SNAP director steps down amid lawsuit

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Barbara Blaine, founder of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. | Sun-Times file photo

The founder and president of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) resigned this week as the organization faces lawsuit in which it was accused of colluding with attorneys.

Barbara Blaine, who founded SNAP 29 years ago, resigned effective Friday, according to a statement from SNAP.

“Her contribution to the survivors movement is unsurpassed,” Mary Ellen Kruger, chair of SNAP’s board, said in the statement. “Her tenacity and fortitude helped expose abuse globally during the past three decades.”

“We will carry on her vision of SNAP as we grow in new ways to better meet the needs of survivors coming forward today and in the future. We wish Barbara the best,” she added.

SNAP’s outreach director, Barbara Dorris, has assumed the role of managing director for the organization.

Blaine’s resignation was tendered a few weeks after Gretchen Hammond, who worked as a staff fundraiser for SNAP, filed a lawsuit in Cook County alleging the group referred clergy-abuse victims to lawyers, who, in turn, sued the church.

The lawsuit alleges that SNAP collaborated with those attorneys, getting advance copies of lawsuits and hosting press conferences, leveraging the publicity for fundraising efforts.

Hammond was fired from SNAP after she probed the organization’s fundraising, the lawsuit alleges.

“In reality, SNAP is a commercial operation motivated by its directors’ and officers’ personal and ideological animus against the Catholic Church,” the lawsuit states. “SNAP’s commercial operation is premised on farming out abuse survivors as clients for attorneys, who then file lawsuits on behalf of the survivors and collect settlement checks from the Catholic Church.”

The lawsuit notes there were no paid counselors on staff at SNAP during the years Hammond worked there.

Blaine and SNAP National Director David Clohessy — who resigned at the end of 2016 — are the only paid employees listed on the group’s tax forms, each making $86,000 in 2014, the most recent year for which records were available.

“They had good intentions” at first, Hammond said. “It became less about survivors and more about making money.”

Hammond claims she was accidentally included in an email chain in 2012, in which Clohessy sent information on an abuse victim to a lawyer, a message in which Clohessy asked the attorney “when SNAP could expect a donation.”


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