SNAP Misleads Public Regarding False Accusations, Refuses to Acknowledge Massive Fraud

SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) has again promoted a misleading, nine-year-old citation from the New York Times to assert that false accusations against Catholic priests are rare. In truth, SNAP's stale reference, from a wild press statement that the group issued today (Fri., Feb. 11, 2011), flies in the face of much recent and incontrovertible evidence that hundreds – and maybe thousands – of claims of abuse against Catholic priests are entirely false.

First of all, this is what the Times actually reported in August of 2002:

"Patrick Schiltz, dean of the University of St. Thomas law school in Minnesota, said that over more than a decade he had defended Catholic dioceses against sexual-abuse lawsuits in more than 500 cases, and that he had concluded that 'fewer than 10' of those cases were based on false accusations."

Well, here are the facts:

1. The Times article is from August 2002. Think about that. This was well before all of the large-scale "blanket" settlements that the Church has since paid out. Since Judge Schiltz was cited by the Times, the Church has forked out over $1.5 billion dollars to thousands of individuals, many of whose claims were not even investigated at all.

2. Donald H. Steier is a former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney who has represented hundreds of accused priests. Just a couple of months ago (not nine years ago!), in November/December 2010, Steier submitted a statement to the Los Angeles County Superior Court that indicated that massive fraud is being perpetrated against the Catholic Church in the form of false accusations. Among his many eye-opening claims Steier wrote:

  • "One retired F.B.I. agent who worked with me to investigate many claims in the Clergy Cases told me, in his opinion, about ONE-HALF of the claims made in the Clergy Cases were either entirely false or so greatly exaggerated that the truth would not have supported a prosecutable claim for childhood sexual abuse." (capital letters are Steier's!)
  • "In several cases my investigation has provided objective information that could not be reconciled with the truthfulness of the subjective allegations. In other words, in many cases objective facts showed that accusations were false."

There's a lot more. Read about this massive fraud campaign for yourself: "Los Angeles Attorney Declares Rampant Fraud, Many Abuse Claims Against Catholic Priests are 'Entirely False',", January 2011.

3. In 2006, veteran writer Gail Besse reported:

"According to the [Boston] archdiocese's Office of Child Advocacy, 71 complaints were filed against Boston-area priests from July 2003 to December 2005. In 32 of those cases, the review board did not find that probable cause of sexual abuse of a minor had occurred."

In 2004, even the very liberal Boston Phoenix reported: "[T]here is considerable doubt about the veracity of many of the new claims, quite a few of which were made after it became apparent that the Church was willing to settle sex-abuse cases for big bucks."

In 2005, Wall Street Journal writer Dorothy Rabinowitz said, "People have to come to understand that there is a large scam going on with personal injury attorneys, and what began as a serious effort has now expanded to become a huge money-making proposition."

In 2010, the Center for Applied Research for the Apostolate (CARA), the Georgetown University-based research outfit that carefully gathers such data, reported that over 42% of priests who were accused of abuse in the calendar year 2009 were deceased.

4. As far as the work that Judge Schiltz has actually done with abuse cases, rather than relying on the biased New York Times, here is what Schiltz himself said in his own words in 2003:

"[A]s first a practicing attorney and then a law professor, I have advised every major Christian denomination in connection with more than 500 clergy sexual-abuse cases in almost all 50 states."

In other words, those "more than 500 cases" were not all related to the Catholic Church. Rather they were from "every major Christian denomination." In addition, and most notably, it appears that only a minority of those those 500+ cases involved the sexual abuse of a minor. In a 2003 article for the Boston College Law Review, "The Impact of Clergy Sexual Misconduct Litigation on Religious Liberty," Judge Schiltz wrote the following (emphasis mine):

In the 500-plus cases on which I worked, pastors were accused of a breathtaking array of misconduct. By far, the most common allegation was that the pastor had engaged in a sexual relationship with an adult congregant—a relationship that appeared to be consensual but was alleged to be abusive because of the disparity in power between the pastor and the congregant. Other common allegations were that the pastor had verbally propositioned the plaintiff, exposed himself to her, used sexual language that made her feel uncomfortable, induced her to reveal details of her sexual history, brushed up against her, kissed her on the mouth, delivered 'lingering hugs,' or bought her flowers. In one case in which I was not involved, 'an unsolicited kiss and a rub on the back' resulted in a thirteen-count complaint, several years of litigation, and, among other things, a forty-five page federal district court opinion.

The bottom line: the New York Times and SNAP clearly appear to have mischaracterized Judge Schiltz.

SNAP also falsely identifies Schiltz as the Church's "leading defense lawyer." No, he isn't. That title – if there actually were such a title – would go to Jeffrey Lena. Schiltz is now a United States District Judge in Minnesota.

By the way, if anyone wants to learn what Judge Schiltz thinks about SNAP's close pals in the media, check out the following: "What the media missed in the sexual-abuse scandal." While SNAP wants you to follow what Schiltz supposedly said to the New York Times nine years ago, they definitely do not want you to read what he actually wrote himself less than a year later.

All Catholics are obligated to show the utmost compassion for those who were so terribly violated by priests. Demanding justice and care for abuse victims is mandatory, not optional. There are few crimes that revolt more than the sexual abuse of a minor. The damage to victims is immeasurable. The awful and atrocious abuse of minors has brutally shattered the faith of countless individuals.

In a perfect world, the Church would be working together with SNAP to rid the Church of its "filth" (the word applied by Pope Benedict XVI). However, as I carefully illustrate in my book Double Standard, SNAP is an organization that is deeply entrenched in the dishonest and duplicitous tactics of famed radical Saul Alinsky. SNAP has displayed time and time again that it cannot be trusted. The group is serial in its dishonesty and relentless in its venom for the Church.