Catholic clergy sexual abuse: A serious worldwide problem

Recent reports that a high-ranking Vatican official has been accused of sexual abuse confirm that child molestation by Catholic clergy is a global problem with far-reaching implications. For decades, accusations have been lodged against priests and Catholic leaders who either abused kids, allowed the abuse to occur or covered up sex crimes. Many of them have led to significant financial settlements, terrible P.R. for the Church and, increasingly, jail time for the abusers.

According to Time magazine, Cardinal George Pell of Australia was charged with crimes related to sexual abuse. The Church's Vatican-based treasurer and adviser to Pope Francis is the former Archbishop of Melbourne and Archbishop of Sydney. He is reportedly the highest ranking Catholic leader to be accused of sexual abuse.

 

An alleged history of abuse and failure to stop abuse

The New York Times reported that the accusations against Cardinal Pell, who is in his seventies, may date to his early priesthood. According to the Times, Louise Milligan, a reporter for Australia's ABC network, said that the abuse allegations "covered several decades." Pell has long been accused of mishandling investigations into alleged abuse by other priests, but this case represents the first allegations against the cardinal himself.

Alarming statistics, announced by Time, indicate how pervasive the clergy abuse crisis has become:

  • Approximately seven percent of priests in the Australian church between 1950 and 2009 have been accused of abuse.
  • From 1950 to June 2015, about 5.6 percent of priests in the U.S. Catholic church were accused of child sexual abuse.
  • In one year alone (2007), the Archdiocese of Los Angeles paid out $660 million to abuse victims.

What victims can do

These figures and stories are disgusting and shocking. For many abuse victims, who have been treated criminally as children by trusted religious leaders, it requires tremendous energy to come forward and speak their truth.

But it is important to tell what happened. Victims can turn to an experienced attorney for confidential advice and counsel regarding their legal rights, regardless of when the abuse took place.

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