SNAP: The perfect resource for victims of Priest Abuse

speaking at snap

SNAP is so important these days

I’m in beautiful Washington, DC, getting together with other leaders of SNAP, renewing friendships and attending the SNAP Annual Conference.

For those not familiar with SNAP, the acronym stands for Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests. It was founded by Chicago’s Barbara Blaine in 1988 and has become the largest and most active organization for people wounded by religious authority figures.

Barbara built the organization slowly, contacting survivors she learned about and inviting them to get together to share information and help. I’m inviting you to reach out to  SNAP for all the knowledge and resources you need to deal with abuse. There is no more caring organization in the world.

How I got involved with SNAP

I learned about SNAP in Los Angeles in 2003, when I was being interviewed for a feature article on Father Rucker and priest abuse. Joelle Casteix, a member of SNAP, was in the attorney’s office where I was interviewed. From the moment we met she was there to support me. A wonderful representative of the organization.

As helpful as Joelle was, I fought off SNAP for the longest time because I saw it as somehow connected to the church, which I wanted nothing more to do with. I didn’t want to fight the church in any way and I didn’t want to give it any more energy, or any more of my life.

Then, because I was one of only a tiny handful who’d come forward about abuse, Barbara, founder of SNAP, asked me to join her at rallies and events in Western Washington. Doing that, I realized the importance of being a face and a voice – especially for those who could not speak for themselves. As I spoke, I began to see how SNAP is it’s own organization, not a church affiliate and it really is about keeping children safe from sexual violence and supporting victims. Then I was able to separate efforts on behalf of SNAP from giving energy to the church. In 2007, after seeing some of the great help SNAP provided, Barbara asked me to be the Puget Sound area rep, and I was able to say yes. Since then I’ve been privileged to meet many victims, to hear their stories and to point them to the help they need to heal.

How SNAP can help you

If you’ve been victimized by clergy, I strongly encourage you to check out all SNAP has to offer. There are monthly self-help group meetings in chapters across the country, help is available over the phone, and many resources are available online. For those who want to get involved in preventing future abuse, SNAP provides those opportunities too.

Visit the SNAP website for more information on clergy abuse, survival skills, and ways to help keep children safe.

Mortal Sins Event a Success

The event at Town Hall in Seattle featuring Michael D’Antonio and  his new book Mortal Sins Sex, Crime and the Era of Catholic Scandal was a success. A great crowd turned out to hear and learn about the crisis of priest abuse in the Catholic Church. The panel of experts, of which I was one, was excellent.

The message I was left with was that there are many who love the Catholic Church, despite the current scandal of mortal sins and other problems. They want to right the wrongs, face them, tell the truth, ask forgiveness and move on while remaining within the institutional Church.

I say bravo for all good people who remain within institutions to bring about positive change. I am not one of them. I am among those who have chosen to leave the Catholic Church. And yet, I long for the day when the Catholic Church returns to honesty, compassion, truth telling and LOVE.

Mortal Sins and Being Catholic

vintage sin signWhen I was growing up Catholic, I learned that there were four kinds of sins: original sin, actual sin, venial sin and MORTAL SIN. Mortal sin was the deadliest sin in town. For a sin to be mortal, the action you committed had to be very bad. You needed to know it was very bad and go ahead and do it anyway! Almost sounds fun.

Coming to Town Hall Seattle on June 30th at 7:30 pm, is Michael D’Antonio, to speak on Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime and the Era of Catholic Scandal.  The mortal sins we’ll learn about that evening are the sins committed by priests against innocent children and teens. The scandal, as I see it, isn’t about the Church as much as it is about children and families who were betrayed by a Church they loved and trusted – that’s the real scandal.

Rebuilding trust takes a long time and it begins by telling the truth and saying, “I’m sorry.” The Church has it right when it teaches in order for forgiveness to happen, we must tell the truth of our sins, make amends to the harmed person, say I’m sorry and put our actions with our words by changing our offensive behavior. If only, the Catholic Church would practice what it preaches, what a different Church it could be.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk

Looking Forward to the SNAP Annual Conference


On July 24th (2013) I head off to Washington, DC to attend the SNAP Annual Conference. SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests founded in 1988, is the oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP’s mission is to protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded and expose the truth. As a area rep of SNAP for Seattle/Washington, I will enjoy sharing what’s going on here and learning about projects for helping survivors from around the world.

This year I have a couple of additional things to look forward to. Number one – I’ll have a few copies of my book to share, and second, I’ll be spending a bit of time with Michael D’Antonio, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal.

Michael has been a wonderful support for me as I worked on SPLIT and was kind enough to write the foreword for the book.

An investigative journalist, Michael comes at the subject of priest abuse from the expose angle. He’s very much interested in holding the church accountable for the sins of the fathers. Though my story includes elements of that, my main focus is more on healing and going on with life. Though we come at the subject differently, we’re definitely on the same team – the SNAP team.

I look forward to meeting and working with Michael and all the other SNAP leaders and coming back home to my region with new ideas and inspiration for the coming year. For information about SNAP go to

Hello! I’m Mary Dispenza

I, Mary Dispenza, want to fix the systems that break people

I was once a broken person. Now, through this blog, I look at broken systems and ideas for making them whole again. This blog is about finding ways to help broken people, ideas for overcoming personal breakage and how to live unabashed.

As an experienced broken person, I’ve faced the damage and learned many methods for healing. I’m now an advocate for those going through the process of healing.

I write about many aspects of breakage and renewal. Here I’ll be exploring:

  • Finding my way from the shame and secrecy of childhood priest abuse to health, intimacy and love
  • Using spiritual and creative tools to overcome the shame and secrecy of childhood priest abuse
  • Moving from the betrayal of abuse to a life of meaning and purpose
  • Understanding the intricate connections between spirituality, sexuality and shame
  • How spirituality and sexuality are skewed and turned to shame by priest sexual abuse
  • The step by step process of settling with the Catholic Church for betraying and abusing you
  • Telling the truth about sexuality
  • How to fight against bullying and hate in relationship to being gay

As an advocate I share:

  • News about Catholic Church actions from the perspective of a former nun
  • About the secrecy and dysfunction of the Catholic Church
  • How healing takes place within our lives in spite of trauma and abuse
  • Issues of sexuality and acceptance in relationship to gay, lesbian,bisexual and transgender men and women

I’m your elder sister. I’ve been there before you. My case was one of the first settled by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. I learned to deal with my own abuse in healthy ways and kept my spiritual life intact. I also managed not to let anger taint my life.

You’ll get the perspective of one who:

  • Has seen the dark inside and lived to tell about it
  • Understands the intricacies of church dysfunction
  • Understands what the church could be if it tried
  • Advocates for survivors of abuse
  • Supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men, woman and children
  • Teaches others how to take charge of their lives and healing

Subscribe to updates so you don’t miss a single one of the these valuable bulletins. You’ll get:

  • Increased understanding of what’s going on in the Church with regard to abuse of children
  • Steps for individual healing from abuse
  • Stories to inspire and encourage
  • And now and then, righteous anger at appropriate targets

But most of all – Affirmation and Love!

Thank you for joining me here.

Mary Dispenza