Written on behalf of Brian S. Kabateck
October 19, 2018
Investigations into priest sex abuse allegations are underway in Catholic Church dioceses across the country. Earlier this month, the Diocese of San Bernardino released a list of 34 priests who faced accusations of child sexual abuse in incidents that date back to the 1960s. 14 of the priests accused were banned from the diocese, 14 have passed away, 5 were removed from priesthood, and the status of the last priest is unknown. The report came to light in response to the Pennsylvania grand jury report that was released in the beginning of August that explained in detail the sexual abuse perpetrated by Roman Catholic priests against children, as well as the church’s systematic cover up of that abuse.
Nearly two decades after reporters and investigators uncovered sexual abuse in the church, this new report has Catholics wondering why something this tragic continues happening and why little has been done to stop it. The report names over 400 priests from Pennsylvania, and has data recorded of over 1,000 children who were molested and shows how priests continued their ministry with no repercussions. The Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania published a list of 71 religious and seminarians, some of them now passed, accused of sexual abuse of minors since 1940. The list includes 37 priests, three deacons and six seminarians of that diocese, as well as nine other clerics and sixteen members of religious communities. The list also includes cases related to allegations of indecent and inappropriate behavior, such as kissing, child pornography, and inappropriate communications with minors. This is when we ask the question, why is the Catholic church only protecting its own and not the children?
The grand jury reported on the abuse little boys and girls had to deal with in the hands of priests, all while the church knew and did what they could to hide the truth from the public eye. Because of the time these reports date back to, most of these cases were too old to be prosecuted, but the grand jury wanted the public to know what the Catholic Church has been doing for all these years, and to our own children. In the report, the jury claimed that all cases were put aside by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and the institution above all, and had proof within the released document that indeed, many leaders forgave the abusers and let them continue their ministry in other churches, schools and services.
According to the website Live Science, Catholics make up the single largest religious groups in the United States, that includes people from different ethnicities and socio-economic statuses. Many of those people include Hispanics and Latinos. CNN reported that the abuse has driven many people away from the religion in order to protect their children, with others stating that their faith was strong and that the Church would rebuild.
This is not the first time the church has been accused of covering up reports of sexual abuse. Allegations of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church have been disputed since the 1980s, and how members of the church have covered up the reports of abuse by diminishing its severity to the public. It wasn’t until the issue started getting attention of the public eye that people started to realize how big the problem was and to what extent it went to, and by then, many children had already been through the abuse. Many children kept the abuse a secret for many years, well into their adulthood, and a few others opened up for the first time for the grand jury report. Other victims state that they reported the abuse to other church officials after it happened, and said that little to nothing was done about it, and it wasn’t more than a “slap to the wrist” for many priests.
After the release of the grand jury report, a former Vatican official, Carlo Maria Viganò, published an open letter calling for Pope Francis to resign after turning a blind eye to an ex-Cardinal’s years of sexual abuse and harassment against junior seminarians. Viganò claimed that the pope’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, had imposed sanctions against the ex-Cardinal, mandating that he carry out the remainder of his life in prayer and seclusion, only for Pope Francis to lift the ban in 2013. This sparked a large debate on whether the Pope was encouraging the abusive behavior within the church and knew what was going on and did nothing to stop it.
For many Catholics, the latest scandal doesn’t only spark questions about the church’s power and their personal faith, but it also raises concerns about their own children’s safety, as well as whether raising a family in the church amounts to complicity with a system that let the abuse continue for decades. The future of the Catholic Church depends on how our leaders act in the coming days and what happens to those that have abused the innocent children.
KBK represents victims of sexual abuse who pursue civil action against a perpetrator and in some cases, additional parties. While sexual assault and molestation can lead to criminal prosecution, a civil lawsuit is the only way that sexual abuse victims can recover monetary damages for the emotional and psychological harm they’ve suffered.
In some circumstances, a plaintiff can bring a claim against a third party in addition to the perpetrator. Examples include suing a school district if a teacher sexually abused a student or bringing actions against a city and its police department if an officer sexually assaulted a civilian.
A civil lawsuit can enact change, provide remedies and protects the private rights of victims. Although a lawsuit can’t undo the harm caused by the perpetrator, it allows victims to obtain compensation for damages which can pay for medical or therapy bills, loss wages, loss of enjoyment in life and provide a sense of vindication that can help assist with recovery and healing.
If you or a loved one has experienced sexual abuse you must learn more about your legal rights to receive compensation. Give one of our experienced personal injury attorneys at Kabateck LLP a call today to learn more about recovering damages and to explore your options. We can help you achieve the maximum compensation for the harm you or a loved one has suffered.