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I put a blog post on January 16 entitled 99,601.  I thought it was pretty innocuous, more of a “I’m still out here” piece than anything else.   It drew a vitriolic response from one reader who decided that it was more of an exercise in narcissism and that I should be taking a more vocal stand against the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).  To be honest, this is my blog and I am going to write as often as I am moved to on topics of my choosing.  If you don’t like it I would like to direct you the freshly pressed section of WordPress.  There is some really neat stuff there.

If you have read this blog for any length of time you will know that I do not have a lot of love for the National Director of SNAP.   I have voiced my opinion on SNAP and the way the national board conducts business.  I wrote a blog post entitle Parting Company with SNAP that spun up a lot of comments and heated discussion, some of it too nasty to approve on both sides of the discussion.   Do I really want to rehash that?  Not so much!   I don’t think, as a blogger, I need to announce annually  that I am not a fan of the national leadership of SNAP.  I still hold out hope that at some point the Survivor community finds a network where we all get an opportunity to work together collectively to advance a legislative agenda that will lengthen statutes of limitation

Instead of pointing out, again, that I think SNAP is a self licking ice cream cone, I choose to spend my time and some of my money supporting organizations like the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse and Justice4PAKids and their efforts to change laws and do real and tangible good.  They are making a difference.  SNAP is more focused on having 2 conferences this year, one here in the States and the other in Ireland.   I guess the National director is working on improving his standing in the airline rewards program of his choice.

At this point I would add that I am very impressed by some of the state SNAP coordinators.  Becky Ianni in Virginia is the real deal.  I have only met her twice, but she is a force for good in the northern Virginia and Washington DC region.  I would gladly support any effort she led.   Karen Polesir has helped me on occasion and is active in a coalition of groups working to get SOL and window legislation through the State Assembly in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

I support people like Kay Ebeling who has been reporting (not blogging, reporting) on the sexual abuse crisis for years and has gotten little support from   the survivor community.  She has been inspiring and I consider her a friend.  Funny, the vocal ones have the church, its apologist and many survivors attacking them.   I guess that is the point I am circling here.   Even in the survivor community there is a chasm between elements.  Being a good, compliant survivor or victim makes you a darling to some of the national groups.  Dare to criticize them and see how quickly you are on the outs.  Lessons learned from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church I guess.

For now I look at the future.  I think that change will come but it will not be led by a national organization.  We don’t have an effective one.  It will be led by regional groups, some affiliated with larger organizations, some will be independent.  Fools will rush in and out.   We all need to stay the course.   We really will not get anywhere if we are sniping at each other.

The SNAP Conference is coming up this weekend in Northern Virginia.  Beginning Friday evening at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, just south of Washington, D.C., SNAP members from all over the country and perhaps from around the world will come together to listen to speakers, mix and exchange stories and try to draw some comfort and strength from other victims of sexual crimes committed by clergy.

I attended the conference a few years ago when after I went public with my own story of abuse.  The weekend was eye-opening.  There were people in the room who had made great strides towards recovery while others were still on their personal journeys.

At the conference I sought out some of the leaders of SNAP and talked to them about really networking the membership, setting up a blog roll for the people blogging on the topic of sexual crimes committed by clergy and lay employees of religious organizations and finding a way to use social media to bring this group together.  There was lots of enthusiasm, but no action.

I withdrew my support for SNAP after I started seeing a pattern of odd behavior and  an effort by the National Director to stifle any kind of initiative to do new things or come up with a more coherent strategy to lobby for changes in the laws of states that have not extended statutes of limitation to allow for more time to protect the rights of children or vulnerable adults who have been the victims of crimes committed by clergy.

There are some people who have contended that SNAP is controlled by the church while others say it is an organization that funnels clients to attorneys who make a lot of money suing the church.  I think that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.   I also think that the current leadership is rehashing a strategy that is not working.  If you look at the schedule of events for the upcoming conference you do not see any sessions in the main room, or as breakouts, about how to actually network the community through social media or to encourage blogging or other modern methods of harnessing the power of the community.  You don’t see sessions on enabling survivors to work on local and state lawmakers to lobby for changes in existing laws.

You also do not see an open discussion of the organization’s budget, the decision-making process of National Leaders or the selection of board members out of the people who allegedly make up the membership of this organization.

You do see a lot of diverse groups talking about victimization and you will most likely hear a request for donations.  What we have is not activism, it is passive submission to an agenda set by a very few, with those few having a direct financial stake in the agenda.

I would attend a SNAP Conference where the state of the organization to include a detailed discussion of budget and financial issues is encouraged.  I would like to see an organization that would see the election of board members out of the membership in good standing.  I would like to see National Leaders held accountable for their methods, tools and strategies.  If they fail to meet goals agreed to by the membership, it should be the right of the members to demand a change in leadership.

There are many questions that don’t seem to be answered.  There are many who would like to ask questions without fear of retribution from the National Leaders and their more zealous disciples.

I find it ironic that many of the tactics that the Catholic Church has used to control and isolate victims are part of the SNAP leadership strategy to remain firmly in place, collecting a paycheck and controlling a dialogue that is not really theirs to control.

Have a dialogue with all Survivors, encourage a conversation and realize that there is value in differing opinions.  Take time to discuss the business of SNAP and establish procedures that will encourage confidence in those who donate to non-profit organizations that comply with established standards and best practices.  Make this organization a true network and you will see results.

Finally, stop wasting everyone’s time changing the church.  It is never going to happen.  This fight will not be won in the pulpit or the pews, it has to be fought and won in the state legislatures and the courtroom.  I have said it before and will continue to say it.  There will be no profound change in the way the Catholic Church deals with pedophile priests until the church, as an institution,  has to pay a price set by civil society that is so terrible that it has no choice but to change as an institution or perish.  SNAP can be on the leading edge of that change or remain a self licking ice cream cone that does little more than offer a paycheck to a select few who may not really know where to lead the organization.

We will see what happens in northern Virginia over the weekend.  Unfortunately, I do not hold out hope for any new direction!

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Michael Baumann


Credit: Michael Baumann at "Off My Knees"

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