Chicago, Ill., Feb 6, 2017 / 05:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Another leader of a controversial group representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse has resigned, denying that the resignation is related to a lawsuit that claimed the group was engaged in kickbacks and other unethical behavior.
Barbara Blaine of the Survivors’ Network of those Abuse by Priests resigned effective Feb. 3, the Chicago Tribune reports. Blaine said a lawsuit filed last month against the Chicago-based organization had no bearing on her resignation and compared it to previous lawsuits she said had no merit. She said the discussions of her departure had been ongoing and it had been a great honor to serve the organization.
“Change however is inevitable,” she said. In mid-January former employee Gretchen Rachel Hammond, who worked as a development director at SNAP, claimed to have been wrongly fired for raising objections to what she said was a kickback scheme. The former employee’s lawsuit alleged that the organization refers them to lawyers who themselves donate to the organization. It also charged that SNAP does not provide significant counseling help to abuse victims.
The suit further charged that SNAP is motivated by its leaders' “personal and ideological animus against the Catholic Church.” Blaine flatly denied the lawsuit’s claims, saying: “The allegations are not true. This will be proven in court. SNAP leaders are now, and always have been, devoted to following the SNAP mission: to help victims heal and to prevent further sexual abuse.”
The lawsuit named as defendants SNAP, Blaine, past executive director David Clohessy, and outreach director Barbara Dorris. Clohessy resigned as executive director effective Dec. 31, though the change was not widely known until after the latest lawsuit was filed. The former executive director, who had worked at the organization since 1991, also denied his resignation had anything to do with the lawsuit. Dorris has now become managing director of SNAP.
In her resignation statement, Blaine said she founded the organization 29 years ago because a priest who had abused her remained in ministry and because she felt “immense pain” from the alleged abuse inflicted on her as an eighth grader by a priest who taught at her school.
“I knew there were other survivors out there and wondered if they felt the same debilitating hurt and if so, how they coped with it. I thought they might hold the wisdom I lacked. I looked for other survivors and asked if they would be willing to talk,” she said in a statement.
SNAP has run into other legal problems. In August 2016 a federal judge ruled that the group made false statements “negligently and with reckless disregard for the truth” against a St. Louis priest to try to convict him on abuse charges. The organization also sought to have the International Criminal Court investigate Benedict XVI for crimes against humanity related to alleged failures to stop sex abuse. Many critics considered the effort to be frivolous and the court rejected the request in mid-2013.