The problem of priest or clergy sex abuse is pervasive. Here’s a pretty startling number which shows just how pervasive the problem of priest sex abuse is – since 2004, there were over 40 priests within the Philadelphia Archdiocese who were defrocked or otherwise restricted due to a credible allegation of child sex abuse. Over 40 priests in less than a 10 year period. This clearly shows a major problem. The problem of child sex abuse is not isolated to the Catholic church. The problem reaches across religions, generations, and cultures.
Why Does a Church Institution Harbor a Sex Abuser?
The instinct for self-preservation is quite strong. No one wants to deal with an investigation, the resulting scandal and potential job loss. It is easier to simply sweep an allegation of child sex abuse under the rug. In addition, there is a strong presumption that priests and clergy members are simply incapable of sexually abusing anyone, much less sexually abusing children.
How to Stomp Out Child Sex Abuse Within Churches
1. Changing Reporting Policies and Procedures
The key in preventing child sex abuse by clergy members and priests lies in changing responses to reports of child sex abuse. There must be swift and decisive action, including reporting the abuse to law enforcement. When an institution like a church or school reacts with anything other than swift and decisive action, it inadvertently sends a message to all others within its walls – that child sex abusers may go unpunished.
2. Creating Criminal Penalties for Failure to Report Child Sex Abuse
Last year, a Monsignor in Philadelphia was convicted of one count of child endangerment for moving suspected sexually abusive priests to parishes around the Philadelphia area. He was acquitted of one count of conspiracy.
Prosecutors need extra ammunition when prosecuting child sex abuse cases. If legislatures created a new crime, such as Hindering Prosecution of a Child Sex Abuser Within an Institution, prosecutors would be better able to convict those who knowingly or negligently hide a child sex abuser. Then, local governments should require mandatory training of all licensed teachers, principals, church officials, youth organizations, etc. on the new law. This would absolutely send a clear message.
As a former sex crimes unit prosecutor and now civil sex abuse lawyer, I believe we have a duty to rise to the occasion and do everything we can to stop child sex abuse. I welcome calls from legislators from any state to discuss creating new laws to better combat child sex abuse.
Related sex abuse articles:
- What to Expect in Priest/Clergy Sexual Abuse Civil Lawsuits in Pennsylvania or New Jersey
- Pennsylvania Priest Sex Abuse Law: The Fraudulent Concealment Exception to the Statute of Limitations
About the Philadelphia Priest & Child Sex Abuse Law Firm of Laffey, Bucci & Kent
Co-founded by Brian Kent who is a former sex crimes unit prosecutor, our firm is dedicated to pursuing justice for those who were injured due to the actions of another. This includes sexual abuse and criminal activity. Read more about Brian Kent here.