January 25, 2017

Lawsuit Alleges Support Group for Victims of Sexual Abuse by Priests Took “Kickbacks” From Lawyers

By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team

Gretchen Hammond, the former development director at the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), has filed a retaliatory discharge suit against her former employer in Chicago, where SNAP maintains its national headquarters.  SNAP has been instrumental in exposing sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests, as well as the role played by the Church in covering up and, ultimately, perpetuating the abuse.  The organization was founded in 1988 and has chapters in every state, in Canada and in Mexico.

According to the lawsuit, however, SNAP “does not focus on protecting or helping survivors — it exploits them.”  Specifically, Hammond alleges that lawyers who sue the Catholic Church on behalf of sexual abuse victims donate to SNAP in exchange for client referrals.  She further alleges that SNAP has received direct payments from settlements negotiated with the Church.

Although it is not illegal for attorneys to donate to organizations that refer clients, Hammond’s suit also raises concerns about SNAP’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.  According to Hammond, SNAP operates substantially for commercial purposes and should be taxed accordingly.  Hammond alleges that she was terminated by SNAP in retaliation for raising these concerns about the organization’s mission and attorney donations.

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