With mounting credible accusations, more thorough investigations, and the uncovering of previously-hidden Church documents, the Catholic Church’s attempts to cover up reported incidents of childhood sexual abuse and assault are failing. The Catholic Church routinely mishandled or failed to address claims of sexual assault made by students and churchgoers alike, perpetrated by those within the ranks of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has buried damaging documents, offered too small settlements too quickly and quietly, and made exhaustive attempts to discredit survivors to protect its own.
Abuse in the Church
The numbers from reports and research around the United States are astounding; tens of thousands of allegations have surfaced against thousands of priests. These numbers are believed to be underreported due to many victims remaining silent.
It is difficult to know the scope of child sexual abuse in addition to underreporting because statistics are not easy to find. Many accusations and reports are covered up by institutions or dealt with by religious leaders. Churches and organizations are not always forthcoming with their statistics, either. And few have been able to gather accurate data due to the nature of church hierarchy—some incidents are managed at a local or regional level rather than at a national or global one.
While hard to find, there are some reported statistics including:
- In 2019, it was reported that nearly 6,500 priests had been accused
- Another statistic, from 2007, cites over 13,000 credible accusations against Catholic clerics since 1950
- Also from 2007, a report found that the largest insurers of churches managed approximately 260 sex abuse claims a year
- In May 2019, a report on sexual abuse in the Archdiocese and Dioceses in New Jersey named 311 clergy and other religious leaders accused in the state
And the problem continues. In 2019, a reported 1,700 clergy who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse were found to be living under the radar—little to no supervision or oversight by either law enforcement or religious authorities.
Abuse in the Catholic Church vs. Other Religions
Abuse in the Catholic Church may be most discussed, but it is not the only religion with a history of sexual abuse. Opinions and reports are conflicting with regard to how much (if any) more it is a problem of the Catholic Church, but the fact remains that many other religious organizations, figures, and denominations have contended with credible sexual abuse allegations. However, the Catholic Church has gone to extreme lengths to cover up incidences over the years, which is part of the reason why we hear so much about it.
Victims of sexual abuse in any other organization, church, or denomination can seek financial compensation as well.
Catholic Church Settlements
To date, the Catholic Church has reportedly paid more than $3 billion in settlements in sex abuse cases in the United States. There are a number of cases, including individual cases as well as class action lawsuits, with various settlement amounts paid over the years. The website Bishop Accountability tracks those settlement amounts.
If you were sexually abused as a child in Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, or California you can call us toll-free at 800-322-5573 for a free consultation with one of our sexual abuse attorneys. Our staff of attorneys, paralegals, and legal assistants have extensive experience working with survivors of sexual abuse and work hard to ensure each survivor’s call is handled with compassion, respect, and confidentiality.
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