A church is supposed to be a safe, restful space—somewhere you and your family can gather in good times and in bad to observe the customs and rituals that mean the most to you. Unfortunately, these religious organizations aren’t always the pinnacle of virtue. In fact, churches have a record of ignoring complaints of sexual abuse, even going so far as to hide reported instances to avoid widespread fallout. As a result, victims are often abandoned without help, closure, or justice, and the perpetrators are left to roam free – potentially to find other victims.
Countless cases of sexual abuse within the church have taken headlines by storm over the years, some of which have involved respected members of the Catholic Church, the Jehovah’s Witness Church, and other well-known religious establishments. However, these terrible acts are more than just distant stories, they affect real children, men, and women every day. The pain that comes with these types of abuse cases is incomprehensible and can lead to severe physical, emotional, and psychological damage. No sexual abuse victim should be ignored or pushed aside— and that’s why our firm believes in giving a voice to the injured so that the perpetrators answer for their terrible crimes.
If you or your child suffered sexual abuse by a clergy member or church official, or if the church was in any way responsible for allowing the abuse to occur, you may have a sexual abuse claim. Our team at Breit Cantor Grana Buckner is prepared to help you with your case and provide you with the legal support you need and deserve.
Why Choose Breit Cantor Grana Buckner?
At Breit Cantor Grana Buckner, our attorneys understand how traumatizing these types of cases can be, which is why we treat every client with the compassion and attention they deserve. We always approach each case with a personalized action plan, and we never back down from difficult or complex cases. Whatever you’ve been through, we’re prepared to listen to your story and secure a favorable outcome for your case. We’ve secured some of the largest settlements in Virginia history, and we’re committed to helping you, too.
Call (888) 635-9500 to schedule a free consultation with our Virginia clergy sexual abuse attorneys.
About Sexual Abuse in the Church
Sexual abuse can occur anywhere, in any church, regardless of the type of faith. Some of the most notorious sexual abuse scandals have involved the Catholic church and Southern Baptist church, but no religious organization is infallible.
We can handle cases involving, but not limited to:
- Clergy members
"With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them." – Pope Francis
The Catholic Church is a powerful organization not only in the United States but throughout the world. The Catholic Church deceived many and took advantage of the good faith and trusting nature of parents who willingly sent their children into potentially dangerous parishes and schools. These parents were unaware that the Catholic archdiocese in many cities and states was covering up criminal acts, sexual abuse, and pedophilia. Several have admitted to hiding sexual predators, covering up abuse cases, and misusing church funds to relocate criminal priests and educators.
Many survivors have received retribution for the abuse they faced. According to a report by CNN, it is estimated that in the United States alone over 8,600 survivors have received over $3.8 billion in restitution from the Catholic Church for claims involving allegations of sexual abuse. And while this is an extraordinary number of survivors, experts believe the number of victims is well over 100,000. If you or someone you love was the victim sexual abuse, call us for more information on filing a legal claim.
Southern Baptist Church
According to an investigation by the San Antonio Express-News and the Houston Chronicle, at least 35 Southern Baptist pastors, youth ministers, and volunteers who were convicted of sex crimes, or accused of sexual misconduct, were still allowed to work at churches during the past two decades. Childhood sexual abuse is as prevalent in the Baptist Church as it is in the Catholic Church but without apparent procedures for tracking abusive clergy who are transferred out of state, for removing accused abusers from ministry, or for informing congregants that their officials have been accused of violating children.
Numerous Baptist clergy have been arrested and convicted for criminal sexual misconduct. However, the Southern Baptist Convention and other local Baptist organizations have rejected efforts to establish a sex offender registry that local church authorities could consult to avoid hiring known predators. This has resulted in preachers moving from one church to another without their new congregation ever learning about the history of sexual abuse.
Unlike Catholic parishes, Southern Baptist churches claim to operate autonomously, meaning they can ordain and hire pastors on their own in most circumstances. Generally, there is a deacon board or committee of church elders who decide whether to hire or retain the Pastor and church staff. These deacons and elders are responsible for doing background checks and implementing appropriate protocols to protect children. When the church deacons and elders are negligent in their duties and children are harmed, the church can be liable.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints/Mormon Church
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), more commonly known as the Mormon Church, also has a sordid history of sexual abuse and cover-ups within the organization. With over 16 million members, the church is one of the largest religious organizations in the United States. Over the last thirty years, terrible stories of abuse and cover-up have been in the news, including the churches use of an abuse hotline to funnel potential issues to private attorneys to handle under “attorney-client privilege” before lawsuits could be filed.
For many survivors, the elders in the church whom they trust and look up to fail to take their abuse claims seriously. Many elders choose to “forgive” the abuser and pray for them instead of taking action to report the abuse to authorities. All efforts and focus have been on preserving the Mormon Church’s reputation at any cost. In addition, it is not unusual for those who speak out against the church to be ostracized. The fear of having to cut ties to their faith community is enough to keep them silent.
Below are links to recent news stories on Mormon Church abuse. If you or a loved one have experienced abuse at the hand of a church elder or layperson, you don’t have to stay quiet. Contact the attorneys at Breit Cantor for a free and confidential consultation.
Who Could Be Liable?
Depending on the circumstances of your case, several parties could be found liable for the damages you suffered. The abuser, for one, should be held liable for the part he or she played in causing any physical, psychological, and emotional damage. However, the establishment that allowed the abuse to occur is usually the central liable party.
If, for example, a Catholic priest commits an act of sexual abuse against a child, and that child’s parents report the abuse to the church officials, the church is responsible for taking action against the accused individual. If the church fails to notify authorities, does not investigate the matter further, and continues to put that priest in the path of other children, (potential victims), the church could be found liable for any future harm that priest commits.
Let Our Firm Help You
Accusations of sexual abuse should never be taken lightly, and victims of abuse should always be prioritized, protected, and supported, regardless of the potential repercussions or circumstances. If you or your child suffered any form of sexual abuse by a church member or church official, our firm wants to help you take action. We can listen to your story, build a case in your favor, and hold the church liable for the damage you suffered as a result of their negligence. We are passionate about what we do, and we want to ensure each and every client we represent receives the legal advocacy they need.
To get started, call our Virginia attorneys at (888) 635-9500 today!