In response to the massive number of clergy abuse cases against the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has issued a new reporting policy for all accusations made against Catholic clergy members. While many clergy abuse survivors support the move toward increased transparency and accountability in handling sex abuse matters, other survivors believe it is too little, too late.
Citing a the need for more transparency, the new internal guidelines require that all Catholic dioceses establish a formal system for survivors to confidentially report their claims. The new guidelines also establish mandatory reporting and new procedures for a preliminary investigation of claims made against Church superiors including bishops, archbishops, and cardinals.
All Catholic priests and religious sisters have the obligation to inform Church authorities immediately when they have knowledge of or a “well-founded” belief improper acts have occurred. These include: sexual abuse of a minor or other vulnerable person; forcing an adult to perform or submit to a sexual act by violence, threat, or abuse of authority; the production, possession, or distribution of child pornography; or a cover-up of any of these crimes. The new regulations apply retroactively, requiring the reporting of older incidents of abuse and cover-up. Clergy or religious members filing reports will receive “whistleblower” protection.
However, mandatory reporting to local law enforcement is not required under the Church regulations. Advocates for sexual abuse survivors continue to press for a clearer directive requiring notification to the police when credible allegations of sexual misconduct are made.
The New Jersey Catholic dioceses of Newark, Camden, Trenton, Paterson, and Metuchen are required to comply with the church’s new directive by June 1, 2019.
The Vatican’s directive defines a “cover up” as any action or omission of a clergy member intending to interfere or avoid civil or Church investigations. Through practices like the transfer of abusive priests and forcing survivors to sign non-disclosure agreements, many believe the Church continued to perpetuate the cycle of abuse. The directive appears to be a first step in making the Church more accountable for the wrongs done to children by the institution.
With the help of an experienced Trenton clergy abuse lawyer, survivors can hold those responsible for the abuse, including Church officials who covered up any sexual misconduct, accountable for their actions. Survivors of clergy sexual abuse in New Jersey may be entitled to compensation for their physical and emotional injuries including the costs of medical and psychiatric treatment, individual or family counseling, prescription drugs, and lost wages. Many survivors also are entitled to emotional distress damages for the pain and suffering they have endured.
If you or a loved one has survived clergy abuse, the dedicated clergy abuse lawyers at Williams Cedar are here to help. We understand the distress sex abuse causes and work with compassion alongside survivors to help them obtain the justice and compensation they deserve. With offices conveniently located in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, our dedicated legal team serves child sex abuse survivors and their families throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including those in the areas of Camden, Metuchen, and Trenton. To schedule a free, confidential consultation with an experienced Trenton clergy abuse attorney today, call us at 215-557-0099 or 856-470-9777 or contact us online.