reached out to SNAP in search of assistance and counseling” and had no grief counselors or rape counselors on payroll at relevant times.
The suit says Hammond helped the organization improved its donation-tracking software system, streamlined its donor list, and helped raise its Better Business Bureau ranking and received a raise for this work.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff oversaw the fundraising for SNAP’s trip to The Hague where the group filed charges against Pope Benedict XVI in the International Criminal Court. SNAP, together with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, had asked the court to investigate Pope Benedict and other Vatican leaders for crimes against humanity related to sex abuse by U.S. clergy.
Hammond reportedly raised “some $1 million” during and after the trip for a public relations campaign premised on these charges.
SNAP allegedly used the funds “for lavish hotels and other extravagant travel expenses for its leadership.”