Some priests and other clergy members have committed acts of sexual abuse against children within their dioceses, parishes and schools. Higher-ranking church officials such as bishops or vicars have even aided them by covering up the abuse, reassigning offenders to new locations and denying the abuse ever occurred.
- From 2004 to 2014 alone, 3,400 cases of abuse were reported within the Church, but there are likely many more cases that went unreported.
- From 1950 to 2002, 4,392 priests were accused of sexually abusing children.
- Most victims were between the ages of 11 and 14, but children of all ages have been sexually abused by priests and clergy members.
The Church’s Response to Abuse Claims
Since Catholic priest abuse stories first began coming to light several decades ago, the Church has claimed ignorance or remained largely silent on the topic. In fact, on many occasions when a child came forward about sexual abuse by a priest, the Church simply relocated the predatory priest to a different parish without warning parents or parishioners, exposing unwitting children to the perpetrator.
Under pressure from abuse victims and their attorneys, including some of the attorneys on our team, the Church has recently taken the following mild steps to protect children and remove priests who have sexually abused children:
- In 2011, the Society of Jesus Oregon Province (Northwest Jesuits) conceded in negotiations with an attorney from our team and others to pay a $166.1 million settlement and implement 22 “Non-Monetary Commitments” for the protection of children, including publishing, “the names of all members of the Province, who are identified as perpetrators of Sexual Abuse in proofs of claim filed in the Case.”
- Between 2004–2014, the Church defrocked 848 priests who had molested children.
- In 2011 and 2012 alone, almost 400 priests were defrocked by Pope Benedict XVI due to accusations of sexual abuse of children.
- Between 2004–2014, a total of 2,572 sexually abusive priests were given religious “sentences,” such as penance, for sexually abusing children.
- In 2013 and 2014, the Church spent over $30 million on protective efforts such as “safe environment training programs,” but it remains a question whether these programs are designed to protect children or merely to provide the outward appearance that the Church is protecting children.
More can and should be done. When lawsuits have been brought against the Catholic Church and it is forced to pay millions in settlements to compensate victims, meaningful change occurs. Between July 2013 and June 2014, the Church paid out over $119 million in settlements and therapy for victims and instituted some reforms. More victims coming forward will bring about even more reform.
Our Mission in Cases Involving Institutions
Our mission in cases involving the Catholic Church is no different than in any other case: we seek healing and justice for abuse victims and the protection of children.
If you or someone you know was sexually abused in the Catholic Church or any other institution, we are here to help. Our experienced team members guide abuse victims through the legal process and empower them to seek justice and compensation from those responsible for the abuse. In doing so, we ease the discomfort they may feel disclosing their abuse and protect their identity and confidentiality, often bringing claims under a pseudonym — and we empower them to heal.