By Christina Spicer
After a two-year investigation, a child advocacy think-tank has found that Catholic sex abuse prevention programs are incomplete and inconsistent.
The Roman Catholic sex abuse scandal rocked dioceses across the world. In the aftermath of investigations and lawsuits by survivors, the Church implemented the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and a sex abuse prevention program, according to the Associated Press (AP).
CHILD USA, a non-profit think tank that researches child protection laws and policies, undertook an investigation into the implementation of the Charter, but reportedly found efforts lacking.
“Unfortunately, the Catholic Church has left the development and implementation of policies to the discretion of each local diocese and archdiocese,” CHILD USA says in its white paper issued after the investigation. “As a result, there is now a hodgepodge of relatively new child protection practices across the U.S.”
CHILD USA took two years to investigate all 32 Catholic archdioceses in the United States. “The Catholic Church’s errors on sexual abuse have damaged its mission and reputation and caused incalculable harm to thousands of child victims,” says CHILD USA’s white paper. Investigation findings.
In its white paper, CHILD USA recommends that the Church implement mandatory standards for handling priests accused of sexually abusing children. In addition, the group criticized the Church for allowing individual bishops to be in charge of implementing standards under the Charter.
The Catholic Church defends the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, according to the AP. In a statement to the AP, church officials noted that local churches need to be able to address varying state and local laws and requirements.
“States and local civil jurisdictions may have different reporting requirements and dioceses may have different population needs,” the statement said. “Thus, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is less effective than principles that can be applied and adapted locally.” The AP also reports that CHILD USA’s investigation took issue with how the archdiocese handles sexual abuse allegations. According to the report, most archdioceses do not use an independent investigator. The five that do use investigators who hold high-level roles within the church.
“These officials have blatant conflicts of interest that call into question their ability to conduct an impartial investigation,” states CHILD USA’s report. “In addition, they do not have the education and experience necessary for investigating child sexual abuse allegations.”
CHILD USA also noted concerns with how priests accused of abuse are monitored, something that has been echoed by the National Bishops Conference.
“The fact that in 25-30% of dioceses these recurring problems are still evident points to lack of diligence that puts children’s safety at risk,” stated the board of the National Bishops Conference after it reviewed the implementation of the Dallas Charter across the country. “Although dioceses continue to do good work in creating cultures of protection and healing, the fact remains the church’s efforts will be measured based on the weakest links.”
The LA Times reported on an independent audit released by U.S. bishops that found sex abuse allegations against clergy members tripled in 2018 and 2019 to over 4,400, something that’s attributed to the increase in new lawsuits filed by adult survivors of child abuse. Allegations of sex abuse by clergy have gone down since the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, according to Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, as reported by the AP. Georgetown reported that there were more than 11,500 allegations of abuse by clergy in the 1970s and 1980s, since 2005 there have only been 300 allegations.
“We have made much progress but know the painful experience of survivors calls us to continual improvement,” the Church told the AP.
CHILD USA’s report on the Church’s sex abuse prevention programs made a series of additional recommendations, such as improving background screening, monitoring, and protection for whistleblowers. CHILD USA also noted that the Codes of Conduct for many archdioceses simply prohibit inappropriate contact, but fail to describe grooming and other concerning behaviors that are red flags for abuse. These behaviors include telling children to keep secrets and targeting a specific child for special treatment, making it even more difficult for children to come forward and report abuse.
Archdioceses across the nation have a great deal of work to do when it comes to implementing effective sex abuse prevention programs, according to CHILD USA. The lead investigator commented that no one program came close to being the “gold standard.” Filing a Catholic sexual abuse lawsuit.
Some states, such as New York and New Jersey, have recently made adjustments to their sexual abuse laws, giving survivors more time to come forward with their allegations of abuse. In some instances, states have enacted a look-back window to allow survivors with previously expired claims to come forward. In the wake of states making such adjustments, hundreds of childhood sexual abuse lawsuits have been filed in recent years across the country.
Survivors in California may be able to file a lawsuit against an organization that allowed their abuse to occur, as well as the abuser themselves. Under the California Child Victims Act, survivors of past abuse outside the state’s statute of limitations have extra time to file claims, even over abuse that took place years or decades ago, under the state’s look-back window. The deadline is Dec. 31, 2022 — less than half a year away.
If you or someone you love was subjected to sexual abuse at the hands of a priest or other leader within the Catholic church, you may be able to file a lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit cannot take away the pain and suffering caused by abuse, but it can at least help to provide some accountability for abusers as well as those who allowed the abuse to occur, as well as compensation. Filing a lawsuit can be a daunting prospect, especially when dealing with something as traumatic as childhood sexual abuse, so Top Class Actions has laid the groundwork for you by connecting you with an experienced attorney. Consulting an attorney can help you determine if you have a claim, navigate the complexities of litigation, and maximize your potential compensation.
Join a free California sexual assault lawsuit investigation If you or a loved one suffered from sexual abuse related to an institution in California, you may qualify to join this California sexual assault lawsuit investigation. Learn more by filling out the form on this page for a free case evaluation by a sexual assault lawyer.