Culpable Catholic Church Criticizes Continued Investigation of Its Sexual Abuses

Culpable Catholic Church Criticizes Continued Investigation of Its Sexual Abuses

A Catholic Church advocacy group asked the Maryland Attorney General to stop digging into allegations that the Catholic Church tolerated child sex abuse for decades.

A year ago, the Maryland Office of the Attorney General released its scathing “Report on Child Sexual Abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.” The Archdiocese of Baltimore has been on damage-control mode ever since.

The initial report had several names redacted. Some have been revealed through the tireless work of local Baltimore City and Maryland journalists. Though the Catholic Church has acknowledged this fact, its advocacy groups are still hoping to squash and lingering investigations. 

Survivors are not convinced. “There’s always the concern that even credibly accused people have been left off these lists,” said Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, which tracks clergy abuse nationwide. “Now, in Baltimore, we have confirmation that’s what was happening.”

If you or a loved one was sexually abused as a minor by a priest or other clergy member in the Catholic Church, your time to file suit is running out thanks to the Catholic Church’s bankruptcy filing. Call or text The Yost Legal Group today for a free consultation: 410.659.6800.

History of Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church

Documented cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church date back to the Reformation era. Church leaders completely ignored the problem for about a hundred years. Then, in the 1940s, Father Gerald Fitzgerald founded the Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete, a religious order that treats Roman Catholic priests struggling with sexual misconduct, substance abuse, and other taboo personal issues.

Fr. Fitzgerald was determined to help priests and air these issues. In a series of letters and reports starting in the 1950s, he warned high-ranking Catholic leaders of substantial problems with abusive priests. He discussed the problem with Pope Paul VI (1963–1978) and several powerful bishops. Perhaps even more importantly, he concluded that “[sexual abuse] offenders were unlikely to change and should not be returned to ministry.”

Despite these warnings, the Church continued to largely ignore the problem, although some leaders discussed the issue privately. These private conversations did not change the church’s official policy, which was to relocate offending priests and discredit survivors.

The issue moved into the public forum in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1992, Irish singer Sinead O’Connor tore a picture of Pope John Paul II on a Saturday Night Live episode.

But, instead of admitting the problem, the Church continued to push back. After extensively researching the issue, a Catholic priest reported that the frequency of pedophilia amongst the Catholic clergy is no higher than among the general population, and a Catholic priest is no more likely to be a pedophile than an average male. Indeed, as late as 2018, Pope Francis claimed that survivors fabricated their stories. 

He did a public about-face about a year later. Nevertheless, in 2021, the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) criticized the Vatican, pointing to persistent allegations that the Catholic Church had obstructed and failed to cooperate with domestic judicial proceedings, with the intent of preventing accountability for abusers and compensation for victims.

Effects of Surviving Childhood Sexual Abuse

As the Church continued to deny the sexual abuse problem, victims continued to sustain serious injuries. The fact that, for many years, these victims did not know the cause of their suffering made their injuries even worse. These injuries have wide-ranging effects.

All Interpersonal Relationships

  • One of the most profound effects of child sexual abuse is the damaging impact it can have on the ability to form and maintain close, loving relationships ‒ both intimate and platonic. It can affect the relationships that victims and survivors have at the time of the sexual abuse and for the rest of their lives. They may find it difficult to talk to partners, family, and friends about the sexual abuse, preventing others from being able to help and offer support.

Intimate Relationships

  • Child sexual abuse survivors cannot form intimate and trusting relationships. Such relationships often remind survivors of the sexual abuse. Additionally, emotional barriers make it difficult to talk about sexual abuse with partners. Therefore, relationship partners often blame themselves for the issues.

“I’ve been embarrassed all my life over this. I’ve never, ever told any of my family. I told my wife last year, about sixty or seventy years later,” one survivor told an advocacy group.

Relationships with Siblings and Parents

  • Frequently, the sex abuse perpetrator was a family member, a “pillar” in the community, or a close friend of the family. Therefore, when young survivors share their experiences with loved ones, these people usually do not believe these survivors.
  • The damage is permanent. Many survivors never again feel comfortable sharing personal struggles with these family members. Furthermore, the rebuff causes deep denial.
  • “My mind had totally closed up. When I told my mother what happened, she slapped me and said it didn’t happen, so it didn’t happen.”
  • The deeper that denial becomes, the harder it is to peel away the layers. In Maryland, no matter how long this process takes, a trusted childhood sexual abuse survivor lawyer can obtain justice and compensation for survivors.

Relationships With Children and Grandchildren

  • Many survivors believe that the sexual abuse they suffered as a child means they will not be safe parents, or if their stories were public, others will consider them to be a danger to their own children. Some victims and survivors have talked about not being able to change diapers or even hug their own children.
  • So, if survivors do not deal with their injuries, those injuries become generational. If parents don’t show love, many children believe they are not loved, and they also believe that is the way they should behave as parents.

Your Rights in Childhood Sexual Abuse Claim Against Catholic Church

A common thread among all these injuries is that survivors often feel like their lives are out of control. A partnership with a Baltimore sex abuse lawyer and a civil claim restores some measure of control. Legal actions also stop the aforementioned generational injuries.

In many states, child sex abuse claims present significant procedural problems. As mentioned, many survivors go through years of therapy before they identify the responsible person. By this time, the statute of limitations has long passed.

Maryland lawmakers recently eliminated the SOL in these cases. So, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred, survivors are entitled to compensation for their economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. In most cases, these damages are retroactive to the date of injury. That’s the main reason sex abuse settlements are normally very large.

Some personal injury claims settle early in the process, sometimes before a Baltimore sex abuse lawyer files legal paperwork. 

Early settlements are uncommon and unfavorable in sex abuse cases. The Church usually fights these cases tooth and nail. Furthermore, if a case settles too early, the settlement amount might not reflect all possible future medical costs. In a sex abuse case, these costs are usually substantial.

So, most sex abuse cases settle late in the litigation process, during mediation. A third-party mediator supervises settlement negotiations and ensures that both sides negotiate in good faith. Largely because of this good faith negotiation duty, mediation works about 90% of the time. In other words, a good mediator can settle cases even if talks have stalled or broken down entirely.

Contact a Compassionate Sexual Abuse Survivor Lawyer

Sex abuse survivors need and deserve substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced lawyer ready to fight against the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Catholic Church, contact The Yost Legal Group today. Time to file a claim as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse is running out because of the Church’s bankruptcy filing.

We are available via e-mail, phone (1-800-YOST-LAW), and text (410-659-6800).