The issue of the Catholic church’s responsibility for pedophile priests has been the subject of major litigation and media attention over the last several years. Last month, criminal charges against an alleged sexually abusive priest in Philadelphia were dismissed after the victim died of a suspected drug overdose. The victim’s family has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Philadelphia Catholic Church Archdiocese, alleging that the priest’s abuse led to the victim’s death.
Priest & Pastor Sex Abuse – Should a Church be Held Liable?
The question of liability of a church organization like the Philadelphia Archdiocese is a very important one because of the pervasiveness of child sex abuse in church organizations and the problem of church organizations knowingly harboring pedophile priests, pastors, and clergy members. While of course, a priest, pastor or clergy member who commits child sexual abuse should be absolutely liable, the church organization must also be liable when sex abuse is swept under the rug. This is exactly the type of situation the civil justice system in Pennsylvania is designed to address.
Examples of Situations Which Lead to Church Liability
Under tort or negligence principles, a wrongdoer can be taken to court for failing to act or otherwise taking affirmative steps which lead to injury. In priest and pastor sex abuse cases, church officials may intentionally ignore reports of sexually abusive behavior, or may even go so far as to suppress reports of sex abuse. For instance, a church official might try to convince parents who’ve reported suspicious behavior, that nothing happened and to simply forget what their child reported. In the worst cases, church officials simply move priests and pastors to other churches or parishes, where unwitting parents entrust their children to the care and spiritual guidance of these priests. In each of these situations, the church organization can and should be held accountable for shielding priests and pastors at the cost of innocent children.
Succeeding in a Priest/Pastor Sex Abuse Case Against a Church
In order to succeed in a priest/pastor sex abuse case against a church, there must be evidence that church officials engaged in the following types of behavior:
- ignoring signs of a priest’s pedophile tendencies,
- ignoring reports of sexually abusive behavior,
- failing to file reports with law enforcement and/or child protective services,
- destroying evidence,
- failing to train church employees about reporting priest abuse,
- failing to train church employees about properly investigating priest abuse reports, and
- transferring priests to other churches and parishes.
Church sex abuse cases can be complex because church officials often hide behind a wall of secrecy. Overcoming that wall of secrecy requires a thorough investigation into the facts and timeline of events, as well as, properly identifying and locating key witnesses.
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Priest & Pastor Sex Abuse Lawyer in PA & NJ. Representation by a Former Prosecutor
If you or a loved one has been a victim of church sex abuse, contact Brian Kent, an experienced sex abuse victims’ civil lawyer in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Mr. Kent is a former prosecutor and is passionate about justice for victims of sex abuse.
Mr. Kent handles child molestation, sexual assault, sex abuse, and priest/clergy abuse cases in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He works with attorneys nationwide and can be admitted in other states to handle matters on a case by case basis. 800.220.7600
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