September 17, 2021

US: Two new lawsuits filed against Catholic Church over abuse

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By Eric T. Chaffin from The Legal Examiner Pittsburgh

Sexual abuse victims have filed two new national lawsuits against the Catholic Church. According to the Washington Post, both suits were filed on November 13, 2018, and both name as defendants the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. One is a class-action lawsuit, and also names the Holy See as a defendant.

The plaintiffs in both lawsuits want the church to release the names of all the accused sex offenders in their secret archives. Those in the class action lawsuit also seek financial damages.

Victims File Class Action Lawsuit in Washington D.C.

The first lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. on behalf of six men who claim they are survivors of sexual assault perpetrated by Catholic bishops. They claim that instead of safeguarding children, the defendants protected abusive priests and made concerted efforts to conceal their wrongful conduct. According to the lawsuit, because the church failed to report these alleged abusers to the police, they allowed the abuse to go on while preventing victims from seeking justice.

The plaintiffs also accuse the defendants of operating a criminal enterprise under federal racketeering statutes and seek financial damages under the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). They claim that the church cheated and defrauded the plaintiffs out of their childhood, youth, innocence, and more.

The plaintiffs seek compensatory, economic, punitive, and RICO damages.

The second lawsuit was filed in federal district court in Minnesota, also on behalf of six victims from different states who claim to have been victims of church abuse. One of the plaintiffs stated in anews conference in Baltimore that he wanted to protect other children. He was abused at the age of 17, and when he later took legal action, he obtained documents that showed the priest had gone on to abuse others.

The plaintiffs demand full disclosure of all known offenders across the country.

Pennsylvania Grand Jury Reveals Decades of Child Abuse

These lawsuits follow the release of the explosive Pennsylvania grand jury report that detailed abuse that occurred in the state’s six dioceses over a period of many decades, with at least 1,000 victims. The jury reported not only on the cases of abuse, but on the extensive steps the church took to cover up that abuse and to protect the clergy.

As a consequence of the cover-up, most of the instances of abuse are too old to be prosecuted under current laws. In Pennsylvania, victims have only until they turn 30 years old to file civil lawsuits. Lawmakers are hoping to pass a law that would open a new two-year window for lawsuits, but these efforts may well fail.

Whereas in the past the church kept the abuse quiet, often moving predatory priests to church-run counseling centers, the plaintiffs in these lawsuits want the bishops to comply with the laws requiring them to report abusive clergy to law enforcement authorities, and also want these priests’ names released so that parents may protect their children.

Eric T. Chaffin

Exclusively focused on representing plaintiffs, especially in mass tort litigation, Eric Chaffin prides himself on providing unsurpassed professional legal services in pursuit of the specific goals of his clients and their families. Both his work and his cases have been featured in the national press, including on ABC’s Good Morning America.

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