Some 300 survivors of sexual abuse and their supporters are meeting this weekend in Chicago for a national conference sponsored by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
The names on the conference schedule are familiar to Catholics who have been following the sex abuse crisis: Barbara Blaine, founder of SNAP; David Clohessy, SNAP's executive director; victims' attorney Jeff Anderson; Justice Anne Burke of Illinois, who served on the bishops' National Review Board; and Father Tom Doyle, one of the few priests to publicly support victims throughout the scandal.
But there are lots of other speakers and panelists whose names you may not recognize. This weekend they will tell their stories of abuse by clergy, nuns, bishops or seminarians--abuse that was followed by the equally or even more painful treatment by church authorities when they reported their abuse or sought justice.
I will be there all weekend and reporting on the "NCR Today" blog.
In tonight's opening talks, Clohessy, Blaine and Doyle said the revelations this past year in Ireland, Germany and Belgium prove that the sex-abuse crisis is not merely "an American problem" caused by a few bad apples, the morally lax 1960s or anti-Catholicism in the media.
"This is not a U.S. or a European crisis," said Blaine, noting that the SNAP office has received calls from victims in Brazil, South Africa, Australia and even Pakistan in the past weeks.
"For 22 years we have focused on 4 percent of the world," Clohessy said, referring to U.S. population. "Now we’re focusing on abuse and cover up worldwide."
Following are the reports she filed during the conference: