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Clergy Sexual Abuse and Misconduct

Clergy sexual abuse occurs when a member of a religious organization uses a position of power and trust to exploit and sexually abuse a member of their congregation. The perpetrator may be a priest, nun, minister, pastor, rabbi, or any other agent of a religious institution. Sexual abuse and misconduct occur with or without the consent of the victim. It is prevalent in both genders, and the victims include children and vulnerable adults.

In addition to the Catholic Church, sexual abuse has been identified in many religious institutions. These include Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, Southern Baptist, United Methodist, Church of Scientology, and clergy from the Jewish community.

 Survivors of Clergy Sexual Abuse Bear Tragic Consequences

Clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse can catastrophically affect a victim’s future. There may be life-long trust issues such as difficulty forming and maintaining personal relationships. Mental health challenges may impede the victim’s ability to maintain employment. They may suffer from substance abuse and even suicidal ideation.

Important Criteria to Consider in a Clergy Sex Abuse Case:

  • When and where the sexual abuse occurred
  • The age of the victim
  • The physical injuries sustained and how it has affected the victim’s life
  • The psychological trauma sustained and how it has affected the victim’s life
  • If there were witnesses to the sexual abuse
  • The alleged clergy had recent or frequent transfers
  • Whether the victim has undergone medical or psychological treatment resulting from the sexual abuse
  • If the victim was physically disabled or mentally incapacitated at the time of the sexual abuse

A Lack of Accountability for Decades in the Catholic Church 

A victim’s harm intensifies when they learn that religious leaders cover up abuse due to their need to avoid a scandal. There have been countless abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, especially involving children. The Catholic Church has been widely criticized for its failure to report alleged criminal acts to law enforcement. For decades, the Church chose its reputation against the needs of those who have suffered. Historically, they reassigned offending priests from parish to parish or retired them when accusations surfaced.

Through the legal theory of vicarious liability, a religious organization is responsible for the actions of its agents. Nationwide scandals have exposed the systemic pattern of abuse, concealment, and the scope of the misconduct. A current database of accused clergy released by the Catholic Diocese and other religious institutions is available. (see Sources)

A Landmark Report Changed the Legal Landscape

A Pennsylvania grand jury report in 2018 revealed details about decades of abuse and cover-ups in six out of eight Catholic dioceses in that state. This report brought the issue to widespread public attention. The grand jury met for two years, reviewing 500,000 documents and hearing testimony. They identified hundreds of priests and at least 1,000 victims. It is suspected that countless more victims did not come forward during the investigation.

The grand jury report identified specific ways the Church leaders protected their institutions. For example, investigations were discouraged, and the word “rape” was not allowed. An accused clergy underwent a mental evaluation based on their self-reporting. Parishioners were not made aware when offending priests were removed from a parish. When transferred to a new parish, the Church did not reveal the offender’s status as a pedophile or sexual abuser. Despite allegations, the parishes continued to provide the offending clergy with housing and living expenses.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations varies by state. Many states have expanded or suspended the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse so that victims can recover compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages. Due to the epidemic of clergy sexual abuse, many Catholic dioceses have created compensation funds for those with valid claims. A complete guide on the statute of limitations by the state is found at https://apps.rainn.org/policy/compare/statutes.cfm

Federal Sexual Offenses for Adults and Minors

Federal Sex Crimes cover a broad range of sexual misconduct and are governed under Title 18 of the United States Code:

 

Child sex crimes are generally prosecuted at the federal level. Examples of sex crimes that violate the United States criminal code are sex trafficking of adults and minors, child sexual exploitation, and child rape. Other violations are kidnapping to commit a sexual offense, sexual abuse of a child, computer sex crimes, child pornography, and sex crimes resulting in death.

The Michael Brady Lynch Firm Brings Religious Organizations to Justice

The Michael Brady Lynch Firm is nationally recognized for representing sexual abuse victims. We understand the sensitive nature of filing these claims and that it is difficult for survivors to come forward. Our legal team is here to help you find justice and healing. Our law firm encourages all victims living with the trauma of clergy sexual abuse to file a civil claim. A court of law can bring justice and transparency to the gross misconduct that has infiltrated religious organizations for decades.

 

Contact The Michael Brady Lynch Firm at (888)585-5970. Let us be your advocate and help you today.

Sources:

https://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/sexual-assault-abuse/religious-

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/AtAGlance/data.h

https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/report/

 

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