The Latest Chapter in the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal in the United States
2019 marked a new round of broad media coverage about the sexual abuse of children by priests and other people in positions of authority in the Catholic Church in the United States and in some other religious faiths as well. The spike in media coverage largely resulted from the fact that a growing number of Catholic dioceses in the United States were undertaking some effort with attorneys general in about a dozen states to comprehensively identify all clergy members and others in position of authority who abused children, sexually and otherwise.
The Catholic Church has gleaned a considerably greater amount of attention in regard to clergy sexually abusing children for three primary reasons. First, a larger number of Catholic priests were identified as sexual predators than clergy members in other faiths. Psychology Today points out that this is not in fact a result of priests offending at a higher rate that ministers in other faiths. Research reveals that the rate of sexual abuse by clergy across a wide swath of religious faiths occurs at the rate of about 4%. In order to provide perspective, the rate of sexual abuse by teachers is estimated to be 5%.
Due to the particularly large size of the Catholic Church as the largest Christian faith in the world, including in the United States, 4% of clergy in that church is a significantly larger gross number of clergy members than in other faiths.
Second, for generations the Catholic Church leadership in the United States was tireless in concealing the criminal wrongdoing of its clergy. In addition to clergy in that church harming children, many bishops compounded the criminality by taking affirmative steps to hide the conduct of priests and exposing an ever-increasing number of children to these predators. Indeed, the concealment of the sexual assault and abuse perpetrated by priests and others extended as high as the Vatican itself, at least until very, very recently.
Bringing sexual predators abusing their positions of authority in churches to justice in the criminal and civil court systems has proven to be a challenging task through the years. When it came to criminally prosecuting priests or suing them in civil court, what is known as the statute of limitations had been a barrier in a significant number of cases. In other words, because many years oftentimes passed before a person reported being sexually abused by a clergy member as a child, it was too late to take legal action. In the past decade, many states have reformed their statute of limitations laws to provide victims of sexual abuse a longer period of time to bring lawsuits against perpetrators.
2019 brought what may prove to be a major turning point in obtaining justice for victims of clergy abuse, specifically in the Catholic Church. Late in 2019, four men who’d been sexually abused as boys by priests in Pennsylvania skirted the statute of limitations by suing the Catholic Diocese of Scranton and bishops of the church for covering up sexual abuse. In other words, while the deadline to sue the priests directly for sexually abusing these men when they were boys passed, these victims appear to have initiated what appears to be a viable case based on the cover-up by the church itself.
As of the beginning of 2020, this case is working its way through the judicial system. On some level, the lawsuit is based on some new or novel legal theories not yet used in seeking justice for victims of clergy sexual abuse. With that said, many victims of abuse by clergy may be in a position to obtain justice based on a cover-up undertaken by a church’s hierarchy.
If you or a loved on was the victim of sexual abuse by a clergy member, teacher, or someone else in a position of authority as a child, there may be viable avenues available to you to finally obtain justice. An experienced, compassionate clergy abuse lawyer from The Doan Law Firm at (800) 349-0000 is available to meet with you to discuss your situation and evaluate your case and options. A nationwide law practice, our firm has offices from coast to coast.
There is fee for a consultation with a clergy abuse attorney. In fact, our firm never charges an attorney fee unless we win for you.