Priest Sex Abuse Victim’s Support Network Fights Subpoena

SNAP is a support organization which counsels victims of priest sexual abuse.  The organization, however, now finds itself in an unusual fight.  In a case pending in Kansas City, Missouri, the lawyers for a priest who is being sued for sexual abuse, has served a subpoena on the SNAP seeking information concerning correspondence between the organization, lawyers and victims.  SNAP has held to the position that these records are confidential.  The priest's lawyers are seeking these documents trying to buttress a theory that SNAP has coached victims to claim that they repressed memories of sexual abuse.  Under Illinois law, as in many other states, decades old claims against priests and churches may very well be time barred unless the victim can claim that the church engaged in fraud or that the victim suppressed or repressed the memories.  Lawyers for the St. Louis Archdiocese are trying the same tactic in a pending case.  In the Kansas City case, the judge so far has backed the priest in his position to get the records.  The defendant in the case is Reverend Michael Tierney, who is facing five separate civil lawsuits.  The plaintiff in the case, now age 53, claims that he repressed the memory, but that it was unlocked when another plaintiff filed suit.  Under Missouri law, a victim who recovers such repressed memories, can bring a lawsuit within five years.  Illinois law has not been clarified on this issue.  Whether SNAP has to ultimately comply remains to be seen, however, we see this as a disturbing trend in the victims' rights arena.