Just this week, Australian police charged Vatican cardinal George Pell with multiple counts of “historical sexual assault offenses.” These charges are sure to renew the discussion about abuse—and its concealment—within the Catholic Church. Perhaps the only encouraging facet to this news is the reminder that for those abused by the clergy, even decades ago, justice is still possible.
A History of Abuse in the Church
For over 30 years, the Catholic Church has established a history of denying, covering up, and minimizing the extent of sexual abuses by its clergy. Thousands of cases have been discovered, representing thousands of lives destroyed or diminished by abuse at the hands of the Church.
With this new criminal case, Pell, the chief financial advisor for Pope Francis, becomes the highest-ranking church official to be charged with abuse. He was previously accused of mishandling accusations of abuse levied against other leaders in his diocese. Now, at least two men allege that he didn’t just cover up abuse: he perpetrated it himself, making inappropriate sexual contact with them in the 1970s. No additional details have been disclosed yet, but Pell is due to appear in the Melbourne court on July 18.
This case proves that both victims and the police are willing to go after the highest members of the Catholic establishment despite the power of the Church and the passage of time. As the Australian support group the Blue Knot Foundation notes, these criminal charges prove that “no one is above the law, no matter how high their office, qualifications, or standing.”
A History of Justice
At PCVA Law, we have our own history: we have won cases, reached settlements, and restored a measure of justice for dozens of sexual abuse victims who suffered at the hands of their religious leaders. We won a multimillion-dollar jury verdict against the Catholic Church in 2012. We have also successfully pursued sexual abuse cases against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), and the Boy Scouts of America.
We don’t deny that these cases are difficult. Usually, there are no witnesses except for the abused child and the perpetrator. Children rarely report cases of abuse when it first happens, both because they lack the words to express what is happening to them and because they fear that no one will believe them. Indeed, church officials quash any rumor of abuse with powerful official denials. But we are undaunted by the challenge.
Did This Happen to You?
If you or someone you love has been abused at the hands of the Catholic Church, you are not alone. The attorneys at PCVA Law specialize in restoring justice for victims of sexual abuse at the hands of the Church. We are here to help.