Clergy Sex Abuse

After a Boston Globe investigation uncovered the horrific truth about the Catholic Church’s long and rampant history of priest sex abuse in the 1990s, more and more survivors have come forward to share their own stories of sex abuse. Clergy sex abuse lawsuits will never change the past, but they do have the power to change the future. They can hold guilty parties accountable, and, if successful, award compensation to those who have suffered.

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What Is Clergy Abuse?

Clergy sex abuse is the abuse of minors perpetrated by Catholic Church officials such as priests and deacons.

In reality, child sex abuse by clergy members is an institution-wide abuse scandal involving sex crimes that will impact survivors their entire lives.

The child survivors who suffered sexual assault should have been protected by the institutions that claimed to have their best interests at heart — but for thousands, this was not the case.

Institutions like the Catholic Church have been able to commit abuse for decades because predators have not been held accountable. Instead, the abusive church leaders were protected by their supervisors and institutions, according to the non-profit corporation

This means that although churches and other organizations were typically the first to know about acts of abuse, they permitted it to continue with little or no consequences.

If you or someone you love experienced childhood sexual abuse by clergy members, we encourage you to take action. Reporting abuse and talking to a clergy abuse lawyer about your legal options may help give you some peace of mind — and prevent future abuse.

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Types of Institutions

Religious institutions like the Catholic Church spent decades protecting predator priests by agreeing not to divulge any details to the public. Instead, those in charge simply shifted a problem priest from one diocese to another.

The Catholic Church, though, is far from the only religious institution to side with sexual predators over victims.

Other religious institutions have played a part in keeping secret a combined thousands of instances of child sexual abuse.

Clergy Sex Abuse News

  • June 2019: New Jersey opens a clergy sex abuse compensation program, which, as of January 30, 2020, has received over 500 claims.
  • August 2019: New York opens a one-year revival window for claims that were previously time-barred. This window extends the statute of limitations for filing clergy sex abuse lawsuits, giving those abused the ability to sue until they reach age 55.
  • September 2019: A new program opens in California to compensate childhood sex abuse survivors; the program was opened by six Catholic dioceses.
  • November 2019: Lawmakers in Pennsylvania pass legislation that extends the civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse lawsuits.
  • December 1, 2019: New Jersey extended the statute of limitations in civil actions for sexual abuse claims and created a two-year window to bring previously time-barred actions based on sexual abuse.

Clergy Abuse Statistics

The extent of the clergy abuse cover-up is shocking, with thousands of people across the United States reporting instances of abuse. Below, find statistics about victims of child sexual abuse, accused priests, and more.

  • According to a study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 4,392 priests were accused of abuse throughout an approximate 50-year span (1950 to 2002).
  • Over 20 dioceses have filed for bankruptcy since 2004, attempting to quietly end existing lawsuits and prevent new ones from being filed.
  • According to a 2018 study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, mental and physical health issues and lower lifetime earnings may cost clergy sex abuse victims over $280,000 throughout their lifetime.
  • According to an investigation conducted by the Associated Press, roughly 1,700 clergy members who were credibly accused of child sex abuse are now living with no supervision from law enforcement.

Though alarming, statistics about allegations of abuse and their resulting impacts on the nation have sparked efforts to stop abusers in their tracks.

Ending Clergy Abuse

In August 2018, a Pennsylvania Grand Jury released a report detailing over 1,000 abuse allegations dating back 70 years. The grand jury report, which rocked the Catholic Church, involved over 300 Pennsylvania priests who were all credibly linked to cases of clergy sex abuse.

Shortly after the release of Pennsylvania’s report, other state attorneys general started following in their footsteps, setting up statewide investigations into the Catholic dioceses of their own.

Evidence is mounting against the Catholic Church as investigations continue and dioceses around the country release lists of credibly accused clergy.

Information from various dioceses detail:

  • Names of known sexual abusers
  • Locations at which they worked
  • When allegations of sexual abuse were made against them

While releasing the lists of abusers may seem like a step in the right direction, many survivors and advocacy groups believe this is nothing more than an empty gesture. In other words, the Church may want the public to believe they are releasing such information to be proactive against Catholic sexual abuse when in reality this does very little.

Advocates are also skeptical that the Catholic Church will comply with law enforcement investigations. High-profile religious leaders are being investigated, and the Catholic Church has a long history of protecting these individuals in the face of legal trouble.

Clergy Abuse Compensation

For clergy abuse survivors who have been forced to bear the burden of past or present sexual abuse, their physical and mental scars may last a lifetime. However, survivors may have options to receive clergy abuse compensation for their suffering and to hold their abuser(s) accountable.

Some states have even set up special compensation programs to help victims cover the costs associated with abuse and its lasting trauma

Examples of compensation programs include: 

  • In 2016, the Archdiocese of New York established the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program to compensate survivors of abuse, even decades old. Since then, more and more programs have been started in dioceses all over the country.
  • In September 2019, six Catholic dioceses in California initiated a new program to compensate survivors of clergy sex abuse called the Independent Compensation Program (ICP). The deadline to submit a claim for this program was January 31, 2020.

These are just a couple of examples of the many compensation programs that exist across the nation to help victims and hold abusers accountable. No matter what state your abuse occurred, it is worth it to contact Sokolove Law to learn whether you may be eligible to file a claim.

No amount of money can undo the damage by pedophile priests and other church officials. However, compensation can play a small part in reducing a survivor's financial and emotional burden.

For example, clergy abuse compensation may help cover:

  • Emotional counseling
  • Mental and/or physical therapy
  • Medical prescriptions
  • Pain and suffering
  • Inability to work

If you or a loved one are a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, call Sokolove Law for a free legal case review to learn about your legal rights and possible compensation. Hold those who wronged you accountable for their actions and protect future potential victims.

Are Clergy Abuse Settlements Taxable?

According to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), no tax deduction is allowed for any settlement or payment related to sexual abuse — if it is subject to a nondisclosure agreement. Further, tax deductions are also not allowed for any attorney’s fees related to a clergy sex abuse settlement or payment.

Get Help From a Clergy Abuse Lawyer

For survivors, compensation may be available through clergy sex abuse settlements or clergy sex abuse case verdicts. Contacting Sokolove Law is the first step in pursuing justice and compensation.

The clergy abuse attorneys at Sokolove Law are currently helping survivors who may be eligible. It may be daunting to disclose such vulnerable and sensitive information, but we urge survivors to seek the assistance of our attorneys.

Sokolove Law will look out for your best interests, to help ensure the best possible outcome. Contact us now.

Clergy Abuse Statute of Limitations

Certain state laws prevent childhood sexual abuse victims from filing lawsuits after certain ages. In the past, this has barred many adults from taking action against the Catholic Church.

However, in the wake of public outcry, many states are reevaluating their laws around time limits survivors have to file cases against their abusers and the institutions that covered up their abuse.

Over a dozen states have passed expanded statute of limitations bills to allow more time for survivors to come forward. In other states, similar legislation is now pending.

As of December 1, 2019, clergy sex abuse victims in New Jersey have until their 55th birthday (or up to seven years after they discover the abuse has caused them harm) to sue. Cases that were previously time-barred have now been revived with a two-year filing window.

Statute of limitations laws across the country are now under scrutiny. Now is the time to take action.

Clergy Abuse Lawsuit

If you are a survivor of clergy sex abuse, one of the most difficult — but important — things you can do is step forward.

The voices and stories of survivors have power.  For many men, women, and children who have been sexually abused, they were likely not their predator’s only victim. With the help of a clergy abuse law firm, survivors might stop a cycle of abuse and keep their abusers from finding new victims.

Major institutions like the Roman Catholic Church were charged with the responsibility to educate, spiritually guide, and care for minors. Many times these institutions did the exact opposite: They chose to protect sexual predators instead — hold them accountable.

Sokolove Law Provides Clergy Sex Abuse Legal Help

Over 45 years ago, Sokolove Law was established upon one fundamental principle: to stand up for the voiceless and help provide them with a say in the American legal system. In the 4 decades that have passed since that promise was made, our firm has helped thousands of clients across the country recover over $9.4 Billion in verdicts and settlements.

If you are a survivor of clergy sex abuse, you may be entitled to compensation through the help of a clergy abuse law firm. When you speak with a member of our legal team, you can trust that we will be discreet with your information and work with only your best interests in mind.

We know it takes tremendous courage to come forward — and we are here to listen. Contact us today for a free case review.

Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of wrongdoing and their families.

Last modified: May 11, 2024

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