In recent decades, the Catholic Church's reputation has been tarnished by a continous wave of sexual abuse scandals. The cases in a given area of the country often start with a single allegation, which then gives other victims the courage to come forward.
And despite criminal investigations, civil lawsuits and landmark settlements, allegations continue to surface in Pennsylvania and around the country. The problem of clergy sexual abuse seems to be larger and more widespread than most people can imagine.
Recently, the Archdiocese of Chicago agreed to settle one sexual abuse lawsuit for $2.3 million. The unnamed plaintiff is now in his early 20s, but was just 11 or 12 when the priest began sexually abusing him in 2004. The abuse continued until sometime in 2006, even after the priest was questioned by police regarding allegations brought by another boy.
The priest was criminally charged for sexually abusing at least five victims, and in 2007, he pled guilty. The defrocked priest, who is now 45 years old, has been described as a "serial offender." And although his prison sentence has been served, he is being held in a mental health facility and may be committed indefinitely due to concerns about future sexual violence.
This is not the first civil lawsuit that the Archdiocese of Chicago has faced for the alleged actions of this particular priest. Other multimillion-dollar settlements have already been paid to other victims.
Whenever a clergy sexual abuse scandal makes the news, investigations commonly reveal that church officials were aware of sexual abuse committed by priests, yet they chose to move those priests around rather than turning them in.
Giving safe harbor to pedophiles is not only morally reprehensible, it is also incredibly costly for the church once the allegations are made public. Hopefully, churches everywhere will be motivated to do the right thing - either by conscience or money - from now on.
Source: Chicago Tribune, "Chicago Archdiocese settles sexual abuse suit for $2.3M," Steve Schmadeke, Nov. 27, 2013