More attention on clergy sex crimes and cover-ups in California

On Behalf of | Aug 24, 2022 | Clergy Sex Abuse

Catholic clerics have been in the news a lot recently (as they should be), placing even more attention on clergy sex crimes and cover-ups in California.

Some recent articles include:

  1. “At least four prominent Catholic priests in the San Francisco Bay Area were accused of child sexual abuse in lawsuits filed under California’s look-back window. Yet contrary to the promises of the 2002 Dallas Charter, all four are still working.”
  2. “Between 2001 and 2009, the Oregon and California provinces of the Society of Jesus paid tens of millions of dollars to settle claims by 200 mainly Indigenous survivors of sexual abuse.” 
  3. “A California priest that was defrocked in March after protesting the Catholic Church over its record on abuse claims he was removed from the priesthood simply for being too critical.”
  4. “Clergy abuse survivors in California said they felt relief after the US Supreme Court decided June 21 not to hear a challenge brought forth by the state’s Catholic bishops against a law extending the statute of limitations for childhood abuse victims”.
  5. “Suit alleges sexual abuse by popular former California priest and high school swim coach.”
  6. (A priest) was arrested in Littlerock, California.”
  7. “A former monsignor settled a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Bishop of Fresno and its former spokeswoman after accusing them of defamation.”

Why so much attention on clergy sex crimes and cover-ups in California?

Its size is, of course, one reason. California has about ten million Catholics, more than any other state in the nation. (Other states with a million or more Catholics: New York, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Ohio, Texas, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Florida.) But here’s another critical reason: “New lawsuits are flooding into the Catholic Church, now that the US Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to a California state law that allows victims to sue, even decades after clergy sexual abuse.”

That’s right: new child sex abuse lawsuits are flooding the Catholic church in California. Does this seem like deja vu? In 2003, new child sex abuse lawsuits flooded the Catholic church in California. Both now and in 2003, the reasons for the flood are simple.

First, child molesting Catholic clerics – often protected or ignored by Catholic officials – flooded into California parishes for decades. Second, California lawmakers approved a time-limited ‘window’ during which child sex abuse victims could file civil lawsuits against those who committed and concealed child sex crimes against them. And how did that 2003 ‘window’ turn out? “About 850 Catholic clergy abuse victims and 150 others. . .sued churches, the Boy Scouts and other institutions for employing known molesters,” wrote one legal observer.

In other words, hundreds of wrongdoers, molesters, and their allies were publicly ‘outed.’ Hundreds of long-suffering child abuse victims got some measure of justice. And no one knows the number of kids who did NOT end up as victims of childhood horror. Nor the number of supervisors, managers, and employers (in both secular and religious organizations and institutions and schools and businesses) opted to make more careful decisions about hiring or promoting workers with troubling behaviors. So, indeed, the 2003 ‘window’ worked. And presumably, lawmakers realized this. So they enacted a second one. (The new deadline to file a civil case is Dec. 31, 2022.)

We at Horowitz Law predict that in the months ahead, there will be more public attention on children’s safety in California. We hope that increased publicity and scrutiny will prompt more survivors to use their precious legal opportunity to make kids safer and make healing happen.

NOTE: Some of the accused priests mentioned in recent news coverage include Craig Harrison, Steve Kiesle, Neil Kalina, Honesto Bayranta Bismonte, Kevin Fitzpatrick, James Pulskamp, and Eric Swearingen, Francisco Xavier Ochoa.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figuresand other clergy.  If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a member of a religious organization, contact us today at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.