The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops faces a class action lawsuit alleging breach of fiduciary duty and gross negligence with regard to its failure to protect children from sexual abuse by priests and clergy in New York.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is the defendant in a proposed class action lawsuit filed behalf of those who were sexually abused as children by priests of the Roman Catholic Church in New York.
The 26-page lawsuit filed in New York’s Northern District concerns the “severe and long-term pattern of organized sexual abuse” of thousands of children at the hands of priests who the plaintiffs allege used religion “as both a source of power and a pretext” for their actions. The perpetrators have had, since at least the 1940s or earlier and through the present day, “free reign to abuse and exploit children,” the lawsuit states. The USCCB, which the case describes as “the ultimate authoritative body with the Catholic Church” in this country, possessed knowledge of the sexual abuse of children by priests yet failed to implement any policy or procedure for stopping the abuses until 2002, nearly 40 years after the organization's inception, the plaintiffs say.
From the complaint:
“Within New York state alone, thousands of young children fell victim to clergy abuse under the USCCB’s watch, despite that such abuse was a well-known secret amongst Bishops and Church officials. Instead of interjecting and reporting predatory priests to law enforcements, the Dioceses and Archdiocese, in the absence of direction or policies from The USCCB, simply moved priests to other parishes, leaving unknowing families susceptible to their abuse.”
Once the USCCB put in place framework to combat child sex abuse, the organization recklessly “did nothing to ensure the policies were enforced or followed,” the lawsuit continues. According to the plaintiffs, the USCCB’s failure to enforce its own policies “directly caused thousands of children to suffer at the hands of pedophile priests,” bad actors who the case asserts “could never have evaded detection if they were not harbored, protected, and facilitated” by the defendant.
“The precious reputation of the Conference comprised of sanctimonious Bishops was more important than the protection of the innocent victims,” the suit states.
The case’s filing comes in the wake of New York’s passing in January of the Child Victims Act, legislation that went into effect Wednesday, August 15, and affords victims of childhood sexual abusea one-year window in which they can pursue legal recourse regardless of any statute of limitations. Before the law was in place, victims of child sexual abuse in New York had only until their 23rdbirthday to file a civil suit. Under the Child Victims Act, victims now have until age 55, and for one year only can be even older than that, to file a lawsuit.Hundreds of lawsuitswere filed on August 15, according to media reports.
Included in the class proposed by the lawsuit are:
“All those who (1) attended or served any parish within the Archdiocese of New York and (2) were subjected to sexual abuse, rape, molestation or any sexual misconduct by any priest or clergy within the Archdiocese of New York who perpetuated or committed of any kind of sexual misconduct, (3) as a minor child and (4) previously settled a claim arising from such abuse with the Archdiocese, any Diocese within New York, or received monetary compensation because they submitted a claim facilitated by the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Fund.”