Churches Can Be Legally Responsible for Clergy Sexual Abuse

Church Liability for Sexual Abuse

The Catholic Church Hid Sexual Abuse and Victims Are Holding Them Accountable

More and more, we are hearing reports about the sexual abuse of children by priests and other religious leaders in the Catholic Church. The stories are horrible. They involve trusting children of all ages suffering at the hands of manipulative, dangerous adults. In recent years, tens of thousands of individuals have come forward to share their stories of abuse by priests, youth ministers, and bishops. The reports are not limited to the Catholic Church. There have been claims of sexual abuse of children by members of nearly all religions; Jewish Rabbis, Mormon (LDS) Priests, Islamic Imams, and Jehovah’s Witness Overseers and Elders.

Perhaps most alarming is the growing amount of evidence that indicates religious institutions, particularly the Catholic Church, knew about the sexual abuse of children by their leaders and did nothing about it. In many instances, there is evidence that church leaders and diocese leaders took steps to actively “cover-up” the abuse, not only failing to protect existing victims but knowingly exposing others to the risk of harm.

At Alonso Krangle, LLP, we have lawyers handling lawsuits against clergy members and religious institutions who committed and hid sexual abuse. Our attorneys understand the sensitive nature of sexual abuse and respect the confidentiality and discretion victims need when they choose to come forward with allegations. Please contact the clergy sexual abuse lawyers at Alonso Krangle, LLP to find out if you are eligible to file a claim to collect monetary damages for the physical and emotional injuries caused by clergy sexual abuse.

Update: NYS Extends Deadline To File Cases Until August 14, 2021

Is the Church Responsible for Abuse By a Clergy Member?

Many reports of abuse involve priests and religious leaders who have passed away. Despite all evidence pointing to sexual abuse, there is not a lot that victims can do to hold a deceased person civilly or criminally liable for their actions.

However, much in the way an employer can be responsible for the actions of its employees, a religious institution can be liable for the acts of its members. Filing a claim against the church, synagogue, corporation, or other entity that “runs the religion,” is one way to collect monetary damages the law allows.

There is evidence that several religious organizations knew about credible abuse allegations and did not act to protect children or punish perpetrators. For example,

  • Priests credibly accused of rape and other forms of sexual abuse were reassigned to other parishes without warning anyone about the allegations
  • Priests were taken off active duty, but the allegations were never shared with anyone
  • At times, individuals and families who tried to report abuse and hold perpetrators accountable were “silenced,” threatened with excommunication or public shame.
  • Religious leaders manipulated children who tried to tell them about sexual abuse by using threats of “God’s wrath,” blaming the children, and threats of other punishment.
  • Institutions did not report credible allegations of sexual abuse to the police when it would have been appropriate.
  • Ignoring allegations of sexual abuse and promoting accused individuals to positions of higher power and exposure

Sexual abuse is a crime in New York. It should not matter that the perpetrator is a religious figure. The abusers and the churches, synagogues, and religious institutions who knew about sexual abuse are not held to a standard that is different from the rest of the population. It is essential that victims of sexual abuse hold accountable, the people who should have been protecting and helping them, instead of allowing the abuse to occur and continue.

Sexual Abuse Causes Serious Harm to Children and Adults

Sexual abuse always causes harm to children and the adults they become. Physical injuries might heal quickly, but the emotional ones can take decades to resolve, if ever. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, self-harm, sexual dysfunction, and interpersonal relationship problems are just a few of the common injuries that result from the sexual abuse of children.

Most sexual abusers “groom” children, gaining their trust, making abuse, and keeping their secrets “easier.” When the perpetrator is a priest, rabbi, or another religious leader, this manipulation causes deep psychological scars to children. When religion and the religious community is central to a family’s life, the intertwining of sexual abuse by a clergy member with faith, god, trust, sin, and respect can complicate what is already a tragic situation for any child.

Collecting Damages for Clergy Sexual Abuse

The Catholic Church, in several states, including New York, has established settlement programs for victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. Participating in the settlement fund process is voluntary and for some victims may be the best way to secure monetary compensation. By doing so, however, the victim must surrender the right to file a civil lawsuit against the church.

Alternatively, thousands of victims of clergy sexual abuse have filed lawsuits against various religious institutions. Some victims feel that this is the best way to obtain real accountability for the misdeeds of their perpetrators. Lawsuits can allow the victims to create a public record of their story, face abusers in court, encourage other victims to come forward, can lead to the discovery of evidence of additional abuse and cover-ups.

Keep in mind that the New York Child Victims Act has extended the statute of limitations on filing civil lawsuits and criminal charges against sexual abusers of children. We can’t know how much time you have left to file a claim until we hear the details of your case.

Contact Alonso Krangle, LLP, Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyers

If you were sexually abused by a priest, rabbi, religious school teacher, youth minister, or any member of a religious institution, consider calling our lawyers for a free, confidential consultation. Our clergy sexual abuse lawyers have the skill, experience, and discretion to advise you and represent your interests should you wish to pursue monetary compensation.

Call us today at 516-350-5555 and speak to our lawyers who handle clergy sexual abuse cases.