SNAP of Tennessee

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests - Tennessee 

Mike Hitch and his brother, David Hitch, speak in Memphis


Organization alleges clergy abuse  
Nov 16, 2005, 05:41 PM EST TV Channel 5 Memphis


They call themselves SNAP: Survivors Network Abused by Priests. Their message Wednesday was to encourage other victims to come forward. And because of one mans claim, a new investigation will open into claims against a priest who's served Memphis for more than 50 years.

A string of paper silhouettes at a protest Wednesday represented people who claim abuse by Catholic priests in Tennessee. People like Michael Hitch, who came to Memphis from Iowa with his brother, a priest, to tell his story.

Hitch claims he was abused by a Memphis Priest while on a trip to Florida in 1966. He is concerned there are others with similar stories in Memphis.

"To me, we couldn't have been the only boys that he abused," Hitch said. "He wouldn't have done it just on vacations, I think."

Mike Coode's story is similar. He came on a trip to Memphis with a priest from Nashville. Coode said he stayed at the priest's sisters house, and said he was, "Sexually abused by him after a night of drinking and so forth."

The protestors said the purpose of their demonstration was to emphasize that children need to be protected.

Father John Geaney said the Diocese of Memphis has been open and straight forward in the accusation made by Hitch against a Memphis priest, who still lives in Memphis.

"Yes we certainly are aware of him," Geaney said, "ad he has in another situation been accused."

But in that case the Diocese found no cause due to a lack of evidence. Now they plan to investigate the latest claims.

Officials said the problem with criminally investigating many of the cases is that often the statute of limitations has run out. SNAP wants a bill introduced in Nashville to extend the statute.