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Church authorities accused of hiding sexual abuse

Earlier this month, a civil lawsuit accused a priest of sexual abuse and alleged that church authorities failed to take action despite knowing about the abuse. This lawsuit is part of the most recent wave of litigation against Catholic archdioceses, which began more than a decade ago and has involved more than $2 billion in settlements paid to sexual abuse victims.

This most recent lawsuit was filed against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is the sixth largest Archdiocese in the country and is facing a large amount of sexual abuse lawsuits. In fact, a Philadelphia grand jury recently found that the Archdiocese has 37 priests in active service despite allegations of sexual abuse. That same grand jury recommended charges against two priests, a former priest and a teacher for abusing two boys. A monsignor investigating the allegations was also charged for allegedly failing to protect the victims.

This most recent civil lawsuit alleges that retired Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and Cardinal Justin Rigali, the present Archbishop of Philadelphia, have concealed the identity of priests accused of sexual abuse. The lawsuit was filed by a 31-year-old man who has stated he was abused by a priest in the 1990s. The plaintiff was 14 to 17 years old during the alleged abuse. He said he had tried to contact the archdiocese to report the abuse, but he was ignored.

Further, the lawsuit criticizes the victims' assistance program established by the archdiocese. According to the plaintiff's complaint, the archdiocese established the program to collect personal information on sexual abuse victims only to forward that information to its defense attorneys.

Attorneys close to the case say that there are many more sexual abuse cases presently developing against the archdiocese. More lawsuits are presently being prepared and one attorney has reported receiving calls from 20 additional victims whose allegations he is investigating.

Source: Westlaw News, "Lawsuit accuses Philadelphia cardinal of concealing sexual abuse," Dave Warner and Jeff Roberts, 3/8/2011

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