Filing a Clergy Sex Abuse LawsuitAugust 1, 2021
Filing a lawsuit against a member of the clergy and the institution he represents can bring closure to years of a victim’s emotional suffering. A significant legal question arises in a clergy sex abuse lawsuit if the perpetrator of the abuse is already dead when the lawsuit is filed.
Filing the Lawsuit After the Clergyman Died
A sex abuse lawsuit can be brought against not only a clergyman, but the church that he represents too. For example, such a lawsuit might be brought against a specific Catholic priest in Boston along with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston too. The Archdiocese would be brought into the lawsuit under the legal theory of institutional sexual assault.
The Logic of Institutional Sexual Assault
News stories of sexual abuse by clergy members have shaken the foundations of churches and other religious institutions. Such abuse has been a well-known secret in religious institutions, but it has been covered up. Many Roman Catholic priests who were accused of sexual abuse were merely transferred to other churches where they continued with their sins. Other poor internal controls also contributed to the crisis.That’s why religious institutions have been accused of looking the other way and impliedly condoning if not being complicit in clergy sexual abuse.
But the Clergyman who Sexually Assaulted Me is Dead Now
In the overwhelming majority of clergy sexual abuse cases, it doesn’t matter if the abuser is dead now. The rationale behind that is that it’s no different than suing the estate of a person who injured you in an auto accident that he or she died in. What comes to issue is that we rarely see a clergyman with significant personal wealth, even when they were living.
How Do Clergy Sexual Abuse Victims Obtain Compensation for Their Damages?
The ability to collect compensation for the damages suffered by the victims of clergy sexual abuse is critical to obtaining the medical and mental health care and treatment that they need. That’s why religious organizations are brought into nearly every lawsuit against a clergyman. Victims are able to pursue compensation for the physical, mental and emotional anguish that they suffered for years. Some of those organizations, like a Roman Catholic Archdiocese hold vast assets. In some cases, punitive damages might even be awarded.
The only way for a victim to step up and credibly enlighten the public in a sexual abuse case involving a clergyman is to file an appropriate lawsuit for damages against the clergyman or his estate along with the religious institution he is or was affiliated with. It’s also the first major step in moving forward with a victim’s life. Victims are encouraged to take that step.