The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Touch of Crass

Ah, here we go again. Cardinal Dolan approvingly links the analysis of William Donohue of the deposition of David Clohessy, Director of the Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests ("SNAP") (Donohue and Dolan, by quotation, mistakenly call him the President; according to SNAP, Barbara Blaine, the organization's founder, holds that position.) Clohessy was deposed in a case where neither he nor SNAP is a party. Dolan quotes Donohue's "report" to the effect that:
Clohessy proved to be uncooperative, refusing to comply with a request for internal documents; he only released a small portion of them. On the stand, he was similarly recalcitrant, refusing to answer many questions. He took refuge in a Missouri law which protects the confidentiality of rape crisis centers. But there are serious reasons to doubt whether SNAP meets the test of a rape crisis center.

Clohessy was asked point blank, “Did you identify yourself as a rape crisis center?” His reply, “I don’t know.” [p. 87.] At another point, he admitted, “I don’t know under the Missouri statutes exactly what constitutes a rape crisis center.” [p. 112.] The lawyers for an accused priest were not impressed. From their questions, and from subsequent statements they’ve made, it is clear that they do not believe that SNAP qualifies as a rape crisis center. They have plenty of reasons for reaching this conclusion.
Well, perhaps. However, as SNAP pointed out in its opposition to further discovery no such qualifications are required under the applicable Missouri statute to fall within the broad definition of a "rape crisis center," which is defined as "any public or private agency that offers assistance to victims of sexual assault, as that term is defined in [citations]." Far from contesting this, the defendant's lawyer's argued prior to the deposition not that SNAP does not meet the definition of a rape crisis center under the statute, but that SNAP's advocacy role on behalf of victim's who chose to sue breached the confidentiality required of a rape crisis center. (This argument does not cite statutory or judicial support that such an advocacy role in cases where the client seeks SNAP's public participation constitutes a breach of confidentiality, and I must say the point is somewhat counter-intuitive.) Donohue (and Dolan) provide a link to the deposition. In any event, all this testimony seems geared not to obtain information for the case against Fr. Tierney, but to make SNAP look amateurish, and vaguely unsavory.

It might be fair game to challenge SNAP's entitlement to the confidentiality protection afforded rape counseling centers under Missouri law, if SNAP had any communications with the plaintiff in the lawsuit in which the deposition was taken. However, as SNAP has also asserted in its opposition to further discovery, Clohessy testified unequivocally that he had no such communications with the plaintiff, nor, to his knowledge, did anybody else at SNAP. (SNAP President Barbara Blaine filed an affidavit with the court confirming Cloehessy's testimony.) Rather,it was Clohessy's own lawyer that even bothered to inquire whether he or SNAP had any communication with the plaintiff in the case. (Dep. at 210-211)

Most of the remainder of the defendant's questions seek to paint SNAP as a gadfly (e.g., Dep. at 69-78, discussing SNAP's publicizing of lawsuits against priests); and inquiring into the finances and personnel of SNAP, the relevance of which seems remote, as SNAP is not a party to the lawsuit (Dep. 80-91). Counsel for the Diocese asked similar questions. The Diocese fared even further afield, even sought to elicit Clohessy's opinion on the USCCB's Dallas Charter for the protection of young people, and even asking if SNAP "has ever commended the USCCB for taking even a single positive step." (Dep. 172-177; 177-179) (SNAP had, as Clohessy answered, briskly ticking off several examples. (Dep. at 179-181))

Donohue's analysis, in a passage not quoted by Dolan, asks if Clohessy " he lie about priests he knew to be innocent, or at least thought may have been innocent?" Donohue bases these contentions on Clohessy's admission that SNAP has "ever issued a press release that contained false information," an answer which in context reflects not a "lie" as Donohue claims, but an admission, as Clohessy clarified, that "[w]e have certainly issued press releases about credibly accused child predators whom church officials have later claimed were unsubstantiated or unfounded." (Dep. at pp 39-40-; see p. 38) He's admitting that not every case which is credible at inception is established, not that he or SNAP have set out to mislead the public. Donohue then concludes:"So is David Clohessy a sincere man driven by the pursuit of justice? Or is he a con artist driven by revenge? It may very well be that the former description aptly explains how he started, while the latter describes what he has become."

That this deposition was meant to be harrassive is clear from the course of questions asked, in which Clohessy was treated as if he was a party, not a third party witness, and in which the questions ranged far beyond those relevant to the case--an abuse of the legal rule that relevance objections are not properly interposed at deposition. But to probe Clohessy's opinions on issues that had no relation to basis for his subpoena, is indicative of bad faith, as is Donohue's distorted presentation. As to Donohue's conclusion, one might well ask the same question of him that he poses about Clohessy. SNAP tries to bind up the wounds caused by abusive priests; no doubt it makes mistakes. Donohue sides with the abusers, and distorts the words of those who do not.


jim robertson said...

Mr. Cat,

What you don't know is SNAP was created by Dominicans in Missouri, as damage control for the Church.I am a victim from L. A., who has worked with SNAP since 2003. I and the other victims who've worked closely with SNAP knew something was off but it took us years to figure the con out. Please google Victims of Silence and see the documentation that proves our assertions: and read what the activist victims have experienced with SNAP.
The show in Missouri is only there to make SNAP the victim. While truly nothing has been done for victims.

jim robertson said...

I also need to say that SNAP's political line for 23 years has been "Protect the children". Never "Help the Victims". That line by SNAP has never been voted on by SNAP's "membership". SNAP's leadership has never been voted by its "members". No Democracy. No authentic representation.
This is the "movement".
Victims, media and the public have been conned.
SNAP's main goal was to gather victims to them. And since most victims are isolated. Usually we weren't raped en mass> So we don't know each other, and SNAP holds the lists of victims who have called them. This Punch and Judy show in Missouri is a fraud. How convienient for Clohessy that he broke the gag order so close to home. He doesn't have to travel far.
Do you actually think that the oldest and largest Christian church would not try to control this scandal? The whole of Christian religion is about control of it's membership. There are no exceptions for the children they raped.

Anglocat said...

Dear Mr. Robertson,

I hope you will excuse me for not replying on the merits to your comments, which are based on personal experience, and so any comment I would make would be at best speculative and possibly even impertinent. The Catholic League and hardcore Church defenders certainly seem to me to spend a fair amount of energy and heat fighting SNAP; I'm not sure that accords with your view.

You are welcome here, and I appreciate your perspective.