An advocacy group has issued an apology to a St. Louis priest for "any false or inaccurate statements" regarding allegations of abuse, after criminal charges against him were dropped and subsequent lawsuits were settled or dismissed.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis published the apology from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) on Monday.
“The SNAP defendants never want to see anyone falsely accused of a crime. Admittedly, false reports of clergy sexual abuse do occur. The SNAP defendants have no personal knowledge as to the complaints against Fr. Joseph Jiang and acknowledge that all matters and claims against Fr. Jiang have either been dismissed or adjudicated in favor of Fr. Jiang,” the group stated.
SNAP also apologized for the harm that false accusations can cause to the priest as well as to the Catholic Church as a whole.
“SNAP apologizes for any false or inaccurate statements related to the complaints against Fr. Joseph Jiang that it or its representatives made which in any way disparaged Fr. Joseph Jiang, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, Monsignor Joseph D. Pins and the Archdiocese of St. Louis,” the group stated.
A statement from the Archdiocese of St. Louis said the apology was issued “as part of a settlement with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) in a defamation lawsuit filed by Father Jiang in 2015.”
Criminal charges filed against Father Xiu Hui “Joseph” Jiang, after an allegation of abuse, were dismissed in 2015. Jiang had also passed a polygraph test, during which he denied that he had ever abused a minor, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Following the dismissal of the charges, Jiang filed a lawsuit against SNAP officials and against the parents of the minor, on the grounds that the false accusations had had a detrimental impact on his life.
In 2016, a federal judge ruled that SNAP had made false statements against Fr. Jiang “negligently and with reckless disregard for the truth.” The first part of the lawsuit with SNAP and the parents of the minor was settled last month. A federal judge dismissed the second part of the case earlier this month, on the grounds that too much time had passed before Jiang decided to add the additional parties to the lawsuit.
Fr. Jiang had been previously accused of improper contact with a teenage girl who attended the Basilica of St. Louis, where he was associate pastor. Charges of child endangerment and witness tampering were dropped in 2013.
In January of this year, a former SNAP employee, Gretchen Rachel Hammond, filed suit against the organization, claiming that SNAP accepts “kickbacks” from plaintiffs’ attorneys to whom it refers alleged victims. SNAP denied those claims, but SNAP president Barbara Blaine resigned from the organization shortly after the suit was filed.
“SNAP does not focus on protecting or helping survivors — it exploits them,” Hammond said in the lawsuit.