In the Vineyard :: August 15, 2014 :: Volume 14, Issue 15

Report on SNAP’s
25th Anniversary Conference

By Bill Casey of the Arlington VA affiliate

Approximately 300 attendees gathered in Chicago on August 1-3 to celebrate SNAP’s 25th year of supporting and advocating for victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Among the attendees was a strong presence of survivor-advocates from abroad with whom SNAP has established a partnership in addressing the scourge of clergy sexual abuse around the world.

Victims/survivors from England, Poland, Spain, and Australia reported on their country-unique efforts to support those hidden in the shadows of abuse. Other allies were also present or spoke, including Bob Hoatson of Road To Recovery, Tom Doyle, and Bishop Accountability leaders, Terry McKiernan and Anne Barrett Doyle.

Major presentations were made by Jason Berry, Anne Burke, Garry Wills, and by Michael D’Antonio who wrote Mortal Sins, Sex, Crime and the Era of Catholic Scandal. Of particular interest for those organizing a new VOTF initiative on Restorative Justice was a presentation by Jennifer Haselberger, the former chancellor of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul. She recently resigned in protest over the flawed practices of the bishop and other hierarchical officials regarding sexual abuse by the clergy. An affidavit that she filed in a lawsuit provides a unique window into what many have long suspected about contradictions between what Bishops say and actually do behind Chancery walls.

Jennifer’s presentation called for a type of Truth and Reconciliation model (much like the one used in South Africa following the end of apartheid) in order to meet the needs of victims/survivors more effectively than criminal, civil and canonical processes can provide.  She acknowledged the obstacles to such a comprehensive approach, but she is not hopeful that existing processes will bring justice, healing and resolution at least in the environment reflected in the last 12 years. However, VOTF is now working on a more achievable approach, a Restorative Justice model known as a Healing Circle in which all those harmed by the sexual abuse scandal can address some or all of their justice and healing needs. VOTF will pilot this model in the fall and report the results thereafter.

Kudos to SNAP and the many unheralded victims/survivors that have spoken their truth and remained courageous in the face of opposition during their lifelong path to recovery.


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