The sexual abuse of children by priests in the Catholic Church has received (and continues to receive) significant attention from the media and the public. The problem of child sexual abuse and molestation by clergy has persisted for decades and continues to be a major concern for parishioners. Over the last decade, there have been a number of Clergy sex abuse cases in California specifically, but it is happening all over the country. Our clergy sexual abuse attorneys have vast experience with these extremely sensitive and difficult cases.
The prevalence of child sex abuse within the Catholic Church has been studied by a number of social scientists. One report concluded that 8.4 percent of priests and brothers (in a sample of more than 1,300) had engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor. Another study suggested that 2 percent of priests engage in pedophiliac behavior, while an additional 4 percent of priests are sexually preoccupied with adolescent boys or girls.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a support group for victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and brothers, has some helpful tips for parishioners whose priest has been accused of child sexual abuse.
What To Do if Your Priest Is Accused of Abuse
ACCEPT YOUR EMOTIONS. Allegations of abuse in your church can bring up a wide range of emotions. You may feel betrayed, angry, anxious, confused, or sad. You should not criticize yourself or others for experiencing these emotions. If you feel overwhelmed, you may need to pursue counseling or psychiatric treatment.
RESPECT CONFIDENTIALITY. If you know who was victimized, you should respect his or her confidentiality. The time after coming forward with allegations of abuse can be very difficult for victims. Do not allow the mere passage of time to discredit someone who has accused a priest of sex abuse or molestation. Often, it takes decades for victims to reveal that they suffered at the hands of a trusted person in a position of authority.
CONTACT THE AUTHORITIES. If you are aware of abuse that has taken place or is taking place in your church, you should contact the police or prosecutors right away. It is important to do this as quickly as possible after discovering abuse.
EDUCATE YOUR FAMILY. You should educate yourself and your family about sexual abuse. Talk to your children about appropriate physical contact, and be sure to tell them that it is okay if they don’t do everything that adults ask them to do.
For more information about SNAP and to browse resources for survivors of priest abuse, visit their website.
Protection for Children in the Catholic Church
In 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People that pledged a “safe environment” for all children engaged in activities sponsored by the Catholic Church. Part of this charter was the adoption of a “zero tolerance” policy for sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The USCCB now requires all dioceses faced with abuse allegations to alert proper authorities, conduct an investigation into the allegations, and remove the accused from duty.
If you’ve recently learned that your parish priest or church minister is a child molester, you’re probably battling feelings of betrayal, anger, and confusion, and may be wondering where to turn or what to do. Let the law clergy molestation lawyers of Estey Bomberger be your guide during this difficult time.
If a child (altar or choir boy, parochial school student, or the son or daughter of one of your fellow parishioners) has been subjected to clergy sex abuse, here are a few symptoms to look for:
- Suffer from nightmares or sleeping problems
- Be emotionally cold or distant
- Undergo abrupt mood swings (fear, anger, anxiety)
- Draw or writes sexually suggestive or abhorrent things
- Consider themselves or their bodies disgusting
- Display uncommonly good knowledge of sex and body parts
- Act in a seductive or inappropriate manner
Identifying Catholic Church Sexual Abuse
If a child comes to you and confesses that he or she has been sexually molested by a member of the clergy, you should:
- Believe. Don’t allow yourself to doubt or decry the child’s story. This is the moment when an abused child is at his or her most vulnerable. Children practically never lie about being molested, and it was an act of the purest courage for the child to come and tell you about what happened. Make sure you tell the child that you believe what he or she has told you, and that you will obtain help from a safe and trustworthy adult. Reassure the child that he or she bears no responsibility for what’s happened and showed great courage for coming to you and confessing.
- Listen. Allow the child to tell you everything he or she wishes to tell you. Resist the urge to interrogate the child for more details. Just get the essential facts of the case and then contact the authorities. Children have likely been severely traumatized by their experiences. Forcing them to recount more than they feel comfortable with is tantamount to re-traumatizing them.
- Report. Don’t assume that the problem will “just go away.” You’re putting other parents’ children in danger by allowing a pedophile to remain in their position of trust and authority. Report your child’s story to police and any applicable law enforcement or church officials.
- Reach out. It’s natural for you to feel overwhelmed and disoriented at this delicate time. If you’re not sure where to turn for help, or you need more information, contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s free helpline at 1.800.843.5678 or view Estey Bomberger’s child molestation victims’ resources page.
Catholic Church Sexual Abuse in California
The Los Angeles Archdiocese’s sex scandals go back all the way to 1968 and beyond. For decades, the Catholic Church of California has struggled with allegations of clergy sex abuse of children as young as four years old. Recent clergy sex abuse settlements in the news include:
June 2003: The Diocese of San Bernardino agreed to pay more than $2 million to two former altar boys who claimed to be sexually abused thousands of times by a priest at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church in San Bernardino in the early 1980’s. LA Times
June 2005: The Archdiocese of San Francisco agreed to pay $21.2 million to 15 people who were molested by five clergymen, including one priest who was involved in drafting the 2002 “zero tolerance” policy toward clergy abuse. San Francisco Chronicle
June 2005: The Diocese of Santa Rosa announced a settlement of eight sexual abuse lawsuits for $7.3 million.
July 2005: The Diocese of Sacramento agreed to may $35 million to 33 alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse.
July 2005: The Diocese of Oakland agreed to pay $56 million to settle its remaining lawsuits filed by 56 alleged victims of priest sexual abuse.
December 2005: Diocese of Orange agrees to pay $100 million settlement to approximately 90 victims, with payouts ranging from $50,0000 to close to $4 million.
December 2006: The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno agreed to pay $750,000 to settle a lawsuit by a former parishioner who was sexually abused by a priest at St. Rita’s parish in Tulare in the 1960s.
July 2007: Diocese of Los Angeles agrees to pay $660 million to 508 victims.
May 2007: The Jesuit order agreed to pay $16 million to settle claims that one of its priests, Father Mark Falvey, sexually molested four girls and five boys between 1959 and 1975 at Blessed Sacrament. Falvey was an assistant pastor at Blessed Sacrament from 1959 until his death in 1975. Falvey was never charged with a crime.
September 2007: The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego agreed to a $198.1 million settlement of 144 claims of children who claimed they were molested as children. The San Diego diocese paid out the settlement in March 2008. The average payout per plaintiff amounted to $1.3 million. the San Diego diocese would pay $77.1 million and its insurance carrier $75.7 million, for a total of $152.8 million covering 111 cases. In addition, the diocese would pay $30.2 million for 22 cases involving members of religious orders, and the Diocese of San Bernardino would pay $15.1 million for 11 cases in its area.
May 2008: Diocese of Sacramento paid $100,000 to a person who alleged he was raped and molested from age 7-11 at St Ignatius Parish, by identical twin brother priests Fr. Arthur Falvey of Sacramento, and Fr. Mark Falvey of Los Angeles.
February 2014: The Los Angeles Archdiocese reached a $13-million agreement with 17 victims on the eve of a trial scheduled to begin Feb. 14 2014, over the alleged acts of Father Nicolas Aguilar-Rivera, a visiting cleric from Mexico who police believe molested more than two dozen boys over nine months in 1987. The settlement included about $1 million for each of the 11 alleged victims of Aguilar-Rivera, as well as lesser sums for six who say they were molested by other priests.
Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyers in California | Estey & Bomberger LLP
The California clergy sex abuse attorneys at Estey Bomberger have filed suit against doctors, teachers, coaches, foster parents, and clergy accused of abusing children. In 2010, Estey Bomberger secured a $30 million verdict for a northern California boy who was sexually abused at the hands of his foster father. We understand the tremendous emotional pain that sexual abuse causes children and their families. Our role is to provide support and advocacy for victims and hold offenders accountable. If you or a loved one has been sexually abused by a member of the clergy, contact Estey Bomberger today. We are here to help you move forward.
If you know a child who has been sexually molested, get in touch with the clergy sexual abuse attorneys at Estey Bomberger. We’ll advise you on your legal options and, should the case go to trial, work towards securing you the financial compensation you deserve. Call 1.800.925.0723 toll-free to learn more or get a free, confidential consultation.