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When the church fails you: Wrongful death due to clergy misconduct

On Behalf of | Sep 11, 2023 | Clergy Abuse

Unfortunately, clergy sexual abuse is still a widespread problem. Instead of condemning their own, many churches cover up such wrongdoings, making these issues harder to resolve. When church leaders look the other way, it can allow abusers to continue their harmful behavior and claim even more victims.

A few months ago, a well-established family of churchgoers sued their local archdiocese for wrongful death, claiming mishandling of sexual abuse accusations. One of the priests allegedly sexually assaulted a family member when he was younger, but his complaints went unheard. Because his abuser was never punished, he carried his childhood traumas into adulthood, fell into drug addiction and eventually died of an overdose.

The family hopes the lawsuit will help shed light on clergy abuse and spare others from the same fate. However, their story also demonstrates that everyone, including people who have done nothing except support the church, can fall victim to clergy abuse.

Too many cases of clergy abuse remain unreported

Victims of clergy abuse might fail to file a complaint due to a lack of knowledge, disbelief, or fear, leaving their families oblivious to the abuse. When victims do speak up, the institution they have trusted their whole lives ends up covering up the situation.

While the church has been taking steps to stop tolerating abusers, there is still a long way to go. Victims and families should not have to be afraid of reporting these types of exploitation, especially when it leads to death.

If the negligence of the church leaders results in the death of a loved one, their family may file a wrongful death lawsuit against the institution. The lawsuit may allow the victim’s family to hold the alleged party accountable for their actions and exact compensation.

Fighting clerical abuse, however, is not an easy task. Churches have access to certain legal resources and safeguards. To fight for and defend their rights, victims or their families might require a determined attorney on their side.