SNAP Holds First Nationwide Meeting While Bishops Call For Church Council

Jun 26, 2003 01:23 PM EDT

ST. LOUIS – The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests began its first national meeting with rounds of applause, testimonials and words of encouragement, June 21. The assembly, scheduled through Sunday, will focus on “healing and prevention” for abuse victims and lifting restrictions on filing abuse complaints.

The meeting will "give the strength and the skills to go out and keep doing what we've been doing for years, which is to save lives,". said David Clohessy, national director of SNAP.

SNAP is "95 percent Alcoholics Anonymous and 5 percent Mothers Against Drunk Drivers," Clohessy said, noting the group’s intent on helping victims rather than censuring bishops.

While SNAP leaders criticized U.S. bishops for their lethargic responses to victims, the group offered praise of one prelate. Bishop Paul Bootkoski of Metuchen of N.J. was hailed as “the model bishop in America” whom others should imitate.

According to SNAP, Bootkoski initiated contact with, personally met and apologized to victims; he also appointed three victims to the local review board that advises him on allegations against clergy, and cooperated fully with sex crime prosecutors.

President Barbara Blaine said her group's key achievement since the abuse scandals broke in January 2002 has been expansion from a handful of local victims' support groups to 50. Currently, SNAP reports 4,600 members and 3 paid staff members.

Blaine hopes lay Catholics can decide to support victims and "join a group that is working for change in the church."

The meeting comes in the midst of discussions among Bishops to hold a special nationwide church council. If the U.S. bishops and the Vatican should consent, the council will be the first of its kind since 1884.

By Pauline J.