The allegations rocked the very foundations of one of the world’s largest religions. Catholic clergy were being accused of vile crimes against the children they had been called and commissioned to serve. Not in isolated incidents, but in numbers that filled headlines in nearly every paper in the free world.
The embarrassment for the church was total. There were apologies and payouts and all manner of crisis PR management. Then came the even harder work of helping the victims. For many years, the man at the head of that effort was David Clohessy.
Clohessy became the face of the national organization advocating for victims of clergy abuse. He seemed to be everywhere, lending his voice to the call to protect and heal those who had been hurt by the church, regardless of how many years had passed.
The organization he led, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) was omnipresent in the march for both justice and help for the victims. Now, he is gone. Clohessy recently announced his resignation from SNAP, but the reason has far-reaching implications both for Clohessy and for the organization that has done so much to help victims of abuse.
A former employee sued SNAP, claiming the organization was “exploiting sexual abuse victims” while “receiving kickbacks” from attorneys who represented clients in the abuse cases. Clohessy, for his part, swears the allegations made in the lawsuit are “preposterous” and says they are in no way related to his resignation. He added, according to the Associated Press:
“I told the board in October that I would be resigning… We had no idea the lawsuit was coming. It caught all of us completely off guard.”
Clohessy added it was just time to step aside, though he told the AP he plans to continue with the board of directors of the charity. Right now, it’s down to a he said-she said. Although, another “she” says Clohessy has been a benefit to the organization for decades. Mary Ellen Kruger is the chairwoman of SNAP. She told the AP:
“We are eternally grateful for David’s dedication to SNAP and its mission over the past almost thirty years. His passion, his voice and his kindness have touched us all.”
Until this one goes to court, it may continue to be a tug of war between the former employee and the organization. In the meantime, it’s up to those who have been supporting the work to decide who they believe. The charity needs to do better than a few brief media statements.