While the Catholic Church has faced lawsuits around the world over allegations of clergy abuse, how much the Catholic Church has paid in settlements worldwide has never been determined. However, according to the nonprofit organization Bishop Accountability, the church has paid out more than $3 billion in major settlements and awards in the United States. Some groups believe this number underestimates by nearly $1 billion the actual cost to the U.S. church for covering up clergy abuse for nearly a half-century.
The Catholic Church faces lawsuits from the victims that were abused by clergy members around the world. Claims against the church increase as more and more victims finally step forward and report what happened. Legal systems are taking a stand as well to help those victims by providing aid and strictly enforcing laws despite lobbying from the church. Several jurisdictions have even suspended or extended the statute of limitations to allow older victims to report their abuse and file lawsuits to hold the Catholic Church accountable. If you are the victim of clergy abuse, this is one of the best times to step forward. There is more support now than ever for you to hold the church accountable.
Prevalence of Clergy Abuse Worldwide
Clergy abuse occurred around the world, and the number of cases is far higher than anyone expected. It is difficult to get an accurate number of worldwide cases, but organizations have begun tracking the cases. In the U.S. alone through 2009, Bishop Accountability reported more than 15,000 allegations made to Catholic bishops.
Given the prevalence of clergy abuse, it is easy to understand how much the Catholic Church paid in settlements worldwide. The number of cases is expected to increase as more victims come forward and legal systems open the door for victims who previously could not report their abuse.
To ease the stress on the legal system and to give victims the resources that they need to support a case, large groups of victims have banded together to file class-action lawsuits. One of the largest settlements involved the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and awarded $600 million to a group of more than 500 victims abused by 221 individual clergy members. Victims also have filed many individual cases against clergy members.
There are also cases against the Catholic Church itself related to the coverup efforts. By hiding the reports of abuse and actively concealing abusive priests, individual churches and the Catholic Church organization made themselves liable for the abuse as well. Lawsuits have been filed against clergy at multiple levels of leadership, further expanding the reach of victims to hold the church accountable.
History of Clergy Abuse
Reports of abuse by clergy are not new. There are cases in the United States that extend all the way back to the 1950s. Bishop Accountability, a group dedicated to tracking the allegations leveled against members of the church, has records of recent settlements for cases that extend back to the 1950s.
Until the 1990s, most cases of abuse were not investigated. The church participated in a massive coverup of abuse, shuffling accused clergy members to different locations to avoid problems. Unfortunately, many of these new appointments led to further abuse.
In 2002, news agencies such as The Boston Globe reported on the coverup of the abuse. These reports exposed what was happening in the Catholic Church. Since then, more victims have come forward to speak out, creating a movement to hold clergy and the church accountable.
Settlement vs. Trials
If you file a lawsuit, there are four ways that it can end:
Few victims withdraw their cases, and dismissals usually occur for technical or procedural reasons. Many cases end in settlements. Going to trial takes time and resources that most people either do not have or do not want to undergo. Because of this, there are advantages to both sides in a settlement agreement.
Since most cases settle before going to trial, there is a good chance that you will receive a settlement offer if your lawsuit is seen as credible. Before you agree to any deal, you may want to have a lawyer review it. Settlement agreements usually do not cover the full amount of compensation that victims need. A lawyer can assess the offer and renegotiate on your behalf if needed.
Call to Schedule a Free Consultation
Being the victim of clergy abuse has a big impact on your life. That does not mean that you must suffer alone. Now is the time to speak out and have your story heard, especially since so many people are willing to offer support. If you or a loved one was the victim of clergy abuse, you might want to consult with a lawyer to see what your legal options are. Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 219-9622 to discuss your case with our legal team.