Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyers In Pennsylvania
Most Pennsylvanians will be familiar with at least some of the hundreds of stories of clergy abuse over many decades. As clergy abuse lawyers, we have represented many survivors.
The state has been at the epicenter of this problem in the U.S., horrifying locals and many people around the country.
Recently, sexual abuse victims have increasingly reported cases involving clergy. Grand jury reports have exposed the depth of this internal cancer.
Sexual abuse of any kind is intolerable. When it happens to children whose well-being is entrusted to the care of the Church, it creates a unique layer o trauma. Victims not only confront the physical violation, but many carry the mental and spiritual scars through their adult lives. This trauma often leads to behavioral problems, relationship issues, and health challenges.
With such far-reaching consequences, one might have thought the Catholic Church would do everything possible to help victims. Unfortunately, the reverse is true in many instances.
Cover Ups Of Sexual Abuse In The Church
Just as alarming as the reports of sexual abuse in the Church is the revelation about how many instances were covered up.
In every report and investigation, the Church protected perpetrators over children. Many stories highlight how the institution knew of abuse from clergy members but did not act upon it. Effectively, this allowed abusers to continue their crimes for years.
The Catholic Church sought to protect its reputation by covering up clergy abuse. An adequate system was in place to “bury” evidence of the abuse and retain the Church’s good name in the community.
One of the most common methods was moving alleged offenders to other parishes or dioceses.
How Clergy Abuse Lawyers Helped to Expose the Church
In days gone by, there were no online records, social media, or mass communication, so any reports of abuse remained local – and did not follow the priest to their new location. This allowed abusive clergy members to continue their crimes in the new parish or diocese.
A Church-sponsored report found that, in 2002-2003 alone, at least 150 Catholic priests were removed to another diocese or “retired” after facing credible allegations of sexual abuse. The actual number of cases is likely to be considerably higher.
As civil cases were filed and depositions occurred, the scope of the evidence was astounding. Civil lawsuits shine a bright light on the church’s tactics and expose them publicly.
A strategy of “silence” appears to have been the main driver of the Church’s actions. Schools, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Jewish synagogue, and more use this same tactic.
Another strategy was to punish whistleblowers, who were sometimes transferred for reporting abuse.
In failing to address the abuse problem and in protecting the reputation of the Church above all else, there is little doubt that many victims suffered unnecessarily at the hands of known abusers.
How Widespread Is Sexual Abuse In The Catholic Church?
Many Americans would have been familiar with isolated stories of abuse in the Church. What has shocked many is how widespread the abuse has proven to be.
A 1993 report by Fr. Andrew Greeley indicated that there may be up to 100,000 victims of Catholic clergy sexual abuse in the U.S. alone.
CNN reported that over 8,600 abuse survivors have received over $3.8 billion in restitution from the Catholic Church. While this number shocked many, it is likely only to scratch the surface. Many more undocumented victims are yet to come forward.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Sex Offender website, only 30 percent of all sexual assault cases get reported.
- 5,679 people alleging sexual abuse by Catholic clergy had reached settlements by 2009 – this has increased since but still only represents a fraction of the allegations (Source: bishop-accountability.org)
- Allegations of clergy abuse exist in 161 of 177 Catholic dioceses in the U.S., and every area of the country is affected (Source: The New York Times)
How Was Catholic Clergy Abuse Uncovered?
While rumors and hearsay about Catholic clergy abuse persisted for decades, the problem was first brought to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s.
After that, it seemed to die down, but the topic came to the fore again recently, despite the Catholic Church’s efforts to cover up reports of sexual abuse among its clergy.
The media played a significant role in uncovering the problem in recent years. The Boston Globe was instrumental when it won a court case that made public any Church documents used in civil lawsuits filed against the Church.
That is when the true extent of the Catholic clergy abuse problem came to light, and due to the courage of the many victims across the country, Pennsylvania has seen a large share of successful cases.
Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations Update
Following a grand jury report in 2018, Pennsylvania followed many states in the U.S. by changing its sexual abuse laws.
These changes were:
- In 2019, the statute of limitations for bringing a sexual abuse case in Pennsylvania was changed from age 30 to age 55.
- Eliminated time limits that previously prevented prosecutors from filing charges against abusers.
- Changed a law that prevented victims from talking to investigators.
- Increased penalties for people required to report suspected abuse but fail to do so.
- Removed sovereign immunity for institutions and organizations
Equally important is that these changes only apply to those victimized after 2018. No bill was retroactive. The key change in the law recommended by many Grand Jury reports has yet to be implemented. The creation of a window for previously time-barred victims to follow a lawsuit has yet to pass in PA, even though our surrounding states have done so with much success.
Two bills are currently active in the PA legislature. HB2 would open a 2-year revival window for expired claims of sexual abuse of minors. SB1, which includes a proposal to amend Section 11, Article 1 of the PA Constitution to provide a 2-year window for individuals to revive claims of childhood sexual assault that were/are barred by the statute of limitations.
Unfortunately, disagreement between the PA Senate and House has prevented progress. The passage is facing an uphill battle. As a result, this leaves survivors in Pennsylvania in legal limbo with no recourse to access justice.
The lawyers at Andreozzi + Foote and our clients have been some of the leading advocates of this change.
What Compensation Can Victims Claim For Clergy Sexual Abuse In Pennsylvania?
The sexual abuse attorneys at Andreozzi & Foote are here to help Pennsylvania victims get restitution for past crimes against them.
Seeking justice for clergy abuse can help survivors while holding the individual and the institution accountable for their actions. Thereby preventing future mistreatment of others.
Compensation for the pain and suffering caused may include:
- Costs of counseling and mental or physical therapy
- Costs of medical care
- Loss of ability to earn a living
- Pain and suffering