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Penn State Abuse Scandal Reveals Same Pattern as Catholic Church Sexual Abuse

November 11, 2011  ·  By HM&M


The Penn State sexual abuse scandal reminds us as trial lawyers that large institutions that deal with children do a terrible job of policing themselves when it comes to child sexual abuse. Institutions like the Catholic Church, and its Archdioceses in Chicago, Milwaukee and Boston, for example, have failed to respond to the problem of sexual abuse of children by priests, brothers and nuns honestly and firmly. Instead, the Catholic Church, like Joe Paterno and the Penn State administration, has responded to the abuse with excessive leniency, insensitivity, secrecy, and neglect.

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni recently addressed the parallels between the scandal at Penn State and the scandals involving large institutions such as the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America:

That has been true of the Boy Scouts, which has paid out tens of million of dollars in response to lawsuits by former scouts molested by adults who continued to work in the organization despite complaints or questions about their behavior.

That has been true of the Roman Catholic Church, whose diocesan heads and bishops repeatedly transferred abusive priests from one parish to another rather than report them to law enforcement authorities. This cover-up spanned decades and went all the way up the hierarchy of the church.

Many factors explain it, including a fear of scandal and desire to protect the church’s image. The Boy Scouts, too, didn’t want messiness exposed. The truth in cases where large institutions hide sexual abuse is usually revealed only when experienced trial lawyers can use the power of the courts to force institutions like the Archdiocese of Chicago to open up their files on the histories of their abusive priests and brothers. Even if you or a loved one were sexually abused long ago, you may still be able to pursue claims against the religious organizations involved in the abuse. If you are a victim of sexual abuse or are inquiring on behalf of a friend or family member who has suffered a sexual assault, contact one of our attorneys immediately to confidentially discuss these claims.

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