Turning the tables on an advocacy group that has long supported victims of pedophile priests, lawyers for the Roman Catholic Church and priests accused of sexual abuse in two Missouri cases have gone to court to compel the group to disclose more than two decades of e-mails that could include correspondence with victims, lawyers, whistle-blowers, witnesses, the police, prosecutors and journalists.
The group, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, is neither a plaintiff nor a defendant in the litigation. But the group has been subpoenaed five times in recent months in Kansas City and St. Louis, and its national director, David Clohessy, was questioned by a battery of lawyers for more than six hours this year. A judge in Kansas City ruled that the network must comply because it ”œalmost certainly” had information relevant to the case.
The network and its allies say the legal action is part of a campaign by the church to cripple an organization that has been the most visible defender of victims, and a relentless adversary, for more than two decades. ”œIf there is one group that the higher-ups, the bishops, would like to see silenced,” said Marci A. Hamilton, a law professor at Yeshiva University and an advocate for victims of clergy sex crimes, ”œit definitely would be SNAP. And that’s what they’re going after. They’re trying to find a way to silence SNAP.”
Lawyers for the church and priests say they cannot comment because of a judge’s order. But William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a church advocacy group in New York, said targeting the network was justified because ”œSNAP is a menace to the Catholic Church.”
Mr. Donohue said leading bishops he knew had resolved to fight back more aggressively against the group: ”œThe bishops have come together collectively. I can’t give you the names, but there’s a growing consensus on the part of the bishops that they had better toughen up and go out and buy some good lawyers to get tough. We don’t need altar boys.”
He said bishops were also rethinking their approach of paying large settlements to groups of victims. ”œThe church has been too quick to write a check, and I think they’ve realized it would be a lot less expensive in the long run if we fought them one by one,” Mr. Donohue said.
However, a spokeswoman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, said Mr. Donohue was incorrect.
”œThere is no national strategy,” she said, and there was no meeting where legal counsel for the bishops decided to get more aggressive.
Vatican Dispatches Elite Team Of Bishops To Sabotage Contraceptive Manufacturer
The Onion, March 6
VATICAN CITY ”” Anonymous sources within the Vatican confirmed Tuesday that Pope Benedict XVI has dispatched a crack team of six highly skilled bishops to sabotage the New York headquarters of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, a leading contraceptive manufacturer.
Responding to what it called the “ongoing crisis of readily available birth control,” the Vatican reportedly assembled its finest clerical operatives””an elite unit consisting of the Roman Catholic Church’s very best demolitions expert, cryptographer, forger, con artist, helicopter pilot, and martial arts master””and briefed them on the confidential mission in a secret command bunker deep beneath the catacombs of St. Peter’s Basilica.
“Gentlemen, in today’s world, God’s divine plan itself is under threat,” Pope Benedict is said to have told the bishops as he paced across a room full of large screens monitoring the world’s top producers of oral contraceptives, condoms, intrauterine devices, and spermicidal lubricants. “Companies like Pfizer are making it possible for women to avoid bearing children they don’t want or cannot afford to care for. Our intelligence assets indicate some are even engaging in sex for no purpose beyond their own pleasure.”
“It’s time to send a clear message that the church will not take this sitting down,” the Pope continued. “It won’t be easy, but you’re the best consecrated men of God we have. And trust me, for this mission, we’ll need the best.”
Known officially as the Sixth Conclave for the Defense of Mankind Against All Carnalities of the Flesh””or Conclave 6, for short””the Vatican’s most lethal squad of bishops is believed to be headed by master tactician Archbishop Wolfgang Haas of Liechtenstein, with major reconnaissance being handled by Phoenix Bishop Thomas “The Ground Hawk” Olmsted, who doubles as the group’s sniper.