An American watchdog group has revealed that Catholic dioceses and religious orders in the United States have paid out nearly $3 billion in out-of-court settlements and court order awards to sex abuse victims since the mid-1980s.
The watchdog group bishopaccountability.org said in a report that lawsuits filed by abuse victims had forced US dioceses to pay settlements totaling more than $3 billion, and at least 19 had filed for bankruptcy protection over the last 14 years.
Attorney James Stang, whose firm has represented abuse victims in most of the bankruptcy cases, was cited in the report as saying that big payouts had failed to compensate the victims for their suffering.
Stang instead stressed the importance of holding church leaders accountable for their negligence in allowing the abuse to occur or perpetrators to escape punishment.
“I don’t like the word healing,” the attorney said. “Because it’s too much of an individual process, but at the end of the day, that accountability is demonstrated by the payment of money.”
The report by the watchdog group also revealed that the lawsuits had targeted dioceses and religious orders rather than parishes because individual Catholic congregations had little authority over their priests.
The Roman Catholic Church has been hit by numerous scandals over the past years, involving allegations of covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests to protect pedophiles and the reputation of the Church.
A grand jury in the US state of Pennsylvania on Tuesday released the findings of an expansive investigation of sex abuse in the US Catholic Church, reporting that 301 “predator priests” in six of the state’s dioceses had sexually abused minors in their care over the past 70 years.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro described the case as the “largest, most comprehensive report into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church ever produced in the United States.”
Approximately 6,900 US Roman Catholic priests were accused of sexual abuse with at least 16,900 young victims between 1950 and 2011, according to data from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Similar patterns of abuse have since emerged at dioceses around the globe, undermining the Church’s moral authority and depleting its finances as it paid out billions of dollars in settlements.
Pope Francis in 2014 established a Vatican commission intended to establish best practices to root out abuse in parishes.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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