Tuesday, January 3, 2012

SNAP ordered to turn over documentation in abuse lawsuit

Posted By on Tue, Jan 3, 2012 at 2:25 PM

SNAP director David Clohessy says he wants the group's records to remain private.
  • SNAP
  • SNAP director David Clohessy says he wants SNAP records to remain private.
Catholic dioceses and priests accused by people alleging they were abused as children earned a legal victory Monday when the Missouri Supreme Court let stand a judge's decision to force Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP) to turn over documentation to defense lawyers in a civil case accusing a St. Joseph priest of abuse.

The Associated Press reports that attorneys for the Rev. Michael Tierney and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph requested thousands of pages of records and e-mails from SNAP because they suspect the alleged victim's lawyers leaked information to SNAP. On Monday the state Supreme Court chose not to intervene on SNAP's behalf. But the group's director, David Clohessy, told the AP that he will fight to keep the organization's records private.

Tierney is facing five lawsuits from people alleging abuse. Jackson County Judge Ann Mesle ordered SNAP to hand over the documents, saying Clohessy "almost certainly has knowledge concerning issues relevant to this litigation." SNAP is now required to hand over all records related to Tierney and his diocese, priests currently or formerly associated with the diocese, communication with the unnamed man who filed the suit, and anything related to repressed memory.

Clohessy told the AP that unloading all the records would make others claiming to be abuse victims vulnerable. "We're going to continue to do everything we possibly can to protect the victims, witnesses, whistleblowers, journalists, police, prosecutors and concerned Catholics," he told the AP. "We are proud and determined to not be transparent about the identities and e-mails of deeply wounded people who seek our help." He called the attorneys' request for the documents a "bullying effort."

The development appears to have elevated the contentious war of words between SNAP and church supporters. The Catholic League, a New York-based group that calls itself a "Catholic civil rights organization," has publicly attacked SNAP in the past. In early December, Catholic League president Bill Donohue said it attempted to spend $25,000 to place an anti-SNAP advertisement in The Kansas City Star, but the paper refused to print it. The ad railed against SNAP and said of the group, "Their goal is not justice. Nor is it child welfare. Their goal is to sabotage the Catholic Church."

On Tuesday, Donohue went after the group and Clohessy for vowing to fight the judge's ruling. In a statement titled "SNAP Honcho in a Snit," posted to the group's website, Donohue said, "Clohessy never tires of lecturing the Catholic Church on the need for transparency, yet when he is in the hot seat, he rebels." He added, "Talk about turning the tables! What a great way to start the new year."

On its website, SNAP calls the defense's plan a "cruel attack" and notes that the organization is not named in the lawsuit.

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