When you think about the clergy, you imagine many people of God that know no sin and have not committed a crime in their life. However, the sad truth is that around 6,433 priests and people from the clergy were charged with some sort of abuse. Many of the abuse victims were minors, namely children under 13, but other types of abuse also took place.
Why does clergy abuse happen in the first place? Is it that common, and can you protect yourself and your loved ones against it? While the clergy is protected from many aspects of the government, certain things are not brushed over – and this includes abuse.
What Is Clergy Abuse?
Clergy abuse is a manner of sexual abuse directed towards adults or minors from a congregation. In this case, the perpetrator from the clergy will use their position and power intentionally, exploiting members from their group. It is a significantly dehumanizing circumstance, and the psychological effects can last for a lifetime.
The problem was so widespread that it caused a clergy sex abuse crisis in the early 2000s. U.S. Catholics were aware of the problem, with several priests being tried and convicted for different offenses.
Clergy abuse can include the following circumstances:
- Conversation with a sexual undertone or a clear sexual message
- Unwanted touches from members of the clergy
- Sending sexual texts or images to victims that did not ask for them
- Soliciting sexually-themed pictures
- Sexual activity requested from a member of the clergy
Clergy abuse, like any other type of abuse, is illegal in California. As a result, if this happens to you or your loved ones, you may want to hire a California clergy abuse attorney. They will help you gather proof and get justice for you.
Why Does Clergy Abuse Happen?
In a way, clergy abuse is no different from any other abuse type. Each group has its bad seeds, and just like abuse happens with regular folk, it occurs with members of the clergy.
There is no clear reason as to why and how clergy abuse happens. The theory is that since members of the clergy often practice celibacy, they are predisposed to psychosexual issues. As they are trained to have rigorous piety and strict morality, some were not able to control their behavior.
While this may not have been an excuse, it led to a shortage of priests after WWII came to an end. Their number would increase over time, but there was also a decline in priests between 2012 and 2017.
How Does the Clergy Often Justify the Abuse?
Clergy abuse happens mainly because the members often find a way to get away with it. They would use their position to make an excuse and convince the parishioners that what they are doing is right.
For example, a victim may be told that it was God that brought them together. Or that for grace to abound, they should sin boldly. Members of the clergy may also convince the victims that since everything is mutual, it is alright.
Clergy abuse is not only illegal, but it also violates the ethics of the profession. When a parishioner seeks counsel, they are often in a time of crisis or great stress. They are highly vulnerable, and it can be very easy to take advantage of their emotions. This is why instances of clergy abuse should be reported and proven as soon as they are noticed.
Clergy Abuse Often Goes Unreported
The problem with clergy abuse is that it frequently goes unreported. A victim of clergy abuse may feel hesitant to talk to anyone about this, out of fear of going through embarrassment, or simply out of shame. This is an even more sensitive circumstance when children are involved.
A lawyer would likely have challenges gathering the proof, especially if the victim’s side is not always straightforward. Very often, the problem is discovered by Child Protection Services, with parents and children alike refusing to make any comments.
That being said, clergy abuse is against the law, and the victims are eligible to receive financial compensation for it. All you need is to hire a sexual abuse lawyer and to gather proof of the illegality. If the data is scarce, a good lawyer should be able to help track everything down for you.
The Bottom Line
While clergy abuse is relatively limited, it can still become a problem. If you notice a member of the clergy behaving appropriately, you may want to make inquiries. A complaint can help protect your family and other parishioners as well.