The Catholic News Agency announced on November 15, 2018 that the U.S. bishops’ conference and the Holy See are named in a class action lawsuit filed on November 13, 2018 in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia by six men who claim they were sexually abused by Catholic clergy during their childhoods. The class action lawsuit seeks compensatory damages as well as public contrition and reparation from the Church.
The 80-page suit alleges that the Vatican and the bishops knew about and covered up the “endemic, systemic, rampant, and pervasive rape and sexual abuse” of the plaintiffs and others at the hands of active members of the clergy, religious orders, and other Church representatives. The class action lawsuit alleges that Church leaders protected and promoted the offenders.
The lawsuit charges that the “wrongful actions, inaction, omissions, cover-up, deception, and concealment” created a “conspiracy of silence to their financial and reputational benefit and to Plaintiffs’ and Class Members’ personal, mental, psychological, and financial detriment,” which actions are “ongoing and continuous.”
The class-action lawsuit alleges that the bishops and the Vatican violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) because the bishops engaged in federal mail fraud and wire fraud in the cover-up of abuse. The lawsuit alleges that because the Catholic Church in the U.S. is an “unincorporated association,” it qualifies as an organization that can be held to RICO standards.
The lawsuit seeks to compel the Vatican and the bishops to “comply with various state statutes requiring them to report the abusive Clergy to law enforcement or other responsible authorities, terminate the abusive Clergy, identify the abusive Clergy to the general public so that parents may protect their children going forward, release documents evidencing such Clergy abuse to achieve transparency, and such other relief the Court deems just and proper.”
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