Legally Reviewed by:

Jonathan Rosenfeld

June 29, 2023

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Sexual abuse can happen anywhere, even in places where we least expect it to occur.

Numerous studies and investigations have found thousands of cases of sexual mistreatment in the Catholic church and religious denominations.

Sadly, most of these cases involve children.

Earlier this year, Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown released a report alleging 156 clergy members and others sexually abused 600 children for over 80 years.

According to the report, the Archdiocese leadership refused to acknowledge allegations, allowing the pattern of abuse to continue for decades.

You can seek justice if a priest, clergy, or church official sexually abused you or a family member.

At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our experienced attorneys work tirelessly to help survivors recover the compensation they deserve.

Contact a sexual abuse lawyer at (888) 424-5757 for a free case evaluation. We protect all clients’ sensitive information during our free consultations.

Maryland Clergy Abuse Lawyer

What is Clergy Sexual Abuse?

Clergy sexual abuse is forced sexual contact between a priest, clergy member, or other church official and another church member.

It includes physical acts such as:

  • Fondling
  • Inappropriate touching
  • Kissing
  • Sodomy
  • Rape or attempted rape
  • Penetration with fingers or objects

It also encompasses non-contact acts, including but not limited to:

  • Exposing one’s genitals
  • Non-consensual explicit photography
  • Watching someone undress
  • Making sexual comments or gestures
  • Sending unwanted sexual images or texts 

Child sex abuse includes:

  • Showing pornography to a child
  • Exposing one’s self to a child or forcing a child to undress
  • Watching a child undress
  • Making a child touch someone’s sexual parts
  • Forcing a child to touch themselves inappropriately

Why Does Sexual Abuse Happen in the Catholic Church?

Ideally, religious organizations are the last places you would expect sex abuse to occur.

Yet, clergy abuse is a widespread problem in the Catholic church and other religious groups. 

There is no single cause of the prevalence of sexual assault in religious institutions.

Nevertheless, several studies point to specific factors that lead to it, such as the culture of celibacy and secrecy. 

A report published by the Centre for Global Research at RMIT University examined findings from 26 royal commissions from the UK, Australia, Ireland, and the Netherlands since 1985.

Results show that the risk was significantly higher in institutions wherein Catholic priests have minimal contact with women.

Furthermore, the culture of secrecy around the church allows lapses in transparency, accountability, and trust.

Consequently, many childhood sexual abuse cases go unreported. 

Additionally, protecting the church’s reputation is a priority for religious leaders, often trumping the need to protect children and sexual assault survivors.

According to the Maryland Attorney General’s Office report, the Archdiocese of Baltimore chose to ignore the allegations and protect the accused priests.

The information includes numerous instances of cover-ups by the church and details the steps leaders took to protect Catholic priests from persecution.

The Maryland Child Victims Act

On April 11, 2023, Governor Wes Moore signed the Maryland Child Victims Act into state law.

This legislation scraps the statute of limitations for adult sexual abuse survivors, allowing more survivors to take civil action against their abusers and parties who helped cover up the crime. 

Moreover, the new law repeals the statute of repose for civil lawsuits over child sexual abuse. Statutes of repose cut off specific legal rights if they are not acted on within a set amount of time.

There is an unlimited lookback period for Maryland Catholic church sex abuse cases, allowing survivors to revive claims that were barred before.

Maryland’s Attorney General revealed hundreds of sexual abuse cases by clergy members and the ensuing systematic cover-ups.

Another ongoing report involves the Boy Scouts of America, the most prominent instance of child sex abuse in US history.

In 2020, the organization filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after facing 82,000 sexual abuse lawsuits.

Aside from allowing victims to seek compensation, legislators hope to encourage other survivors to come forward. 

The Effects on Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors

Many survivors suffer numerous physical, emotional, and psychological impacts for years or even decades.

Physical Effects

Sexual abuse survivors may suffer from the following physical effects:

  • Bruising
  • Bleeding
  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Localized pain
  • Broken or dislocated bones
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Pregnancy

Psychological Effects

Unfortunately, sex abuse leads to more than physical consequences for victims, even after the physical trauma has passed.

Common mental effects of sexual abuse include but are not limited to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Panic attacks
  • Dissociation
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide
  • Isolation
  • Eating disorders
  • Sleep disorders

Emotional Effects

Sexual abuse victims may experience the following emotional changes:

  • Anger
  • Shame
  • Mistrust towards others
  • Numbness
  • Loss of control
  • Helplessness
  • Persistent fear
  • Self-blame or guilt
  • Sense of vulnerability

Secondary Effects

The physical, emotional, and psychological impacts of sex abuse may lead to other negative experiences, such as:

  • Malnutrition and dehydration from eating disorders
  • Alcoholism and drug addiction
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Difficulty forming and maintaining relationships
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Lost opportunities in life
  • Infertility

Signs of Sexual Abuse

It can be difficult to spot signs of sexual abuse in your child as they are not always obvious.

Nevertheless, there are several indicators that you should watch out for:

  • Refusal to go to church
  • Discomfort around a particular priest or church official
  • Behavioral changes, e.g., frequent tantrums, withdrawal, or isolation
  • Regressive behaviors, e.g., thumb-sucking, bed-wetting
  • Difficulties in hygiene, sleeping, and eating
  • Poor mental health
  • Reduced school performance
  • Protectiveness around siblings
  • Sudden fearfulness or anxiety while in church

You can report the alleged abuse to the police, the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS), and your diocese.

You can also notify the US Conference of Catholic Bishops through the Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection (202-541-5413).

There is a high risk of sexual abuse when one person has power or authority over another, such as in religious groups.

Sadly, many institutions have become places for sexual abuse by officials and other powerful people.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore had concealed sexual misconduct and abuse among its clergy members for decades.

With the Child Victims Act of 2023, victims can file clergy sexual assault cases regardless of how much time has passed and re-open claims that have lapsed due to the statute of limitations.

You can file a Maryland clergy sex abuse lawsuit against:

  • The Abuser: An offender can be a priest, clergy member, seminarian, deacon, teacher, or employee of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
  • The Church: Apart from the perpetrator, the Archdiocese of Baltimore may also be accountable for hiding or attempting to hide clergy sex abuse. You can hold the church liable if it knew about the mistreatment yet did nothing about it.
  • Witnesses: Any adult has the legal duty to report suspected sexual abuse of a child, even without proof. Failure to do so could lead to liability in a childhood sexual abuse case. 

Sexual assault is a crime punishable by law in Maryland. Victims of other forms of sexual clergy abuse can also pursue justice through civil action.

However, if the abuser is dead, it may still be possible to file a case against the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Your lawyer will explain potential options during your free consultation.

Financial Compensation

Legal action against sexual predators is the best way to bring them to justice.

A legal claim can also help you and your family recover compensation for the following economic and non-economic damages.

  • Medical bills
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Wrongful death
  • Punitive damages

You will learn more about the financial aspect of a sex abuse lawsuit during your free consultation.

How Our Clergy Abuse Lawyers Can Help

Our attorneys understand clergy abuse cases’ sensitive nature, especially ones involving children.

They will help you file a lawsuit under a pseudonym if you wish to remain anonymous.

We ensure victims have their voices heard and have the tools they need to start the healing process.

Our personal injury law firm handles the legal process from top to bottom, including:

  • Investigating how the clergy sex abuse occurred
  • Identifying at-fault parties
  • Gathering evidence to support your claims
  • Determining the compensation you deserve
  • Filing your case in court

A clergy sexual abuse lawyer will walk you through your legal options if you wish to file a sex abuse lawsuit. 

Our Maryland Clergy Abuse Lawyers Can Help You Seek Justice

The Catholics and other religious orders have a long history of clergy abuse.

Unfortunately, the victims are often innocent children and vulnerable adults who trust these leaders entirely.

You deserve justice if you suffered abuse by a Catholic priest, clergy member, or other church official.

Our Maryland clergy sexual abuse lawyers will help you pursue legal action against at-fault parties and ensure they are brought to justice.

Contact our law firm at (888) 424-5757 for a free legal consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer.

All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team will remain private under an attorney-client relationship.

Our Maryland clergy sexual abuse lawyers handle all accepted cases on a contingency fee basis.

This agreement ensures you don’t have to pay our legal fees unless we win your case.


Client Reviews

Jonathan Rosenfeld was professionally objective, timely, and knowledgeable. Also, his advice was extremely effective regarding my case. In addition, Jonathan was understanding and patient pertaining to any of my questions or concerns. I was very happy with the end result and I highly recommend Jonathan Rosenfeld.

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Jonathan helped my family heal and get compensation after our child was suffered a life threatening injury at daycare. He was sympathetic and in constant contact with us letting us know all he knew every step of the way. We were so blessed to find Jonathan!

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This lawyer really helped me get compensation for my motorcycle accident case. I know there is no way that I could have gotten anywhere near the amount that Mr. Rosenfeld was able to get to settle my case. Thank you.

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Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was impressed at how well prepared Jonathan was to take the case to trial.

- Lisa
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