Massachusetts Attorneys Investigating Sexual Assault Claims Against the Roman Catholic Church Archdioceses
Clergy abuse is a severe problem that can cause survivors physical, emotional, and spiritual harm. Unfortunately, many sexual abuse survivors of clergy abuse often feel alone and helpless. They may struggle for years to come to terms with the sexual abuse they experienced.
Survivors of sex abuse by Catholic priests in Massachusetts can pursue civil lawsuits for damages against their abusers and others who enabled or turned a blind eye to abuse.
Even though the statutes of limitations laws in place often prevent many survivors from seeking justice, state laws are changing, making it easier to seek justice and financial compensation.
The clergy abuse attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, are legal advocates for clergy sexual abuse survivors. Our sexual abuse lawyers work tirelessly to ensure that the clergy members credibly accused and their employers in public ministry are held accountable.
Call a Massachusetts clergy abuse lawyer at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today to protect your legal rights and schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
Clergy Sexual Abuse: An Increasing National Tragedy
The recent exposure to religious leader-related adult and child sexual exploitation has increased startlingly. In many dioceses, the Bishops and other religious men and women have provided the sexual predator with an ideal environment to groom and abuse an innocent minor.
Children routinely taught to trust and respect priests, pastors, brothers, sisters, teachers, ministers, and other religious leaders are significantly harmed by inappropriate sexual contact.
Often, when Catholic officials believe there is a credible allegation that the priest sexually molested a child, he is relocated to another community instead of facing severe criminal convictions.
Clergy Sexual Exploitation Remains a Problem
Many survivors of sexual exploitation by Roman Catholic religious leaders in Massachusetts are not happy with how Catholic officials settle their cases.
One survivor was sexually assaulted and received $80,000 from the church to recover damages as one of the fifty-nine plaintiffs. Instead, they sued and settled with the church for $4.5 million.
The settlement amount is significantly lower than other cases nationwide, where victims received $250,000 more.
In Massachusetts, victims face difficult hurdles and lose most of their bargaining power if they wait too long to file a claim for financial compensation after the statute of limitations on their case has expired.
The Devastating Effects of Sexual Assault
The well-being of a sexually assaulted victim is usually altered, creating a lifetime of severe conditions and disorders. Young survivors of priest abuse often suffer from significant sleeping disorders, ongoing depression, substance abuse, self-injury, and suicide, including suicidal ideation (thinking about suicide).
The very young might develop negative eating habits, begin living an over-sexualized lifestyle, or engage in any form of risky behavior.
In 2004, the Catholic leaders in Massachusetts settled numerous lawsuits for $7.7 million in cases involving clergy members, religious order members, and priest abuse survivors.
In 2018, Catholic officials paid out around $1 million in a negotiated out-of-court settlement involving eight survivors of childhood priest abuse committed by Augustinian clergymen.
Some of the priest abuse plaintiffs, in that case, are now adult women who were sexually assaulted by a Lawrence St. Mary’s Parish Reverend between 1973 and 1976 who also served as a coach. The priest has since died.
The Statute of Limitations for Priest Sexual Abuse Claims in Massachusetts
Recently, the Massachusetts legislature made significant changes to the statutes of limitations for survivors of priest abuse. The new laws, which went into effect in May 2018, are intended to remove the stress of taking legal action against predators who molest children.
The new law limits the timeframe victims have to file claims for priest abuse that occurred when they were minors, from twelve years to thirty years old. However, survivors who wish to sue their perpetrators must do so before fifty.
Holding Religious Leaders Accountable
The church’s role in protecting the abusers and their actions to maintain a safe environment for children is still being reviewed.
By holding the catholic priests and other religious orders leaders accountable, survivors of priest abuse will have greater peace of mind knowing their perpetrators are being held responsible for their crimes.
The spotlight investigation team at the Boston Globe uncovered sex abuse and cover-ups within the Catholic in Massachusetts.
According to the Boston Globe, the $4.5 million settlement was generous in resolving Catholic sexual abuse claims because the religious institution wanted to “move past this painful chapter and ensure that their parishioners who suffered so greatly could heal.”
The Boston Globe report revealed that the Catholic is also working with lawmakers nationally, lobbying for similar reforms to Massachusetts laws.
Can More Be Done To Protect Children?
However, lawmakers are divided on the issue. Some feel much more can be done to protect minor victims, while others believe the law should not apply retroactively to make it harder for clergy abuse survivors to file claims.
The Catholics argues that allowing these changes would cause them significant financial hardship; however, legal experts say the Catholics will still receive enough money to care for its clergy members and religious leaders.
The Boston Globe report indicated that the Catholic in Massachusetts has already paid $300 million in claims since 1950 and reported $1 billion set aside for additional claims.
The Victim Assistance Program in Massachusetts
The victim assistance program in Massachusetts has been dealing with many allegations of clergy abuse in the state.
Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse
The Catholic adopts a slightly different approach as the number of survivors reporting priest abuse rises. Church leaders are working to provide more education for minor victims and their parents to help keep kids safe.
The new policy requires all clergy members, employees, and volunteers who work with minor victims to be trained to protect children from clergy members’ abuse.
The training includes lessons on identifying warning signs of grooming behaviors by molesters; it also teaches adults how to build trust and communicate effectively with children.
The training is opt-out rather than opt-in. All adults must participate even if they are only working with adults or are not involved in any Catholic activities that include minor victims.
A Need for New Laws
New policies in Massachusetts can help protect young people from sexual predators, but the onus doesn’t always fall on the Catholic institution. Parents and other adults in a child’s life need to be vigilant, ensuring they know where their kids are going and who will be there.
Religious members in Massachusetts who fail to report child sex abuse must also be held legally accountable for their actions, just like victims’ parents. In addition, those who perpetrate such crimes against minor victims should not be allowed to continue operating in positions of power.
Child Molesters in the Catholic Church
The Archdiocese of Boston listed the names of dozens of clergy members accused of sexual abuse in Massachusetts.
The list included men involved in active ministry and those who were de-frocked (defrocking is removing an ordained person’s ecclesiastical position and the clerical authority that accompanies it) or who have died.
It didn’t include any priests accused of sexual abuse but had never been convicted of a crime. The names are being posted on their website as part of an ongoing project to increase transparency within the Catholic.
Other abusive priests listed on the website admitted to molesting young boys but were never criminally charged. For example, a clergy member admitted to molesting more than 100 children over 30 years before dying in 2009.
A Long History of Sex Allegations
Other clergy members are credibly accused of sex offenses that allegedly occurred decades ago. Unfortunately, many who committed these crimes are dead, and priest abuse survivors cannot receive justice for their actions.
In New Bedford, MA, a clergy member who pleaded guilty to raping an altar boy was sentenced to eight years in prison, followed by ten years of probation. In addition, the 48-year-old former priest must register as a sex offender and have no contact with children under the age of 16.
The Culprit is Usually Someone Known to the Family
Another clergy member in New Bedford was credibly accused of sexual abuse against a young girl 20 years after the alleged abuse began.
The woman filed a civil lawsuit against him, the Fall River diocese, and the Archdiocese of Boston, where she claimed to have been raped by a group of men – including accused priests – when she was a teenager.
The alleged abuse survivor said the abuse began when she was just 14 years old and continued for several years.
She said the sex offense involving the priest started with inappropriate touching and escalated to oral sex and forced vaginal intercourse. The woman stated that the man who sexually assaulted her was a longtime friend of her family.
Multi-Million Dollar Verdicts
The jury later returned a $20 million verdict in favor of the plaintiff, awarding the abused woman $2 million for each year between 2001 and 2012 – totaling $21 million, plus interest. An additional $26 million was later levied against the diocese.
In December 2021, three priests from the Fall River diocese were credibly accused of sexual abuse. The case was presented during a canonical trial, which allows the religious institution to determine the validity of the allegations.
One priest was found guilty of sexually exploiting an altar boy between 1979 and 1984. He was excommunicated from the Catholic institution after being convicted by the Church’s tribunal board.
However, the three reverends were never criminally charged for their alleged offenses due to the statute of limitations expiring.
The New York Times reported that the Fall River diocese had paid out more than $15 million to settle lawsuits since 2002.
The three priests were among six dismissed from the ministry due to sexual misconduct allegations; five entered treatment programs for sex offenders, while one was removed from public ministry.
Sexually Abusing a Young Girl
Another reverend from Fall River, Massachusetts, who was found guilty of priest abuse in 2021, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The 63-year-old man, originally from Maine, faced charges of sexually assaulting a young girl while serving as a priest at St. Theresa’s Church in New Bedford between 1988 and 1991.
The Fall River Diocese has released a list of 51 priests facing sex abuse. The list included men involved in previous sex abuse cases and those who will be the subject of future litigation in Massachusetts.
The list was made public to increase transparency within the Catholic and ensure that this long history does not repeat itself.
A spokesperson said, “Our commitment is first and foremost to support victims/survivors by holding accountable those who have harmed them. Our second priority is to remove from ministry any cleric who has sexually abused a child.”
Child Sexual Abuse in Boston Archdiocese
The Catholic embroiled in a child sexual abuse scandal has rocked the Boston Archdiocese. For years, abusive priests molested children and were never held accountable.
In 2002, the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team published a report detailing the child sexual abuse by priests of the Boston Archdiocese and exposing a systematic cover-up by church leaders.
Child Sexual Allegations in the Diocese of Fall River
Child sexual abuse allegations were first reported in the Diocese of Fall River in 1974. The Fall River diocesan response to allegations was often slow and inadequate.
The Fall River did not have a formal policy for dealing with child sex abuse allegations until the 1990s.
The Priests Accused of Sexual Abuse
Some of the priests under scrutiny include:
Jesuit Priest James Talbot
Jesuit priest James Talbot was publicly accused of molesting a teenage boy while serving as a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston.
Reports indicate that Talbot, who served at St. Joseph’s Parish in Billerica from 1991 to 1996, sexually abused the boy multiple times over three years.
A Catholic priest in Massachusetts, Fay Robert, has been accused of sexually exploiting dozens of boys for 30 years.
Foley James, one of the most respected clergymen in Massachusetts, was found to have abused dozens of children throughout his career.
Butler William S. and Hogan James P. were clergy members convicted of sexually assaulting a minor in 1992.
Paul Shanley was a clergy member implicated in the widespread sexual exploitation scandal that rocked the Catholic Church in Massachusetts.
John Hanlon was a Roman Catholic priest who was convicted of sexually exploiting two boys in the early 1990s. He was sentenced to ten years in prison.
Fall River Diocese
47 Underwood St
Fall River, MA 02720
Cathedral: Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption
49 Elm St
Worcester, MA 01609
Bishop: Robert Joseph McManus
Cathedral: Cathedral of Saint Paul
65 Elliot St
Springfield, MA 01105
Bishop: Mitchell T. Rozanski
Cathedral: St. Michael’s Cathedral
Archdiocese of Boston
66 Brooks Dr
Braintree, MA 02184
Boston Archdiocese Cathedral: Cathedral of the Holy Cross
Boston Archdiocese website: bostoncatholic.org
The Springfield Diocese of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts has been mired in scandal for years, with dozens of priests accused of sexually abusing children.
The Massachusetts Department of public health recently released a report detailing the prevalence of clergy abuse in the state.
Massachusetts dioceses often refuse to help clergy sexual exploitation victims, abandoning them and leaving them to find their therapy.
The Massachusetts dioceses usually do so because of the secret settlements that the dioceses have with other clergy sexual exploitation victims.
According to the associated press, more than 300 Catholic priests in Massachusetts have been accused of sexually exploiting children since the 1940s.
Massachusetts Clergy Sexual Abuse Attorneys Are Ready to Help
Our network of sexual abuse lawyers knows your challenges in talking about the unspeakable actions that a clergy member did to you. We know the Catholic officials push back with their wielding power saying nothing wrong happened to sex abuse survivors.
However, with Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, on your side, you will not face predator priests or the Church leaders alone. Our injury lawyers can assure you that all those responsible for your clergy abuse will hear your shocking story at trial.
Let our law offices protect your legal rights and start seeking justice on your behalf today. Speak to our abuse injury lawyers now to file all the necessary paperwork.
Moving forward and beginning the process can help ensure no one else is ever sexually abused by a religious official again.
We will obtain a monetary recovery on your behalf while protecting your legal rights. Contact us now at (888) 424-5757 to schedule a free consultation. During an initial, free consultation concerning your case, all information you share about the clergy abuse will remain confidential.