New York has seen a large number of lawsuits against the Catholic Church for various forms of abuse, but very few priests have been convicted in New York of sexual abuse. The number of lawsuits is extensive and figures to grow as church officials release more names—ABC News reported that the Archdiocese of New York provided a list of 120 clergy members “credibly accused” of sexually abusing minors. This release came on the heels of other regional dioceses also providing clergy lists.
While the number of cases filed is high, it is more challenging to keep track of the number of priests that have been convicted in New York. Two factors lead to the difficulty in determining this figure:
- The state does not report on this category of convictions.
- The statute of limitations precludes criminal prosecutions for many of the reported cases of abuse.
While it may not be possible to recover that information from the state, many cases may not have gone to trial yet. As more defendants go to trial, that may lead to a high number of convictions.
Conviction vs. Reported Cases
It is important to remember that the number of reported cases does not directly correlate to the number of priests that have been convicted in New York. This is for several reasons, including the fact that not all of the lawsuits are against one specific abuser. In some cases, there are multiple abusers listed, as well as lawsuits filed directly against the Catholic Church itself.
It is also difficult to track the number of convictions because many of the reported statistics cloud the information. For example, the list posted by the Archdiocese of New York has several problems with it:
- It includes only clergy members who were credibly accused, a highly subjective standard.
- It only includes clergy accused of sexual abuse against minors, leaving out all other forms of reported abuse.
- It only includes leader-level clergy (priests or higher) who were formally accepted into the Archdiocese of New York, excluding priests who belonged to religious orders such as the Jesuits or Franciscans.
This list and others released by dioceses throughout the state cannot show the full depth of the cases brought against the Catholic Church.
Long-Term Impacts of Clergy Abuse
Clergy abuse often has long-term impacts on the victims, especially child victims. These impacts can include:
- Emotional problems: Often the result of trauma, this category consists of any conditions that limit a person’s ability to regulate or adequately respond to emotions. For example, many abuse victims are prone to rage outbursts or sudden fear responses without apparent causes.
- Personality disorders: Abuse can significantly impact development and lead to paranoia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and others.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): A condition where victims are prone to heightened stress responses, which affect their quality of life and mental health over a long period. Specialized care is usually needed to compensate for PTSD.
- Behavioral problems: Victims can also have behavior problems, especially if the abuse happened as a child. Behavior problems are conditions where victims act out or adopt problem behaviors to compensate for their mental and emotional problems.
- Social problems: Victims often have difficulty forming positive social connections after abuse until significant treatment helps them correct other issues.
There are other long-term impacts of abuse that are not covered on this list. All these impacts generally need medical or mental health treatment to see improvement. These treatments can be expensive, especially if they are needed long-term, which is why filing a clergy abuse lawsuit to recover compensation may offer the help that victims need.
Statute of Limitations for Clergy Abuse
In all states, there is a statute of limitations, or a time limit, that victims have to file lawsuits against their abusers. Traditionally, the statute of limitations for abuse cases allowed child victims to file claims until they turned 25. This gave them time past the age of maturity (18 in New York) to file a lawsuit as an adult.
However, the statute of limitations temporarily changed in 2019 in response to many new cases being discovered. In response, the state passed the New York Child Victims Act. It added an additional 30 years to the statute, effectively allowing victims to file lawsuits until they are 55.
The legislation was only intended to be in place for a year to give older victims the chance to come forward, although Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently extended the window through January 2021. If you think you may have a case that should be filed, you might want to consult a lawyer to see if your case qualifies under the New York Child Victims Act.
Contact a Lawyer to Discuss Your Case
Coming forward after being abused is one of the hardest things for anyone to do. However, the legal system stands behind victims now more than ever, even adjusting laws to give people the chance to step forward.
If you or a loved one was the victim of clergy abuse, you might want to consult a lawyer to review your legal options. You may be able to seek compensation for mental health treatment and your pain and suffering. Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 219-9622 to discuss your case with our legal team.