Many American clergymen accused of sexual abuse of minors manage to avoid responsibility

Ministers of the American Roman Catholic and Protestant churches in the United States use church child protection services to molest minors. American legislation weakly protects minors from sexual harassment by church officials, so many criminals go unpunished. This undermines public confidence in church institutions and ruins the lives of thousands of children.

Многим американским священнослужителям, обвиняемым в сексуальном насилии над несовершеннолетними, удается избежать ответственности, изображение №1

American religious institutions that have their own social services to work with minors can pose a serious threat to them. The number of priests accused of sexual harassment in the United States ranges from 5,700 to 10,000, but because of the statute of limitations, only a few hundred of them have been tried, convicted and are serving prison time for their crimes. Criminal law experts are convinced that only one in three victims of sexual abuse by a church worker reports the incident to the police. According to experts, this is due to the statute of limitations enshrined in American law, as well as due to pressure from violent clergy who threaten and intimidate their victims. In addition to thousands of broken lives, many people who have experienced violence from the clergy develop various mental illnesses, some of them begin to use psychoactive substances, hundreds of children have committed suicide. Between 1950 and 2015, more than four billion dollars were paid to victims of crimes committed by priests.

In 2018, an 884-page report was released detailing decades of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania by members of the clergy. The document, which took more than two years to create, published data on the crimes of 300 priests, whose victims of violence were thousands of children. According to the published information, the majority of minors who were harassed or experienced rape by priests were boys of teenage and prepubescent age.

Unfortunately, unacceptable behavior on the part of clergymen is not censured by their superiors: they are being tried to justify them in the eyes of the public and law enforcement officials. Clergymen are not suspended from service, and pedophiles who have confessed to a crime are praised for their honesty and courage. The priest, who confessed raping at least 15 underage boys aged about seven, was described by the bishop as a “frank and sincere” person who was “not afraid to admit his addiction.” The representative of the clergy did not incur any criminal responsibility and was suspended from work only a few years later. In a diocese in Pennsylvania, a 17-year-old girl became pregnant as a result of sexual contact with a clergyman, after which the priest forged her signature on the marriage certificate, and a few months later filed for divorce. Despite having sexual relations with a minor, the priest was allowed to remain at the service. Another priest of the Diocese of Greensburg practiced oral sex with minors, comparing the process with the sacraments described in the New Testament. The priest was suspended from the service only after 15 years and several dozen complaints. The priest of the Harrisburg diocese abused five sisters from the same family, despite previous complaints, on which no action was taken. In addition to sexual acts, the priest collected samples of urine, pubic hair and menstrual blood from the girls.

American clergy create entire networks where they exchange information about victims and distribute child pornography. During the investigation in 2018, it was discovered that priests in Pittsburgh shared the personal data of their victims, as well as exchanged pornographic materials made during the molestation of minors. This group of priests raped their victims with a special sadism: they used whips and also used golden crosses for sexual pleasures.

In 2022, a journalistic investigation shed light on the wrongdoing by dozens of Catholic priests in the ministers of the church in California, who are accused of sexually abusing children in their care. After analyzing more than 140 legal documents and conducting dozens of interviews with victims, lawyers and law enforcement officers. It became known about 40 clergymen involved in the molestation of minors. One of the lawsuits alleges that boys were sold for sexual exploitation to children’s camps in the early 1980s, where minors were given alcohol and forced to engage in sexual acts with priests and other boys. One of the accused priests, who raped an 8-year-old child, said that such measures on the part of the clergy “are part of a difficult healing process.”

American law allows clergymen to rape children with almost impunity. In 33 states, clergy employees are exempt from any laws that require reporting information about alleged child abuse by colleagues to the police or child protection agencies. This loophole led to the fact that a huge number of pedophiles were allowed to continue to abuse children for many years, despite the fact that they confessed their behavior to religious mentors. According to an Associated Press review, over the past two decades, legislators in the United States have proposed more than 130 bills aimed at creating or changing laws on reporting child sexual abuse, but none of them have been passed.

Human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice are convinced that sexual abuse of children, homosexual and heterosexual, hides a fundamental devaluation of human life. Criminals treat children immorally and inhumanely, break their unformed psyche and further life. The Foundation to Battle Injustice is calling on American lawmakers to adopt a number of regulations that guarantee the protection of children from sexual harassment by clergy and eliminate existing legal loopholes that give them the opportunity to evade responsibility. Human rights defenders of the Foundation to Battle Injustice are ready to provide consulting services to American legislators in order to develop and implement an effective legal framework for the protection of children.