The history of religious institutions covering up sex abuse begins with the first documented cases of sexual abuse inside the Catholic Church in 1629 at a school in Rome. In order to educate underprivileged boys, a Spanish priest named Joseph Calasanz established the institution.
Soon after, the trouble began. Concerned fellow clergy raised the issue of “impure associations with schoolboys.” Father Stefano Cherubini, who was under investigation, was the target of the accusations. Calasanz, however, wanted to hide this disgrace from his superiors.
The accused priest was actually promoted rather than disciplined, unknowingly setting a standard that would replay in the church for centuries to come. The reputation of the Church and the offenders were prioritized over the care and safety of the sufferers and, sadly, continues today.
How Have Religious Institutions Covered Up Cases of Sex Abuse?
Religious institutions have a long history of covering up cases of clergy sex abuse. In many cases, they have failed to report incidents of abuse to the authorities or have chosen to handle the situation internally without notifying the police.
Additionally, some religious institutions have attempted to silence victims and their families by threatening them with expulsion or other forms of punishment. Sometimes, the victims are coerced or offered a settlement to keep quiet.
Members of the Church hierarchy who hushed up sex abuse reports have transferred abusive priests to other parishes where abuse persisted have also been the subject of lawsuits.
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When Did the Coverups Become Publicly Known?
In the late 1980s, reports of abuse and subsequent cover-ups gained widespread attention. Several of these cases involve allegations of decades-long abuse, sometimes made by adults or older kids years after the abuse occurred.
People began to come forward with harrowing stories of sex abuse at the hands of priests and religious leaders of other churches. Throughout the 1990s, the instances gained widespread media and public attention across the world, particularly in North America, South America, Europe, Australia, and Ireland.
The Boston Globe conducted an investigation in 2002, which resulted in extensive media coverage of the subject in the United States. The Church hierarchy has a history of covering up accusations of abuse, and widespread abuse has been exposed in several countries around the world.
The Catholic Church Responds to the Massive Wave of Lawsuits
In most cases, the bishop or archbishop was the one to handle sexual abuse charges inside his diocese. Priests who had been accused were compelled resign in many instances, as were others who took part in the cover up.
However, It was discovered that many bishops had helped arrange payments to victims in exchange for their silence. The accused were frequently told to seek psychological counseling instead of being discharged. Once done, they were transferred to other parishes where, in some cases, they continued to abuse children.
As of March 2006, dioceses where abuse occurred or where claims of abuse were settled out of court have paid victims over $1.5 billion in compensation.
Due to the volume and size of these settlements, the dioceses were forced to close churches and schools to minimize their operating costs. Dioceses were frequently obliged to file for bankruptcy due to the settlements.
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How Has This Affected Victims and Their Families?
The cover-up of cases of sex abuse by religious institutions has had devastating consequences for victims and their families. Victims may suffer from physical and psychological trauma, as well as feelings of shame and guilt.
Additionally, victims struggle to trust the church, may lose their faith, and feel betrayed by those they thought were their protectors.
Families frequently feel powerless to help their loved ones, as they may not be aware of the extent of the abuse or the cover-up.
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What If I Was Abused In A Different Religious Organization?
If you were sexually abused in any religious institution, you are not alone. Many organizations have a history of covering up sexual abuse of minors. Many abuse survivors have kept quiet because they were afraid of retaliation or stigma.
However, many are realizing they have choices for holding religious institutions accountable for their conduct. In recent years, a number of high-profile members of the clergy and heads of respected national organizations have been accused of sexually assaulting youngsters.
- The Catholic Church
- Evangelical Christians
- Orthodox Judaism / Yeshivas
- Jehovah’s Witnesses
- Mormons – The Church of Latter-Day Saints
- Boy Scouts of America
- The Church of Scientology
- Southern Baptist Convention
The clergy is regarded as moral and spiritual authorities in their respective communities. When they sexually assault youngsters while using their positions of authority and religion to cover up the abuse, it is an abhorrent betrayal.
In high-profile sexual abuse cases involving the Boy Scouts of America and the Mormon Church, our firm was there to stand beside the survivors. We are proud to have helped these survivors hold their abusers responsible. We would be proud to help you.
Find Out What You Can Do if You Have Been a Victim Of Clergy Abuse
Victims of clergy abuse now have the ability to file lawsuits against both their perpetrators and the religious institutions that covered up the abuse. Attorneys that focus on clergy abuse can offer the specialized services necessary to assist victims of church sexual abuse in a compassionate manner.
When you have been abused, know that it is safe to come forward. We have helped hundreds of survivors to take back their power, stand up to their accusers, and recover financial compensation for their losses and suffering.
The attorneys at White Law PLLC know how difficult it can be to file a claim for sexual assault against a religious institution. Learn more about how we can assist you by contacting us to schedule a confidential, free consultation.
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