NEW ORLEANS, La. — The Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, wants answers from the New Orleans Saints football team.
The group plans an event Wednesday morning at the team's Metairie practice facility, during which time they say they will demand that the team release emails exchanged between Saints public relations staff and the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Last week, the Associated Press reported that the team was going to court to keep the public from seeing hundreds of emails that allegedly show team executives doing public relations damage control for the area’s Roman Catholic archdiocese to help it contain the fallout from a burgeoning sexual abuse crisis.
Several days ago, the Saints released a statement saying they were just one of several New Orleans business leaders contacted by the Archdiocese for advice on how to "handle" the media. The statement indicates the Saints' officials told the Archdiocese to be direct and transparent. To read about that, check out this WGNO story.
Today, SNAP says they are demanding that the Saints release the emails, and they're asking the NFL to intervene. They also want local police and prosecutors to launch an investigation into sexual abuse in the Archdiocese.
"SNAP is extremely alarmed by the news that the New Orleans Saints football team is refusing to release the emails between it and the Archdiocese of New Orleans," a release from SNAP reads. "While the collusion between the two organizations is disturbing enough, in refusing to be 'direct, open, and transparent' about what transpired, the Saints appears to be using National Football League assets to undermine the efforts of abuse survivors seeking justice through the courts. Now, SNAP is calling for a public apology from the Saints' ownership, as well as a pledge from them to support victims of abuse in the Catholic Church, not just the institution where the crimes occurred."
“The survivors, family members of victims, and children of Louisiana deserve a formal apology from the Archdiocese of New Orleans, the New Orleans Saints football organization, and the National Football League,” said Richard Windmann, SNAP Louisiana leader. “But words aren’t enough, and we call on Gayle Benson and the Saints to take real, concrete steps towards supporting survivors of abuse.”
“Ms. Benson and her team lent their expertise to the Archdiocese, so we call on them to do the same for victims who are fighting for transparency and reform,” said Kevin Bourgeois, SNAP New Orleans Leader.
“They can help us craft messages on the importance of statute of limitations reform, the need for statewide investigations and grand juries, and to implore the lay community to work with us," Windmann added. "If the Saints are willing to help an institution that covered-up abuse, the least they can do is to assist survivors in equal measure."
"SNAP is requesting that Gayle Benson and other members of the Saints' executive leadership take the time to meet with its local leaders in Louisiana and offer a public apology, as well as to discuss opportunities to work together to prevent children from being harmed in the future," the release states. "The victims' group is also asking for the District Attorney of Orleans Parish, Leon A. Cannizzaro Jr., the New Orleans Police Department, and federal authorities to investigate not only the individual abusers, but also the Archdiocese itself. It seems very clear to SNAP that the New Orleans Archdiocese is willing to go to great lengths in order to massage public understanding of Catholic abuse in Louisiana."
“With the advice apparently gained from their relationship with the Saints, Catholic officials in New Orleans rolled out their list of abusive clerics, emphasizing their intention to be 'direct, open, and transparent.' However, the Archdiocese bulked at one suggestion from the team's PR professionals, that it might benefit by saying it supported a victims' right to pursue a remedy through the courts,” said Bourgeois. “Now both the Archdiocese and the Saints are being the exact opposite 'direct, transparent, and open.' But we hold out hope that Ms. Benson and her team will meet with us and join us in doing work that will prevent abuse, not hide it.”