Many Catholic priests were accused in 2018 of clergy abuse following the release of a landmark Diocese Victims Report resulting from a grand jury investigation in the state of Pennsylvania. Before 2018, the total number of Catholic priests accused of abuse across the country reached around 1,500. The grand jury report named more than 300 priests, a sizeable increase from a single case. Within a year of the report’s release, NBC News reported more than 100 dioceses and religious orders came forward with lists of credibly accused priests.
That number has continued to grow rapidly since then, with no end in sight for how many victims will step forward. Thousands of priests face accusations of different forms of abuse, including sexual abuse against children. Much has changed since the Boston Globe’s 2002 story that made the abuse common knowledge, and legal systems and many organizations worldwide offer support to help victims speak out about what happened.
Impact of 2018 Scandal on the Church
Attribute the landslide of new accusations and information coming out about abuse in the Catholic Church to a single case in 2018. Before the case, many churches across the country managed to keep most accusations secret. This single case changed that.
In August 2018, the Pennsylvania grand jury issued a report that named over 300 priests who reportedly abused more than 1,000 people in six dioceses across the state. This was one of the largest lists of abusers released in a single case.
Because of the scope of the list and the level of transparency that it created, many other areas around the country pushed for a similar result. Churches could not hide their abuse claims anymore. ProPublica reported in January 2020 that 6,754 priests have had their names released through January 2020.
The number of Catholic priests accused in 2018 led to major increases in the official totals of accused priests across the country. However, many of these cases are limited in scope. In many cases, the accusations addressed only various forms of child abuse. While this is a step forward, they do not speak to the other forms of abuse that priests committed over the years.
There is evidence that adults (at the time of abuse) also suffered abuse because of priests. Most of the reported cases are sexual in nature, but there were other forms of abuse present. This is important because many of the victims of other forms of abuse may not feel supported during the current wave of support for victims, stopping them from coming forward. Fortunately, many law enforcement agencies across the country push to identify abusers of all types and help victims hold them responsible.
Settlements and Trials
The Catholic Church has faced lawsuits for more than a decade, with many cases ending in settlements. This is not uncommon, because most personal injury cases end in settlements. Going to trial takes a long time, and a settlement can end the ordeal before the stress of a trial.
Another reason why the church settles so many cases is to keep the information from becoming public knowledge, which can help protect the church’s image. Many large organizations do the same thing, so it is not unusual that the Catholic Church did this. However, the church has already paid more than $4 billion in settlements, with more expected in the coming years.
If you file a lawsuit and receive a settlement offer, review it carefully before agreeing. You may want to have a lawyer look it over to ensure that it is a good deal for you.
Signs of Clergy Abuse
Helping someone who was abused by a clergy member can be difficult, mainly because the resulting problems are usually well-hidden. The most effective way to stop the problems is to address the underlying cause. Here are some signs of abuse that you can look for:
- Major personality changes: A sudden shift in personality after abuse starts is a clear sign that there is a problem. Victims of abuse often experience a profound change in their personality, moving toward a sad, disconnected, or aggressive personality type.
- Delayed emotional development: Delays in emotional development often follow abuse that happens to children.
- Social withdrawal: Withdrawing from social activities and having no social life are common since many victims struggle with personal attachments.
- Depression: Abuse victims generally experience depression.
- Avoidance: Victims also tend to avoid situations that remind them of their abuse. This avoidance can seem strange to anyone looking at it without context.
- Seeking affection: Victims often seek positive attention as a coping strategy for the stress and sadness created by their abuse.
There are other signs of abuse not covered on this list. You may want to consult mental health professionals for more information or assistance in helping an abuse victim.
Contact Us Today
If you or a loved one is the victim of clergy abuse, you may want to consult a lawyer about your legal options. Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 794-0444 to speak to our legal team. There is more support than ever for victims of abuse, and you have the right to seek compensation and hold your abuser accountable.