Sexual Abuse in the Roman Catholic Church | Herman Law

Roman Catholic Church

Roman Catholic Church

A Worldwide Epidemic

Roman Catholic clergy have sexually abused children for centuries. Documents dating back more than 400 years discuss “the problem” of clergy sexual abuse and the need to conceal it from parishioners to avoid scandal to the Church. In 1922, the Vatican issued confidential regulations requiring all Bishops worldwide to maintain allegations of clergy sexual misconduct in the strictest secrecy, and threatened those who violated the regulations with excommunication. The Vatican has reiterated the need for secrecy at various times since 1922, including as recently as 2002. The institutional makeup of the Roman Catholic Church facilitates the widespread coverup and enables many, many children to be sexually abused by Catholic clergy, including their own parish priests. Families are unaware of the dangers posed to their children and often welcome a priest into their home for dinner and holiday celebrations, only to have the child sexually abused under their own roof. In other cases, parents will encourage their children to spend time at the church, or to become altar boys, unaware of what is actually taking place with the parish pastor. When reports of clergy sexual abuse are made, often the priest is simply transferred to another parish, or remains in ministry with restrictions. Of course, the families at the new parish are never warned about the dark history of their new priest.

Victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy are unable to report their abuse for many reasons. Typically, the abuse occurs after a period of grooming so that the child feels guilty and responsible. Often, the child feels threatened, or fears that no one would believe them if they report the abuse. Many children who have reported their abuse were called liars and punished by their own parents for speaking ill of a priest. The shame and fear often last long into adulthood.

Our attorneys are nationally-recognized leaders in representing those sexually abused by Catholic clergy across the United States. Together, we have more than 40 years of experience advocating for survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. We understand the insidious nature of clergy sexual abuse and how difficult reporting the abuse to anyone can be, particularly when it seems impossible to trust anyone to help you. We have represented hundreds of clients in their search for healing and peace. Our extensive experience litigating against the Catholic Church often includes dealing with complex legal issues like the statute of limitations defense asserted by the Church’s lawyers when the abuse occurred decades ago. Of course, we are also very familiar with the complex infrastructure and hierarchy of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, and the legal loopholes that Church lawyers often use to avoid liability. Most importantly, we understand the needs of victims of clergy sexual abuse and their families, which often go far beyond the legal proceedings.

Our firm has skillfully handled cases involving sexual abuse by Roman Catholic Clergy of all types, including:

  • Diocesan Priests
  • Religious Order Priests (ie: Oblates, Jesuits, Salesians, Marinists)
  • Nuns
  • Deacons
  • Religious Order Brothers
  • Seminary Officials

You can view the list of accused clergy members in New York by visiting our New York Predator Priest Index (P.P.I.)

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