Catholic Clergy Sexual Abuse: Protecting the Flock from the Shepherds
An increasing flood of reported Catholic clergy abuse and the lengths to which the Church has gone to conceal and protect child sex abusers has shocked the nation and the world. Finally, after decades of ignored allegations against clergy, changes are being made so the survivors of this abuse can speak out to seek justice.
A common thread running through many reports of Catholic sexual abuse is a pattern or "playbook" used by the Church to repeatedly and deliberately conceal horrific acts against children. This pattern includes a systematic process of shuffling accused priests from one parish to another following allegations, a track record of defending 'predator priests' over innocent children, and repeated, deliberate attempts to conceal this malfeasance to prevent "scandal."
The nationally recognized trial lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC have helped thousands of survivors of sexual assault—many of them minors—get the justice they deserve. Our Sexual Abuse Division is led by preeminent sexual abuse attorney Richard M. Serbin, one of the first legal advocates for victims of abuse by clergy in the US.
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The Truth Has Been Revealed
An August 2018 report issued by the 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury of Pennsylvania pulled back the curtain on a culture of sexual abuse involving more than 300 Catholic priests, officials, teachers and clergy over a period of more than 70 years. Attorney Richard M. Serbin testified before the Grand Jury and provided assistance to the Attorney General’s office.
Reports from across the country contain eerily similar, harrowing accounts of sexual abuse of minors at the hands of Catholic priests, officials, and clergy. In many accounts, priests and Church leaders have suppressed these records, using euphemisms like "horseplay" to describe the abusive conduct while suggesting that the children victimized were responsible for initiating their abuse.
Priests were raping little boys and girls and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades. Monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, and cardinals have mostly been protected...many have been promoted...Shepherds must stop preying upon the flock.
Report of the PA 40th Investigative Grand Jury
It’s Time to Speak Up and Speak Out
In their report, the members of the PA Grand Jury urge all victims to break their silence and speak up to seek the justice they deserve, and help prevent others from being hurt. They want survivors to know that they will be believed. They want survivors to know that many of their accounts will be verified by internal Church documents that until recently were hidden away, kept under lock and key in "secret archives." The Grand Jury argues that justice demands predator priests and those who aided and enabled them should be held accountable for their egregious and reprehensible behaviors.
The Pennsylvania Grand Jury report confirmed what many had already believed: that the Church had institutionalized sexual abuse to an unprecedented degree and used its influence to shield 'predator priests' from scrutiny and continue to prey upon their flock. Some of the key findings from this investigation include:
IT HAPPENED EVERYWHERE
"Children were raped in places of worship, in schools, and in diocesan owned vehicles, and were groomed through diocesan programs and retreats. The bishops weren't just aware of what was going on; they were immersed in it. And they went to great lengths to keep it secret. The secrecy helped spread the disease."
COMPLAINTS WERE IGNORED
"It was hard enough for victims to come forward; but when they did, the complaints were often forgotten about, misplaced, shrugged off, or immediately discounted. The church's response not only depressed the number of "confirmed" complaints, but discouraged additional victims from reporting, knowing they might be rebuffed or ridiculed."
LAW ENFORCEMENT GAVE DEFERENCE
"There were numerous instances where law enforcement gave deference to the religious institution. Whatever the motives for that deference, it left children without their rightful civic watchdogs."
PREDATOR PRIESTS PAID OFF
"Known offenders were still secretly provided financial support. "Retired" child abusers were permitted to live in church-run facilities located near schools. Dioceses resisted calls to release abusers' names, while heralding their compliance with new mandated reporter laws. And most striking to us were cases in which the dioceses obtained child abuse "clearances" for employees who had no criminal record—because the bishop had never reported prior incidents of abuse."
There are Deadlines for Seeking Justice
Statute of Limitations (SOL) laws have prevented many victims from coming forward, and actually protected the organizations responsible for allowing these predators to continue their abuse, even after it was reported. Victims have been forced to suffer in silence as lawmakers continued to protect organizations that gave these predators access to their victims.
Many States Working to Enact “Windows of Opportunity” for Sex Abuse Survivors
More and more states are passing window of opportunity laws that allow survivors of any age to get compensation. Even survivors in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s, who have suffered the consequences of child abuse for years can now move forward with their claims, and be paid for their years of torment. Their abusers may be dead, but the Church and the leaders that shielded them are still responsible and should be held accountable.
In February 2019, New York passed the Child Victims Act, which gives survivors abused in the New York area a one-year window to file a lawsuit, no matter their age or where they currently reside. New Jersey and other states are also in the process of passing similar bills, which will provide an even greater opportunity to seek justice.
A Track Record of Advocacy
We represent sexual assault victims in complex, high-profile and national cases involving some of the largest and most powerful institutions in the world. Our team of litigators understands how to unravel institutional cover-ups and do everything possible to hold those responsible—both the perpetrators and those who enabled them— accountable for their actions. We're not afraid to take on the tough cases, and we are relentless in our advocacy for our clients and in our pursuit of justice on their behalf.
JJS has uncovered the truth, winning over three billion dollars in verdicts and settlements for clients across a wide range of extremely serious and complex cases. Our team of trial attorneys has a proven track record of taking on tough cases involving some of the nation's largest and most prestigious organizations—and winning.
As a national law firm with a 30+ year track record, we have the wherewithal to advance hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars of case costs on your behalf in order to put you in the best possible position to recover the compensation you deserve. And you'll never have to pay attorneys' fees or case costs unless we win your case.
All communications with clients are confidential and privileged. If we were to file a lawsuit on your behalf, we could identify you only as a Jane Doe or John Doe.
A "Crusader" For Victims of Abuse by Priests & Clergy
The JJS Sexual Abuse Division is led by Richard M. Serbin, a crusader in the fight against sexual abuse by clergy and author of When Clergy Fail Their Flocks. His work on behalf of victims has been featured in numerous national outlets, including NPR, The Daily Beast, NBC, the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Tribune-Democrat, The Tribune Review, and the Wall Street Journal.
Fifteen years before reports of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church circulated in newspapers around the world, before the public believed priests could do any wrong, Richard Serbin was fighting to expose the appalling actions of priests and church leaders. For decades, these “men of God” concealed evidence and accounts of child molestation, pornography, abuse and rape of innocent boys and girls in “secret archives.” Because of Richard’s work, these archives have been brought to light. Richard secured the only jury verdict against a priest predator, bishops and diocese in Pennsylvania to date and one of only a handful at the time in the country.
"These priests breached the sacred trust they owed to children who looked up to them as men of God. They—and their superiors—institutionalized a culture of rampant sexual abuse that allowed 'predator priests' to commit unspeakable acts on innocent children in their care."
Howard A. Janet, JJS Managing Partner
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