Whose Trial Is It Anyway?

As we’ve been reporting on the Ms. Blog, Kansas City was rocked last fall by the indictment of Bishop Robert Finn for failing to report that a priest in his parish had pornographic pictures of children on his computer. Finn managed to avoid any serious punishment; he simply has to regularly report to a prosecutor any suspicious goings-on in his diocese that might relate to sexual abuse.

Meanwhile a lawsuit filed against another accused Kansas City pedophile priest, Fr. Michael Tierney–the fifth such suit against Tierney since 2010–has tried to ensnare just the organization devoted to stopping such abuse, SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests).

Last month, David Clohessy, SNAP’s executive director, was subjected to a six-hour deposition in the case of John Doe BP v. Fr. Michael Tierney and the Kansas City Diocese. Lawyers for Finn and Tierney stated that lawyers for “Doe” (a 53-year-old man who accuses Tierney of assaulting him when he was a young altar boy) violated a gag order by discussing the case with SNAP–charges that SNAP, Clohessy and “Doe” deny. During his deposition Clohessy refused to compromise the privacy of victims of priest abuse by giving up names and information, even though he was subpoenaed to do so.

Clohessy informed me that “no formal complaint had been made on the alleged gag order violation.” He went on to say that out of 700 questions asked of him during the deposition, only 3 pertained to the case in question. “The lawyers for Finn and Tierney kept repeating the same question: How does SNAP operate?”

In a statement published on its website, SNAP said:

Catholic officials want private, personal records and e mails involving hundreds of individuals who have never even heard of or met the accused or the accusers in the two suits. This is a misuse of judicial processes designed to crush a support and advocacy group that protects the vulnerable and heals the wounded. It’s cleverly orchestrated to keep clergy sex crimes and cover ups concealed.

SNAP says that this is the first time in the 23-year history of the group that any of its staff have been asked to turn over records. Another SNAP staffer, Barbara Dorris, was also subpoenaed with a demand for the organization’s records.

At first Clohessy thought that the Catholic Church was on a “fishing expedition,” but now believes that it is far more heinous than that. “This situation has the potential to close us down, and we believe that to be the intentions of the church.” Victims of priest abuse count on SNAP being discreet and confidential; without it, SNAP couldn’t survive and continue fighting for victims’ rights.

Photo from Google Images under Creative Commons 3.0.




  1. Judy Jones says:

    Yes, it is becoming clearer every day that child predators, church officials, and their lawyers are desperately using any ugly tactic to:

    — shut down SNAP
    — intimidate all child sex abuse victims,witnesses, and whistleblowers to keep quiet
    — keep crimes of cover up and enabling child predators from being exposed
    — keep those who commit these crimes from being held accountable or jailed
    — protect child predators
    — makes parents and parishioners believe their child protection policy works
    — stop the media (their biggest fear) from reporting on this subject
    — keep the full ugly truth from being known

    Some of you may already know, I work daily posting comments to articles reaching out to victims “that if they have knowledge, or been harmed to contact the police, not the diocese”. In doing so, have been called all kinds of names, just recently “hysterical old broads who are doing their best to extort money from the Catholic church”. Yes, I just might be an “old broad” but I am a volunteer for SNAP. I spend most of my day working to reach out to those still silent hurting victims, and there are many who are still too afraid to speak up, ( I can see why from some of these horrible comments that are posted )

    Being a volunteer, I spent over $6,000 last year on my work with survivors, doing press events, and meeting with scared victims and starting support groups. ( btw, this is my own hard earned money, and I am not a rich person). Why? Because my brother and several of my relatives were sexually abused by our long time parish priest who sexually abused kids from the early 1940’s, 1950’s 1960’s and the diocese announced that he also abused in 1978… he lived until 1991.
    My own mother could not allow herself to believe her own son, she was a dedicated loyal catholic like so many. I have a really hard time understanding that mindset. I now have 3 children, 3 grand children, and now I have a new great grandbaby.. and when I look at him and I think if anyone ever hurts him, I will have their heads.

    I have seen and heard too much pain, I will not stop….

    Church officials have tons of money to pay high priced lawyers to keep victims from speaking or going public, or even getting their day in court.

    We sit in our ‘not so plush offices’ which are (our kitchen tables) reaching out to victims, pleading with them to contact the police, letting them know that they are not alone, and there are thousands who know their pain. Sex abuse of a child happens to be a crime, and for good reason, it causes a life sentence of pain and trauma for all victims, especially those who are still alive and have not committed suicide.

    We will not shut up, survivor voices are more powerful and stronger than ever because they are exposing their truth, which is helping to protect kids today.

    To the victims who suffer from child sex abuse, you have more power than you sometimes believe. You are the ones who know the truth and you can help to stop this horrific abuse of power. We/SNAP are not stopping, and hopefully those who have knowledge, suspect, witnessed, or have been harmed will continue to speak up and contact the police.

    Keep in mind your silence only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511
    “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests” and all clergy.

  2. Thanks Judy for not turning your back on a very disturbing situation The Catholic Church is out of control and rather than take a long hard look at itself, it carries on regardless of who it is hurts.
    Julie Cain

  3. L.Salander says:

    Sex Crimes and the Vatican

    Good documentary, overall great website.

  4. Women (who understand children) should do everything they can to keep children away from Catholic priests.

    The case of Bishop Finn, hiding a known pedophile for over a year, is just one example. There are dozens of examples in Philadelphia, and undoubtedly thousands more around the country that haven’t been discovered (along with eh 4,392 that have been discovered.

    Women – keep your children away from these Catholic pedophile priests.

  5. The Catholic Church IS out of control. It is panicking because it is losing its unbridled power over the minds of Catholics, and by extension, millions of others. It will stop at nothing to defend its perogatives. It has already acquired a stranglehold on the GOP Presidential process. Imagine if the GOP wins…between Catholic doctrine and the attemps by a growing Muslim community to force acceptance of Sharia law (“honor” killings of their women and girls), we will become the opposite of what this country was all about: religious fanaticism NOT controlling our lives.

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