Throughout the country, Catholic Dioceses are releasing the identities of priests and clergymen who committed deviant acts of abuse against children. In late 2018, the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, vowed that the Catholic Church will never again cover up clergy abuse. While the Catholic Church’s position under Pope Francis has been one of admittance of hiding inconceivable abuses by those in the position of power and trust, where does that leave the victims?
Attorneys across the country, including State Attorney Generals, are filing lawsuits against the Catholic Church for its knowledge of the abuses and continued schemes to protect their own from facing criminal and civil charges for their abusive acts. In Pennsylvania, the State’s Attorney General revealed a comprehensive grand jury report exposing 301 Catholic priests who sexually victimized more than 1,000 children.The report further found senior church officials knew about the abuse and covered up their conduct. Investigations by attorneys have uncovered 72 priests accused of sexually abusing children in the Diocese of Orange. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 2018 updated its accused clerics list to 323, adding an additional 54 names in 2018 to a list that has not been updated in decades.
The Diocese of Orange, in particular, has had a notable history regarding abuse. Since at least the late 1980’s, the Diocese of Orange accepted transferred priests who had multiple allegations of sexual conduct and may have enabled them to victimize children during their tenure. The grotesque conduct hidden by the leadership of the Diocese of Orange also spilled over into the Catholic schools. The largest settlement came in 2005, when Bishop Tod Brown announced a settlement of $100 million to 87 alleged survivors of clergy abuse by 30 priests, 2 nuns, 1 religious brother, and 10 lay personnel. According to Brown, incidents of clergy abuse occurred for decades – with 25 cases dating before the creation of the Diocese of Orange. This was the first California settlement as a result of the widespread Catholic abuse scandal.
The current statute of limitations offers several different periods of time in which a person can file a lawsuit. Essentially, California follows an eight-year and three-year period. This means:
- If a survivor of abuse is a minor, they have until they are 26 years old – eight years after they are legal adults – to file a claim.
- If a survivor of abuse is an adult that is much older than 26, they may still be able to file a lawsuit if they discover they have a psychological illness or injury associated to the abuse. From this date of discovery, they have three years.
However, even if you are past these time periods, you may still have grounds to file an eligible claim. This may only occur if the responsible institution was aware of the abuse occurring and failed to take reasonable actions or safeguards in order to prevent it.
In September of 2018, a bill was proposed that would significantly extend the statute of limitations for survivors of clergy abuse. If passed, Bill AB-3120 would give survivors until the age of 40 or 5 years from the date of discovery to file a claim against the alleged perpetrators. Additionally, this bill would also enable survivors to file claims against any liable organizations, such as the church or schools, for any damages. Unfortunately, AB-3120 was vetoed in October – but there remains strong support for survivors of sexual abuse within the state government. It is very plausible that, with a new governor in the capital, a similar bill extending the statute of limitations may be proposed and passed in the future. In this case, it is highly recommended to retain the services of a sexual abuse lawyer as soon as possible to help take advantage of these new laws and recover the maximum possible compensation for your pain and suffering.
Call us today for a free and confidential consultation to find out what we can do to help. The lawyers at DiMarco | Araujo | Montevideo are committed to assisting and seeking justice for any and all survivors of clergy abuse for their inexcusable actions. The Diocese of Orange (and any other associated Dioceses) deserve to be held accountable for their actions, and we are ready to stand by your side and fight for you. Click Here for more info.