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Church sexual abuse scandal garners national attention

Many Connecticut residents will agree that public faith and trust in institutions such as a church are shaken and lost when accusations of child sexual abuse are made against priests. Such incidents are harrowing to read about, and likely scar not only the community where they occur but also individuals and families directly impacted by it. Sadly, cases of child sexual abuse can happen anywhere. But victims of sexual abuse can file a civil action against perpetrators to get justice.

Connecticut residents may be familiar with the recent case of an Archdiocese's alleged attempt at a pervasive cover up of clergy sex misconduct. In this particular case, a former archivist and adviser on Roman Catholic church law in Minnesota has accused the church of lying, ignoring and concealing information about priests who are guilty of committing sexual abuse, but are still on assignment with the church.

According to reports, in 2008 the former archivist and adviser began looking at records of clergy who were under restrictions for committing sexual misconduct with adults and children alike. She discovered that despite their misconduct a little less than half of the 48 clergy men were still in the church ministry. She allegedly forewarned the Archbishop of the potential risk associated with having them in the ministry. However, other than in one case, no action was taken to address the issue. Furthermore, she alleges that since the 1990's no background checks were conducted on most priests. According to her, the church has a self-reporting program for guilty priests, but no one verifies the reports.

In one case, a reverend who was accused of molesting many young boys was allowed to spend his winter months without any oversight. In another case, another priest who was convicted of victimizing a woman during counseling sessions was put in a home for retired priests where underage children worked. Furthermore, the archbishop himself in this case has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior and is presently under investigation.

When a victim can file a civil action varies from state to state. However, in Connecticut any individual who has been sexually molested or abused and claims damages has until 30 years after emancipation to file a lawsuit. Anyone who has experienced such abuse may feel scared or overwhelmed, but it is important to understand that there are resources and legal options available that can help bring those who have wronged a person to justice.

Source: Ct Post, "Church lawyer details cover-up claims on sex abuse," Rachel Zoll, July 15, 2014

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