Tag: clergy abuse

closing catholic parish sexual abuse

Don’t Make Assumptions About Why Catholic Parishes Are Closing

Every morning two things happen. We drink coffee. And the sun comes up.

But we know that one doesn’t cause the other.

That’s why we should all be careful when someone draws a “cause and effect” conclusion just because two things happen simultaneously.

Which brings us to a common misconception about Catholics parishes closing in the United States.

“These expensive abuse lawsuits are really hurting the church, forcing parishes to close. . . “

Like anyone who reads newspapers, we at Horowitz Law see comments like this from time to time in the “Letters to the Editor” sections and quotes like this in news articles from rank-and-file Catholics.  And it’s easy to see why some Catholics make the assumption that clergy sex abuse lawsuits and parish closings are connected.

But we wince, because we think it’s wrong. Or at the very least, it’s unknowable.

It’s unknowable because few if any bishops are fully honest about their assets, income, property and all the rest. So it’s unwise to make conclusions based on inadequate or inaccurate information.

And it’s wrong because there are plenty of reasons some of the nation’s 17,000 parishes are closing.

Here are just a few:

There are far fewer priests.

Vatican statistics show that between 1975 and 2008 the world’s Catholics increased by 64% but the number of priests increased by only 1%.

In 2008, nearly 49,631 of the world’s 218,865 parishes did not have a resident priest.

The same sources, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate study, notes that half of the 19,302 active diocesan priests in the U.S. plan to retire by 2019.



There are far fewer parishioners.

Studies show that Catholicism “has experienced a greater net loss due to religious switching than has any other religious tradition in the U.S.”

Overall, 13% of all U.S. adults are former Catholics – people who say they were raised in the faith, but now identify as religious “nones,” as Protestants, or with another religion.

There are 6.5 former Catholics in the U.S. for every convert to the faith.

No other religious group analyzed in the 2014 Religious Landscape Study has experienced anything close to this ratio of losses to gains via religious switching.

(According to a recent survey, those who were raised Catholic are more likely than those raised in any other religion to cite negative religious treatment of gay and lesbian people -39% vs. 29%, respectively – and the clergy sexual-abuse scandal – 32% vs. 19%, respectively – as primary reasons they left the Church.



There’s been a considerable geographic shift in the US Catholic population.

After two decades of migration, today, Catholics cluster in the South and West, a dramatic change from the long-standing concentration of Catholics in the Northeast and Midwest.


demographic changes

There are still-uncounted Covid-related closings, like these in Los Angeles:


What’s the bottom line here?

We at Horowitz Law offer this advice: If you’re a victim of a child molesting cleric, don’t let the Catholic hierarchy ‘poor-mouth’ you. Don’t assume that any particular Catholic institution can’t afford to do right by you and others who’ve been betrayed and wounded.

And if you’re a Catholic employee, donor or member, we urge you to insist on true, verified financial information from church officials.


Catholic sexual abuse

Parishes Can Be Victimized Too

If you’re a bishop, what do you do with parishioners when their beloved priest is accused of child sexual abuse?

One option: Do virtually nothing.

Another option: Express compassion.

A third option: Give them information, context and guidance.

That’s the smartest and most caring choice.

Sadly, however, most Catholic officials opt for saying nothing or token expressions of sympathy. (A common one is “Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone touched by these allegations.”)

What do we mean by “information, context and guidance.”

—“Information” is easy. Tell the flock as much as you can without jeopardizing the privacy of the accuser. For example, “Fr. Bob allegedly molested a boy on a camping trip.” That way, other parents whose kids went camping with Fr. Bob are more apt to ask their children “Did Fr. Bob ever do anything that made you hurt or feel uncomfortable?”

—“Context” is a little bit harder, but just as crucial. By definition, a “beloved priest” is popular. And no one wants to believe they and their loved ones are or have been at risk of horrific abuse. So naturally, the accused predator’s congregants desperately hope and believe he’s innocent.

But a real leader would make sure the flock knows that fewer than two percent of abuse reports against priests are false. There’s a bunch of evidence proving this at BishopAccountability.org


Wouldn’t you, as bishop, want to spare Catholics more pain by explaining that the likelihood of Fr. Bob being exonerated and returning to work is pretty low?

—“Guidance” means teaching parishioners how to act in the wake of the accusation. Let’s face it: to most church-goers, having their pastor charged, publicly or criminally, with such a heinous crime is highly unusual. They’re in uncharted waters. They need guidance from spiritual figures.

And they can either help or hurt others through their actions. Here’s a short, simple list of recommendations, from survivors themselves, on how to make a dreadful situation less dreadful.


The tragedy is that we at Horowitz Law have rarely seen church authorities, in any denomination, offer such guidance to wounded, confused congregants.

We bring this up now because of the case involving Fr. Michael Pfleger in Chicago. He’s been a popular community crusader, taking on drug dealers, violence, disrespectful depictions of women in the media and other causes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Pfleger

But he’s also been accused of child sexual abuse of two boys and sexual abuse of a then-18 year old. Thankfully, his superior Cardinal Blasé Cupich, has suspended Fr. Pfleger.

But sadly, Pfleger’s flock is aggressively rallying around him. By doing so, they’re making the investigation into the abuse reports tougher. And they’re very likely scaring other witnesses, victims and whistleblowers who might shed light on the situation into keeping quiet.


Let’s not, however, blame the parishioners entirely. Much of the fault here lies with Cupich. He has the experience, resources, education and, in fact, the duty to teach his flock how they can privately express support for their ousted pastor while at the same time protecting the privacy of accusers.

Cupich hasn’t done so, however. And virtually none of his clerical colleagues have either.

He’s acting selfishly, doing and saying little, when he should be acting responsibly, doing and saying lots to make sure a tough situation isn’t made tougher for all.

North Dakota May Extend Statute of Limitations On Child Sex Abuse Cases

North Dakota’s Statute of Limitations

On Child Sex Abuse Cases


Survivors of childhood sexual abuse in North Dakota may finally be receiving some good news. They may soon have a window of opportunity to come forward and pursue justice for their traumatic childhood experiences.

North Dakota lawmakers are seeking to amend the statute of limitation laws in the state. There were over 50 priests and other Catholic officials who were named on the Fargo and Bismarck dioceses list of clergy who were deemed credibly accused of childhood sexual abuse.  Most of the abuse took place in the 1950s to the 1980s, making it impossible for most survivors to obtain justice in North Dakota based on existing law.

It’s unfortunate enough that one year has already passed since hte Diocese released its list of credibly accused priests.  But it would be devastating to continue the ignorance of not allowing a window of time to bring justice for those on the receiving end who survived a great deal of damage.

Many survivors suffer in shame and silence, and creating windows for them to pursue legal options is vital for some type of healing.  Although most of the priests and Catholic officials named on the Dioceses list are deceased, it is still just as relevant to heal and pursue justice today as it was when the abuse took place when the abusers were alive.

The truth needs to be exposed, as an apology for the crime does not suffice.


Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest, contact our office today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help. 

Contact us at (888) 283-9922 or adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com to discuss your options today.

A Plea for Accuracy When Discussing Size of the Clergy Abuse Scandal

A plea for accuracy

Every few months, we at Horowitz Law see or hear a line like this and practically moan with disgust:

“The Catholic Church has dealt with decades of scandal as investigations have found hundreds of priests across the globe who sexually abused minors. . .”

This inaccurate and minimizing line appeared in the Denver Post. But sadly, many reporters have written similar sentences.


As you might have guessed, it’s the word ‘hundreds’ that gets our goat. That’s nowhere close to accurate.

Hundreds of Catholic priests have been accused of abuse in several countries, including:



— Italy.



Hundreds of Catholic priests have been accused of abusing in several US states, including

— New York.


— Pennsylvania.


— Texas. (NBC News)


— California.


Heck, hundreds have been accused in just one California archdiocese: Los Angeles (Church officials say 244 priests but BishopAccountability.org says it’s actually 354 priests.)

And hundreds have been accused in two other archdioceses: Boston and New York. (287 priests and 211 priests respectively, says BishopAccountability.org.)


And hundreds of priests have “been left off official ‘credibly accused’ lists in the US,” according to Pro Publica and the Associated Press)



So you get a sense of just how off base it is to claim “hundreds” of clerics across the globe are alleged child predators.


Since the US is roughly five percent of the world’s population, common sense tells us that the most accurate phrase to use would be “tens of thousands of priests have been accused. . .”

The New York Times came close to getting it right when it recently reported “Three popes over three decades have tried to manage an abuse scandal that has involved thousands of accusations against priests and clerics.”


But even this understates the extent of this horror.

So our plea to journalists is this: Please get your figures right on the Catholic abuse crisis.

To some, it may not seem like a big deal. But to abuse victims, it certainly IS a big deal. And it’s a big deal to those of us at Horowitz Law. We believe in accuracy.

In some ways, being accurate when writing about this horrific topic is tough, in large part because church officials deliberately choose to not collect the information they should about clerics who commit and conceal child sex crimes. And when church officials have such information, they often refuse to make it public, even fighting tooth and nail in courts to preserve secrecy.

Still, no one needs to breach Vatican vaults or steal diocesan files to know that the phrase ‘hundreds of accused priests. . .’ just doesn’t cut it.


And while we’re on this topic, let’s consider the word “accused.”

That doesn’t seem accurate to us either.

We’re not sure what’s the best wording to use. But many of the ‘accused’ have been deemed ‘credibly accused’ by church officials themselves, and been suspended from ministry or even defrocked. Precious few have been found guilty in criminal or civil courts. Still, just to lump them all into the generic category of ‘accused’ isn’t fully accurate. Many of these cases have been adjudicated in one form or fashion. And many of the ‘alleged’ offenders have in fact been formally declared guilty, in essence.

Finally, look again at that recent Times sentence: “Three popes over three decades have tried to manage an abuse scandal that has involved thousands of accusations against priests and clerics.”

They’re missing half of the picture, by making no mention of the cover up.

To many in the pews and in the public, that’s the hard-to-swallow scandal – that tens of thousands of supposedly healthy, well-educated and caring priests, nuns, bishops, seminarians, monks and lay employees either knew of feared that kids were being violated and didn’t holler STOP. Didn’t call 911. Didn’t report over and over and over to someone, inside or outside of the church, crimes and potential crimes.

And that at least thousands actively helped to hide this horror, and are still doing so.

So it’s just not accurate to say the crisis is about abuse. It’s about both abuse AND cover up.

When journalists make mistakes, some might believe that they’re lazy.

But we at Horowitz Law believe that, when journalists err, it’s because of the tight time pressures they face.

Regardless of the reason, when reporting abuse, we must all try to neither exaggerate NOR underplay how widespread this tragedy is.

(As always, the best source of information on this scandal is BishopAccountability.org. In fact, on the left side of the home page of the group’s website, near the top, is the “Data on the Crisis” tab. It’s a terrific compilation of solid stats about the crisis.)


church priest abuse Horowitz Law

It Can Be Overwhelming — The Ever-Shocking Revelations of Horrible Deeds by Church Officials

It can be overwhelming, the ever-shocking revelations of horrible deeds by church officials. Just this week, here are a few cases we learned about:

–In Florida, a priest who didn’t tell police about “numerous” abuse reports is now in the St. Augustine diocese at Santa Maria Del Mar parish in Flagler Beach.

(He’s Msgr. Michael Servinsky, formerly of the Altoona Diocese in Pennsylvania.)



–In France, the charismatic Catholic founder of a global network of non-profits serving adults with physical and intellectual disabilities “is accused of sexual misconduct with six women who sought spiritual direction from him.” He also reportedly participated “in a shadowy group with ties to a priest accused of sexual and spiritual abuse, lies related to what (he) knew about that priest and allegations from women who say (he) engaged in similar behavior over several decades.

(He’s Jean Vanier, formerly with a group called L’Arche.)


–In Australia, a three-year research project identified 16 child sex abuse networks (NETWORKS, not individuals) that operated for more than six decades. They involved 99 Catholic priests and other clerics.

–That same investigation found that the pedophile rings were “facilitated and reinforced by church hierarchy, including five successive archbishops of Melbourne (including) George Pell (himself appealing against a conviction for child sex abuse).”

And that “clergy pedophile rings shared behavior patterns with criminal gangs, the Mafia, terrorist cells, corrupt police, drug dealers and money launderers.”


–In Italy, Yolanda Martinez’ son had been sexually abused by Fr. Vladimir Resendiz Gutierrez, a Legion of Christ priest. And Cardinal Valasio De Paolis made this incredible offer: her family would receive 15,000 euros from church officials “but in return, her son would have to recant the testimony he gave to Milan prosecutors that the priest had repeatedly assaulted him when he was a 12-years-old. He would have to lie.”


–In New Jersey, Cardinal Joseph Tobin has been told – after five inexcusable years of delay – the verdict of a so-called Vatican ‘trial’ against an accused predator priest, Msgr. George Trabold.

But inexplicably, Tobin refuses to tell anyone what that verdict is.


That’s just a handful of stories, over the last few days, focusing on just one denomination.

There has been, and is, a lot of selfish, reckless, secretive and devastating wrongdoing out there.

Join us in exposing it, preventing it, and bringing comfort to those who suffer because of it.