What Has Been the Response of the Catholic Church Regarding Abuse Allegations?

For many years, the Roman Catholic Church has had a disproportionately large number of child sexual abuse allegations. Many Catholic organizations have worked to deflect the problem demonstrated through these allegations, however as more cases are revealed, the evidence cannot be ignored. Pope Francis has made several statements on the sexual abuse allegations plaguing the Catholic Church, however his seeming fervor for coming to a solution seems to not match the response here in the United States.

Late last December during his annual Christmas speech, Pope Francis vowed the Catholic Church will “never again” cover up clergy sexual abuse against children. He even went so far to demand that any priests who have committed rape or molestation should turn themselves in.

“Convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice,” he said during the speech, adding, “Often behind their boundless amiability … and angelic faces, they shamelessly conceal a vicious wolf ready to devour innocent souls.” The Pope also urged victims to speak up against their abusers and use their voices to stop these atrocities from happening repeatedly.

The call for priests to come forth was a shock to the faith. The Vatican has a clear guideline on bishops only reporting “priestly abusers” if the country where the abuse allegedly happened has civil laws that require its reporting. This loophole has dismayed survivors of sexual assault as well as their supporters. They view this technicality as a way for priests to dodge their moral duties to their position and their congregations. While Pope Francis doesn’t speak on this guideline, he conducted an abuse prevention summit for church leaders around the world to develop a plan to weed out these abusers in The Church.

While Pope Francis has demonstrated a firm hand in seeking a means to stop the abuse from happening, the U.S. clergy has been more political in their response. While more and more cases come to light on children being sexually assaulted, many in the Catholic Church hierarchy have shown remorse and sympathy for the survivors but not much on how to improve conditions. Indeed, many of these sexual assault cases have been covered up for years. For example, a report was released late last year by Illinois’ Attorney General that named over 500 clergymen who were accused of misconduct. This is a far greater estimate than the 185 that were originally reported by Catholic Church officials.

There have been similar disparities among Catholic organizations in what’s reported versus what is more likely to be true. The Catholic Church has internal systems that are at times impenetrable, which makes it difficult for outsiders to uncover the truth about child sexual allegations in the Church.  

“In many cases, the Church failed to notify law enforcement authorities or Department of Children and Family Services of allegations of child sexual abuse,” says Illinois State Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Another growing problem is the failure to report on deceased, resigned or retired clergymen. This leaves victims without closure, but also skews the numbers on how many child sexual assaults occurred and during what years. With these unknown variables, it has been difficult to  analyze and address the scope of the problem. 

With the new Child Victims Act going into action, now is the time for survivors to speak up and share their stories. This is a problem that needs more voices if there is to be a lasting solution. Herman Law is prepared to go head-to-head with the Catholic Church to guarantee that survivors get their due justice in a court of law. No one should have to hide their childhood sexual abuse out of fear or shame. Call us today to learn more about how you or a loved one can find strength in these trying times. Please call us at (800) 686-9921 or visit our website at

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