The number of Catholic Church lawsuits being filed across the country today appears to be growing dramatically. Due to changes to statute of limitation laws, which have been passed by individual state legislators across the country, filing a Catholic Church lawsuit is becoming far easier than it once was, especially for those who have claims that were previously time-barred.
A US Catholic Bishops’ Report released in June of 2020 showed that the number Catholic Church allegations tripled from 2018 to 2019. According to the report, the majority of these allegations were ‘historical in nature’ however, a small portion did include current minors.
Many believe this increase indicates that survivors of clergy sex abuse are feeling more empowered than ever to come forward and tell their stories. Those who choose to file a Catholic Church lawsuit and pursue legal claims against a priest or clergy member can help prevent others from becoming victims of sexual predators. Many also say that holding their abuser accountable was one of the key steps in the healing process. With more and more clergy predators being prosecuted, victims are gaining the courage to speak out and seek compensation.
Many survivors of clergy sex abuse are concerned about how long they have to file a lawsuit. For some, it takes decades to recall the abuse since childhood trauma is often repressed. To support that, studies have shown that less than 35% of child sex abuse victims report their abuse before adulthood. Decades later, when survivors are ready and able to come forward, they often do so with the fear that they have run out of time to file a legal claim, or that the pedophile clergy member is now deceased, and there is nothing that can be done.
While these are valid concerns, in most cases, there are still legal options available to survivors of child sex abuse. The time in which a victim of clergy sex abuse has to file a lawsuit is determined by each individual state’s statute of limitations laws. These laws, commonly referred to as ‘SOLs’, differ greatly by state and include different categories, which combined, dictate the time limits victims have to file a civil lawsuit. The categories include:
Additional states have pending legislation. Even if your state does not have a revival window, there are likely still options available to you.
Note that this guide regarding statute of limitations is for informational purposes only. There are often outside factors, beyond the categories listed above, that may affect the amount of time you have to file a claim. An attorney experienced with sex abuse lawsuits can help evaluate your unique situation and advise you as to the best way to proceed with a Catholic Church lawsuit.
When the Catholic Church clergy abuse scandal become public in 2002, it prompted church leaders in the United States to create a plan to help protect its youth. In June of that year, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (CPCYP), also referred to as the Dallas Charter, was created. It established a formal process for handling reports of clergy sex abuse which involves a review through an independent review board made up primarily of lay persons. In addition, these new rules were set up to ensure that allegations of sexual misconduct will not only involve Catholic Church officials but also public authorities.
Also, beginning in 2002, Catholic Dioceses throughout the US began publicly listing the names of clergy members who have ‘credible’ allegations of sex abuse against them. While the Catholic Church has not formally defined what ‘credibly accused’ means, often within the individual Catholic Diocese website, they will define what criteria was used to determine if a priest or clergy member should be placed on its list.
In December of 2019, Pope Francis lifted the ‘Papal Secrecy’ rule related to sexual abuse and misconduct by clergy members. The rule allows for certain protections related to sensitive information regarding how the church is run and previously allowed to the church to hide behind so-called ‘classified’ information. The lifting of this rule should allow the church to share information related to clergy sex abuse with the proper government agencies, effectively helping those survivors who file a lawsuit against the Catholic Church.
While the Catholic Church has made attempts to become more transparent, and to compensate its victims, many say its efforts have fallen drastically short. A group of lay Catholics, referred to as ‘The Voice of the Faithful’, have argued that the lack of financial transparency shown by Catholic Dioceses is one of the reasons that clergy child sex abuse in the church became so rampant. VOTF is urging other parishioners to demand more financial accountability from their dioceses.
Others believe the Catholic Church has remained deceitful at its core. Some theorize that in an effort to cut the total number of lawsuits against the Catholic Church by sexual abuse victims, reduce the size of those settlements, and to hide key documents from the public, the Diocese of Scranton, PA and other dioceses in the US, are offering child sexual abuse victims closed-door settlements. These settlement programs are run by third-party administrators outside of the church and offer ‘swift’ resolutions as opposed to trials. While at first this might seem like a positive step for clergy abuse survivors, those opposed to these settlement programs argue that the Catholic Church is using these to hide the abuse from the public, since in many cases, accepting a settlement like this often prevents a victim from speaking publicly about his or her abuse. It has also been suggested that these clergy sex abuse survivors are often offered much less in compensation; compared to what they might receive if they had filed a lawsuit directly against the Catholic Church.
More serious allegations surrounding the Catholic Church involve reports claiming some Catholic dioceses are using bankruptcy protection laws to skirt around paying victims what their claims are actually worth. Some publications, like Bloomberg Businessweek, have gone a step further, accusing the Catholic Church and its Dioceses of purposely trying to hide its assets in order to reduce the amount of money it would be required to pay in sexual abuse lawsuits.
According to news reports, this type of ‘asset reclassification’ strategy is not unique to Catholic Church lawsuits. In fact, lawyers handling the sex abuse lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America claim that their March 2021 offer of $300 million to settle its claims in bankruptcy court, falls far short of what sexual abuse survivors are entitled since the Boy Scouts’ assets total over $1 billion, not including the billions owned by its local councils.
The Catholic Church has seen a growing number of lawsuits filed against it in recent years. Experts correlate this increase to several different factors. First, the stigmatism associated with being sexually abused by a member of the Catholic Church is fading as more and more survivors come forward to tell their stories. Second, in some instances, the Catholic Church, at the highest level, has made internal changes, requiring its dioceses to be more transparent. Some dioceses have taken that a step further, choosing to make public its lists of clergy members who they have deemed to be ‘credibly accused’ of sexual abuse.
The following is a list of news articles associated with Catholic Church Lawsuits.
The Archdiocese of Chicago agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a man who claimed he was sexually abused as a child by defrocked priest Daniel McCormack back in the early 2000s. This Catholic Church settlement pushes the total to over $11 million paid to survivors who were abused by McCormack. Unfortunately, this is not the first time the Archdiocese of Chicago has had to pay out millions of dollars in order to settle a sexual abuse claim against one of its clergy.
<>The three Roman Catholic Dioceses in Colorado paid out a total $7.3 million in sexual abuse settlements to over 70 people who were sexually abused as children by clergy. The payments came as part of the Colorado priest abuse reparations program. The Catholic Church settlements cover claims that went back decades and marked the end of a 22-month investigation by Colorado Attorney General, Phil Weiser. <>
More than 230 sexual abuse lawsuits were filed against the five Catholic dioceses in New Jersey from December 2019 to December 2020. The large number of lawsuits directly coincides with the state’s extension of its statute of limitations laws in civil actions for sexual abuse claims as well as its opening of a revival window which allows time barred claims to be brought before a specific date. The New Jersey revival window is set to close on November 30, 2021. Since it can often take years before a sexual abuse survivor feels comfortable enough to talk about being abused, extending the statute of limitations and opening the revival window gives victims an opportunity to receive some justice for what was done to them.
After a two-year investigation, New York Attorney General Letitia James sued the Diocese of Buffalo, alleging it covered up allegations of child sexual abuse and misused charitable assets by supporting predatory priests instead of following protocol and reporting them to authorities. Former Bishop Richard Malone and former Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz were also named as defendants in the lawsuit.
A survey done by Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) concludes that only five U.S. dioceses are financially transparent. According to its website, VOTF is “a lay organization of faithful Catholics. . .whose mission is to provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church.”
In a matter of seven days, the Catholic Diocese of Charleston found itself having to defend itself against two allegations of priest sexual abuse. The allegations of abuse span from 1961 through the mid-1970s.
Bankruptcy Judge David T. Thuma is overseeing the Chapter 11 reorganization of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Thuma’s recent ruling would allow lawyers for clergy sex abuse survivors to file lawsuits against the diocese claiming it fraudulently transferred an estimated $150 million to avoid paying it to survivors. Lawyers for survivors allege the transfer of Archdiocese real estate and assets to parishes is an attempt to avoid bigger payouts to victims.
Over the last few years, many states have passed reform bills to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse hold their abusers, and the institutions responsible for the abuse, accountable. Several states, including New York and California, have passed laws setting up what are commonly referred to as ‘revival windows.’ These ‘revival windows’ create a time frame for previously expired claims to be brought on behalf of the survivor.
The Archdiocese of Newark is facing nine new sex abuse lawsuits that were recently filed. In total, four priests and three clerics from two different religious orders were named. One of the clerics, from the Xaverian Brothers, was accused of for the first time.
The Servants of Paraclete has asked a New Mexico court to dismiss a lawsuit involving David Holley and child molestation. The response states “the complaint fails to state claims, in whole or in part, upon which relieve can be granted as a matter of law”. While the merits of this particular dismissal request will play out in the court, there was a history of pedophile priests plaguing this particular facility.
The Diocese of Trenton is facing at least 10 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse; all filed by the same attorney. Over the almost last two decades since the Boston Globe expose in 2002, the public has become more aware of the Roman Catholic Church’s ongoing cover-up of child abuse. What the Diocese of Trenton is facing is the increased pressure from state officials , state office, and plaintiff attorneys seeking accountability and justice.
>A new law passed in the state of California provides victims with a window to file claims of childhood sexual abuse that were previously time barred. One man is taking advantage of that law and in February of 2020, filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Archdiocese. The victim alleges that Father Michael Baker sexually abused him repeatedly from age 6 to 10 years old and that the Cardinal at the time, Roger Mahoney, covered it up. The plaintiff’s attorney, John Manly, stated that the Cardinal tried to hide what was going on with Father Baker by transferring him to other parishes rather than reporting the criminal behavior to the police.
An investigation is underway by the Diocese of Des Moines regarding allegations of sexual misconduct by Father Robert L Grant better known as “Father Bud” by a student at the St Alberts High School in Council Bluffs. The alleged abuse took place back in the early 1990’s. Due to Iowa law, criminal actions cannot be taken because of Iowa’s statute of limitation which requires a victim to report the abuse within 10 – 15 years after the individual turns 18 (depending on the circumstances.)
Victims of clergy sexual abuse with cases against the Diocese of Buffalo should expect delays in compensation awards. In a January ruling by Judge Deborah A. Chimes, Supreme Court of Erie Country, she noted the particular victim (plaintiff) should receive damages for abuse suffered. However there is a catch causing a delay in getting compensation from the Diocese of Buffalo. The Diocese of Buffalo filed for bankruptcy. This filing effectively paused all lawsuits and legal proceedings against the dioceses.
In February of 2020, the Diocese of Buffalo became the second Diocese in New York state to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, after the first filing by the Diocese of Rochester in September of 2019. The church sites the new law passed by New York state’s legislators, dubbed the Child Victims Act, as the reason for bankruptcy filings.
Senators from New York gathered on Friday to discuss extending the time for victims to file a claim for sexual abuse. The original deadline was set to expire on August 14, 2020 but now, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo, legislators have agreed to extend it to January 14, 2021; giving survivors of childhood sexual abuse an additional five months to file a claim. The senate felt that since court services have been significantly reduced due to the virus, it was only fair to extend the time for these victims.
An Arizona state law opening a window for those whose sexual abuse claims may have been time barred has been extended to the end of this year. Two victims who claim they were abused by Catholic priests over 40 years ago used this law to file lawsuits against their church and the Diocese of Phoenix.
A lawsuit filed in New Jersey by a former Diocese of Allentown altar boy claims that the diocese failed to protect him as he was sexually abused for decades. The $50 million suit contends diocese officials turned their backs on the victim and failed to protect him from the abuse even after knowing his abuser was a pedophile.
A lawsuit has been brought against Bishop James Timlin and Bishop Joseph Bambera for their part in covering up years of alleged sexual abuse by priests in the Diocese of Scranton. After years of thinking it was “too late” to do anything about their abuse, four men have come forward and accused Father Michael Pulicare, the former assistant pastor of St Joseph’s Parish, of sexual abuse. Pulicare died in 1999 and the church was renamed Divine Mercy of St Joseph, which is located on Davis St in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Each man filed their own separate lawsuit.
A childhood victim of priest sex abuse at Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church and Holy Trinity School filed a civil lawsuit in Erie County Supreme Court of New York. This New York Catholic Church lawsuit, filed in September of 2019, was filed against the Diocese of Buffalo and claims Monsignor Valerio Bernardo, a pastor of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church and Holy Trinity School, abused the plaintiff during the late 1960s when she was about five years old. The plaintiff and her family were parishioners at Holy Trinity Church and she was a student at Holy Trinity School.
Father Isidore Ndagizimana, better known as Father Izzy, of St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Austin, Texas, has been accused of sexually abusing 6 female parishioners. The six women, whose names have been left anonymous, claim Father Ndagizimana would touch them inappropriately in the confessional box at church and tried kissing them. Also, while their husbands were away he would often show up at their homes uninvited.
The Harrisburg Catholic Diocese has recently declared bankruptcy as a result of ongoing and mounting Catholic Church sexual abuse claims. The diocese has already paid out nearly $13 million to 111 victims of childhood sexual abuse and church officials believe there may be more than 200 additional victims who could seek compensation through the bankruptcy proceedings.
In August 2019, New York legislature enacted a new law that gave survivors of childhood sexual abuse a one-year window to file a lawsuit against their abusers. Already, over 500 cases have been filed with the state and experts estimate that thousands of lawsuits are on the way. Advocates, including attorneys, for the victims believe that justice is needed in the form of being heard by the public, recognition of the abuse, and financial compensation. Melissa Breger, a professor at the Albany (NY) Law School, agrees, “I think for a lot of these folks, it’s validation that, ‘Yes, what happened to me was wrong and the fact that I was a child and could not do anything about it is being understood now and I can now seek redress as an adult.” Ms. Breger also previously worked with domestic violence victims and victims of childhood abuse.
As of August 14, 2019 New York survivors of childhood sexual abuse will be given a one-year window to file a lawsuit against their abusers under the new Child Victims Act passed by NY legislature earlier this year. Thousands of cases are expected to be filed with payout estimates to victims in the millions of dollars. Under the new one-year window law, anyone who was abused is eligible to file a claim with a sexual abuse lawyer. Additionally, New York has gone from one of the worst states to one of the best states to file a childhood sexual abuse lawsuit.
In an effort to cut the total number and size of payouts made by the Catholic Church to its sexual abuse victims, and to hide key documents from the public, the Diocese of Scranton, PA and other dioceses in the US are offering child sexual abuse victims’ closed-door settlements. These settlement programs are run by third-party administrators outside of the church and offer ‘swift’ resolutions opposed to trials.
With an important victory for sexual abuse victims, a Pennsylvania court has recently ruled that a woman can pursue her lawsuit claiming clergy in the Altoona-Johnstown, PA Roman Catholic Diocese covered up her alleged molestation by a priest. The lawsuit was initially dismissed by a county judge in 2017 because the statute of limitations had expired. However, a three-judge Superior Court panel reinstated the woman’s lawsuit which claims that two bishops illegally tried to cover up her sexual abuse by a priest to protect their reputations. The ruling may allow more sexual abuse victims whose abuse occurred long ago, to file claims.
According to a recent report released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, from June 2017 to June 2018 the U.S. Catholic Church spent a whopping $301.6 million on clergy sexual abuse costs. Two-thirds of the clergy sexual abuse costs, or nearly $200 million, were spent on legal settlements. Additionally, the report revealed that during the same 12-month period, the Catholic Church fielded nearly 1,100 new “credible allegations” of sexual abuse committed on a minor by priests and other clergy.