Barbara Blaine, Who Championed Victims of Priests’ Abuse, Dies at 61

Ms. Blaine’s life changed after she read Mr. Berry’s articles in 1985 in the newspaper The National Catholic Reporter about a serial pedophile priest in Louisiana. She, too, had been molested for years as a teenager in Toledo, Ohio, by a priest who she said had convinced her that she was an “evil temptress.”

Mr. Berry’s articles helped her realize, she later told him, that the priest’s actions had been a crime and that she was not at fault. After Ms. Blaine confronted the priest, the Rev. Chet Warren, and his superiors, the church agreed to pay for therapy for her, but the priest was allowed to remain in ministry for years.

She started SNAP in 1988 as a support group, finding fellow victims through an ad placed in The National Catholic Reporter. Some of the early meetings were at the Catholic Worker house in Chicago, but there were also gatherings in San Francisco, St. Louis and other cities.

“We had the idea this would be necessary only for a couple of years,” said David Clohessy, an abuse survivor who soon joined Ms. Blaine as a leader of the organization. “Honestly, we thought there were maybe only 200 people like us across the country.”

Before long, the mission broadened to include advocacy. Members would stick fliers on the windshields of cars parked at a church during Mass warning that an abusive priest was inside. Victims stood outside cathedrals and even on St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican holding photographs of themselves as children when they were first molested.

Ms. Blaine told her story to the local news media in Toledo, and her abuser was removed from ministry after more of his victims came forward. She received a settlement from the church.

“She wasn’t trying to change the world; she was trying to heal herself,” said Barbara Dorris, the managing director of the Survivors Network and an early participant in the group. “She was trying to work within the church, but Barbara couldn’t because the systems failed her and her perpetrator was still out there. She felt, like every victim feels, that there’s this responsibility to speak up before what happened to you happens to someone else.”

In 2002, after a vast cover-up of abusive priests in Boston was revealed by The Boston Globe, and after similar accounts emerged across the country, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops asked Ms. Blaine and Mr. Clohessy to address them at a pivotal meeting in Dallas. American bishops eventually adopted a…

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