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Clergy Sexual Abuse Litigation: Survivors Seeking Justice

NCJ Number
Jennifer M. Balboni
Date Published
187 pages
This study examines why a sample of survivors of clergy sexual abuse chose to pursue civil litigation, what they hoped to achieve through such litigation, and how litigation transformed aspects of their lives.
One chapter explores the history and context of clergy sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. It points out the long history of sexual abuse by priests and the Church hierarchy's response to it. The chapter also sets the context within which to understand this type of abuse, as it identifies a network of taboos that makes this type of abuse particularly complex and difficult for survivors. The choice to pursue civil litigation is framed within larger societal shifts, e.g., victim advocacy and Catholic doctrine, and notes the historical implications of this litigation. Another chapter profiles the survivors consulted in this study. Their interactions with the Church are also addressed. Five chapters take the reader through the process of litigation from the survivors' perspectives, from disclosure of the abuse to initiating litigation and finally to settlement. The accounts show the complexity of this type of litigation and its successes and failures. The study concludes that one of its most robust findings is the large number of survivors who entered into litigation in the hope of establishing truth, a truth that would bring their integrity and the harm done to them into the light. They were frustrated and demoralized by their victimization and the failure of the individuals and institution responsible for their plight to recognize and respond compassionately and justly to their situation. The book explains why secrecy clauses included in settlement agreements defeat survivors' goal of bringing truth to light. 166 references, a subject index, and appended research methodology and interview protocol


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