Imagine the mayor of a major city announcing to the public, "Crime is low!" But in doing so, the mayor cites statistics that are over seven years old. That would be dishonest, would it not? Of course it would.
Well, the advocacy group SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) has recently pulled a similar dishonest stunt – again – in making claims about the prevalence of false accusations against Catholic priests.
In an October 5, 2011, media statement, SNAP's wobbly "Outreach Director," Barbara Dorris, forwards the charge, "False accusations are rare." To support her assertion, she then cherry-picks figures from the USCCB's annual report from 2005 (which reports numbers from 2004). (There have been six annual reports since then.) She then deceives her audience with an erroneous citation from a New York Times article from 2002.
What are the latest figures regarding false accusations? One excellent source of data comes from the Archdiocese of Boston. Just weeks ago, in August 2011, Boston released extensive lists – by different categories – of all accused priests going back several decades.
The lists included 53 priests who were removed from ministry and/or laicized (removed from the priesthood altogether) after these men were determined to have committed criminal abuse. (Categories 'A' and 'B' in Boston's release.)
Yet the archdiocese also posted a list of 25 priests whose cases were thoroughly investigated and determined to be false. ("Unsubstantiated" is the word that the archdiocese used.)
With these two numbers, one can arrive at the figure of false accusations – for Boston, anyways – being 32 percent. (Not computed for this figure are the number of dead priests who never had their cases fully investigated (55) and the number of accused priests whose investigations were still in progress (22) at the time of the list being released.)
In addition, as we reported earlier this year, former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Donald H. Steier submitted a stunning declaration to Los Angeles County Superior Court in November 2010 that claimed, "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  greatly exaggerated" (capital letters are Steier's).
There is even more data to cite (links below), but the bottom line is that SNAP has mislead its readers again.
[Personal note: I am particularly frustrated by this press release from SNAP, because they actually know that their statistics are old and misleading, but they continue to cite them anyways. Less than a month ago, I publicly responded to this exact same issue with SNAP's National Director, David Clohessy, over at RenewAmerica.com. When I called out Clohessy's dishonesty, he "declined to formally respond" to my facts, yet he said that "he stands by SNAP's work and statements."
So, in other words, SNAP has no problem with "standing by" falsehoods and misleading facts. And they call this "advocacy"? Awful.]