David Clohessy and SNAP: Ten Years After Gaining Celebrity

Categories: Media

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Ten year's ago this month David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), was named one of the world's "25 Most Intriguing" by People magazine.

Included in that 2002 class were actors and performers such as George Clooney and Britney Spears, world leaders the likes of Saddam Hussein and Jimmy Carter, athletes Serena Williams and Pat Tillman (the football player who'd recently left the NFL to serve in the Army but had yet to die of friendly fire) and a few Regular Joes such as Clohessy.

Last week Daily RFT caught up with Clohessy, to discuss what the People magazine designation meant at the time, what SNAP has accomplished since then, and what challenges still lie ahead for the St. Louis-based organization that continues to garner international headlines for exposing child sex abuse.

Daily RFT: SNAP has been around since 1988. But what changed in 2002 that even a celebrity magazine such as People had to write about you?

David Clohessy: 2002 was a crazy, crazy year. The Boston Globe had done this huge investigative series -- literally hundreds of stories -- about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. And all of the sudden the topic became the burning, Page One story in newspaper after newspaper after newspaper all across the county. And that is only reason why someone from SNAP was in People magazine.

It was an amazing time for us. We went from a situation where we -- SNAP -- would not get our phone calls returned to where we couldn't possibly return all the calls we were getting. There would be nights that I'd clear my cell phone voice mail before going to bed, and I'd wake up the next morning and my voicemail would be so full again it wouldn't take any more messages.

How exactly did the People profile come about?

They contacted me and said they want to do a story about me and my work and it will run toward the end of the year. They certainly didn't say you've been chosen as one of our 25 most-intriguing people. Crazy thing was I was in an airport in Salt Lake City or Las Vegas -- I forget which -- headed out to Idaho to see my in-laws for Christmas. I'm standing in line at an airport store buying a bottle of water when I saw the cover of People and I thought to myself, "Oh man, they didn't put me in that list, did they?" I opened the cover and doubled over with laughter.

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People's mini-profile of Clohessy in December 2002 that recounted his own abuse at the hands of a priest.
People didn't award you with a plaque or host a party for you and all the other intriguing folks?

Nope. I invited all my fellow list-makers to a party at my house, but they didn't show up. Just kidding. A reporter, David Gibson, at the Newark Star Ledger, wrote an article about SNAP being included in the list. I joked that the magazine asked Britney Spears to expose her midriff and didn't even ask to see mine!

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Congratulations, David Clohessy, on outstanding work over the last 20 plus years. I have seen you personally give untold hours of support and compassion to survivors who call at all hours. Unselfishly, you are there for them.

Through their courage in coming forward, all our children are safer. Because survivors filed lawsuits, the names of perpetrators long hidden were revealed publicly, leading others to seek justice at long last. We would know nothing without your gaining access to secret documents through court order. Bishops were deposed under oath and forced to expose their criminal negligence in failing to protect children.

An Attorney General investigation in NH, two grand jury investigations in Philadelphia, another in Rockville Center, Long Island; in Westchester County, NY; in Boston, MA --- I can't count them all but countless legal documents are on www.BishopAccountability.org for public access. What an achievement to help bring 50 years of sexual abuse to light.

God bless you and keep you for years to come. Our debt is incalculable.


The TRUTH about SNAP: This "support group" (please!) has happily taken generous financial contributions from…..yes, victims lawyers. You see how this works. In actual fact the issue of child abuse is just a pretext for the group’s hatred of the Church. How else do you explain SNAP president Barbara Blaine's passionate letter of support on behalf of a Louisiana SNAP psychiatrist who was arrested with over 100 images of child pornography on his computer? Or when they paired with a left-wing activistgroup in Sept 2011 to petition the ICC (Hague) to charge Pope Benedict with "crimes against humanity." An absurd publicity stunt.

There are a large number of reputable and valuable child abuse victim support groups, such as HAVOCA, Safe Horizon, ASCA, NSPCC, Pandora’s Project, and many more. In contrast to SNAP, they do not spend time allying with media and lawyers seeking to corral plaintiffs for lawsuits, excoriating the Catholic Church and victimizing its priests. These other organizations have no other agenda than to help victims. 

Reducing and confining the world-wide epidemic of child sexual abuse by scapegoating the Catholic Church and politicizing such a heinous crime does an unforgiveable disservice to the genuine victims of child sexual abuse.


SNAP (The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) is the world's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 12,000 members. Despite the word priest in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, teachers, Protestant ministers and increasingly, victims who were assaulted in a wide range of institutional settings like orphanages, summer camps, athletic programs, Boy Scouts, etc Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511.

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