The unsettling but all-too-common revelations of sexual abuse find Pennsylvania as the latest of Catholic dioceses and archdioceses to face charges. This occurred when the state’s attorney general announced findings by a grand jury investigation of sexual abuse by 300 predatory clergy involving 1000 victims who were children. The only thing more disturbing than these terrible acts is the fact church officials sought to systematically cover it up over the last 60 years, often rewarding those who successfully did so.
Starting in Boston 16 years ago, the allegations and revelations against Catholic priests and higher-ups has created a crisis in the church that is institutional, reputational and financial. It continues to grow with each passing day with each new revelation.
Too late for criminal charges
While some of the priests have died and others have left the priesthood, the cover-up was effective long enough that statute of limitations means that most priests and officials who have not left or died will not face charges.
Not too late for damages According to NPR, lawsuits by victims have so far forced an estimated $3 billion to be paid by dioceses and other religious orders within the U.S. Catholic Church. This includes 210 million in St. Paul for 450 victims. With the number of victims more than double the number for St. Paul, expect the number to be larger. So far, 18 dioceses have filed for bankruptcy protection in light of the money awarded to hundreds of victims across the country.
If you or a loved were sexually abused as a child by someone affiliated with a religious organization, athletic team or school, it may be time for you to step forward to either press charges or seek damages. While a settlement or punishment will not eliminate the trauma of what happened, it can help provide closure to a terrible chapter no one should ever have to suffer through.