Sexual abuse, including that of children, has been a long-standing problem in the Catholic church for decades. Perpetrators include priests, bishops, clergy members, and other church leaders, while victims are primarily women and children.

Thousands of sexual abuse claims against the Church have led to billions of dollars in settlements.

Over $3 billion has been paid to resolve hundreds of Catholic Church settlements to victims and their families as more cases come to light.

You deserve justice if you or a loved one suffered sexual abuse by a Catholic church leader.

Our compassionate lawyers will ensure you receive financial compensation for your losses and at-fault parties face the consequences of their actions.

Contact our sexual abuse lawyers at (888) 424-5757 for a free consultation.

Catholic Church Settlements

The Widespread Problem of Sexual Abuse in the Roman Catholic Church

The Catholic Church has faced sexual assault and abuse lawsuits since the 1950s.

However, it was not until recently that investigations have revealed the true magnitude of the problem.

Multiple multi-year studies of clergy sex abuse in the US show thousands of cases spanning at least three decades in various states.

Most recent reports include:

  • More than 300 priests were found guilty of having sexually abused at least 1,000 children in Pennsylvania over seven decades.
  • Over 450 were named credibly accused sex abusers in the Illinois Catholic Church since the 1950s; victims comprised over 2,000 children under 18.
  • More than 150 Catholic priests and others in the Archdiocese of Baltimore were listed as sexual abusers in a Maryland Attorney General’s Office Report; there were 600 victims over 80 years.
  • Clergy abuse victims filed 1,500 lawsuits against Catholic dioceses in Northern California after lawmakers passed the three-year look-back window in 2019.

A Culture of Secrecy and History of Cover-Ups

The first significant wave of clergy sexual abuse scandals occurred in the early 2000s, leading US bishops to create the Dallas Charter, a baseline for abuse reporting and training.

At that time, lawyers and experts said that every diocese must be transparent by naming the accused and removing them from service. 

Unfortunately, many dioceses decided against naming perpetrators.

Instead, many found ways to cover up cases, including relocating accused priests, defrocking them, or simply not doing anything about the allegations.

Moreover, some earlier settlements included confidentiality agreements that banned victims from speaking publicly about the abuse. These problems remain rampant today.

Most churches do not report clergy sex abuse cases to the local authorities. In 33 states, clergy are exempt from laws requiring professionals to report alleged child sex abuse to the police. 

Furthermore, many victims of child sexual abuse in the Church are forced or manipulated to remain silent.

Most are also too ashamed to bring their perpetrator to justice, primarily influenced by the purity culture in Church.

The Consequences of Clergy Sex Abuse

Victims of clergy sexual abuse experience numerous physical, emotional, and mental effects, including but not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Trust issues
  • Self-loathing
  • Low self-esteem
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide or suicidal ideations
  • Difficulty forming and maintaining relationships
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Unwanted pregnancy

Abuse can also create mistrust around Catholic clergy, causing some abuse survivors to leave the church and leave a once fulfilling part of their life and identity.

These consequences can bring about more issues, such as depression due to loss of faith and relationships with other church members.

New Laws on Clergy Sex Abuse

In March 2023, Pope Francis updated a 2019 church law governing clergy sexual abuse, including accountability for lay leaders of Vatican-approved organizations.

The update makes religious figures and lay leaders (people on the professional roster of the church apart from clergy) liable if they commit or conceal clergy sex abuse. 

Some states, including Maryland and Illinois, have abolished the statute of limitations for clergy sex abuse cases.

These legislative developments allow victims abused as children to file lawsuits against the Church, regardless of how much time has passed.

Catholic Church Settlements Involving Sexual Abuse

The Church has paid over $3 billion in settlements to clergy abuse victims. Dioceses with accused church officials have settled abuse claims out of court or started a Catholic Church Compensation Fund.

Some have filed for bankruptcy to pay settlements.

Here are some of the most notable clergy abuse settlements in US history:

  • In 1998, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas paid $30.9 million to 12 clergy sex abuse survivors.
  • In 2003, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville paid $25.7 million to settle 240 clergy sex abuse lawsuits against 34 priests and other church workers.
  • In 2007, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon paid $75 million to 177 victims.
  • In 2018, a bankruptcy judge approved an offer from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul in Minneapolis to pay $210 million in settlements.
  • In 2020, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced that it expected to pay $130 million in reparations to abuse survivors; the Diocese of Harrisburg disclosed to the federal bankruptcy court that it owed $50 million to $100 million in settlements.

What is the Average Settlement Amount for Clergy Sexual Abuse?

A Catholic Church settlement for clergy sex abuse will not erase trauma, but it can pay for treatments that will help abuse survivors recover from the physical and psychological consequences. 

According to, an organization that compiles significant settlements in the US, the average settlement for clergy sex abuse is around $268,000.

However, the settlement range is vast, ranging from $23,000 to over $3 million per claimant.

Settlement amounts for sex abuse claims vary, depending on several factors, including:

  • The duration of the abuse
  • The degree of sexual assault
  • The long-term effects on the victim
  • The victim’s age vs. the perpetrator’s age
  • The dollar amounts of economic losses, e.g., medical bills
  • The severity of injuries

Where to Seek Help For Clergy Sex Abuse

Victims can report clergy abuse to 911 or a non-emergency number. If you suspect a clergy member is abusing someone, report the alleged abuse to the police, Child Protective Services, and other local authorities.

You can also report a clergy member for abuse by contacting:

  • United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (202-541-5413; Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection)
  • Darkness to Light Helpline (1-866-FOR-LIGHT)
  • Childhelp (1.800.4ACHILD)
  • Your local Attorney General’s Office
  • The coordinator in the diocese where the abuse occurred

Pursue Legal Action Against an Abusive Clergy Member

Sex abuse is a rampant problem in many religious organizations, primarily due to clergy members’ power over congregations, especially children.

Fortunately, the legal system enables many victims to pursue legal action even if many years have passed or the abuser is dead.

You can seek financial compensation if a church leader sexually abused you or a loved one.

Our experienced attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, will ensure your case is brought to justice and you receive the justice you deserve.

Contact our law firm at (888) 424-5757 for a free consultation.

All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team will remain private under an attorney-client relationship. 

Our lawyers handle all accepted cases on a contingency fee basis.

This agreement ensures you don’t have to pay our legal fees unless we win your case.