Top Reasons Why Suing the Church Can Ultimately Help It

Suing the Church Horowitz Law

This is what a hypothetical Q & A with a still-church-going Catholic who was abused by a priest, nun, seminarian, bishop, brother, or any other clerics when asked about suing the church.

Q: If someone at your church abused you, don’t you want to sue them and stop it from happening again?
A: “Sue my church? Heavens no! Surely there are other ways to make the church safer that are not so confrontational and adversarial.”

Follow-up: One would like to think so. But when it comes to children’s safety, why take any chances and waste time? Time and time again, history has shown that litigation is often the quickest way to shed light where it’s needed and prod slow-moving or recalcitrant decision-makers to act. If your goals include publicly exposing predators, getting them away from kids, stopping cover-ups, deterring deceit, or bringing comfort to those hurt in childhood, suing the church almost always works.

Q: If someone at your church abused you, don’t you want to sue them and stop it from happening again?
A: “But I love my church, and I would not want to do anything to hurt it.”

Follow-up: This may be precisely why you should consider stepping forward and taking action. Doing nothing about abuse or possible cover-up will likely HURT your church than speaking up. Of course, exposing horror will indeed be painful for a few church officials in the short term. But it may be the single most effective thing you can do for the church itself to make your church members safer and your church more transparent and healthy.

And let’s not confuse your church with its hierarchy. Exposing wrongdoing may hurt wrongdoers. But those wrongdoers are NOT the church. Nor do they belong in positions of power in the church. Your church is made up of moms, dads, grandparents, and children. Doesn’t their well-being and safety take precedence over the feelings or reputations of a few individuals high up in the church?

Q: If someone at your church abused you, don’t you want to sue them and stop it from happening again?
A: “But I don’t want revenge or punishment or compensation.”

Follow-up: Neither do most survivors. Your view is in fact admirable. Each of these – revenge, punishment, and compensation – can be problematic. Revenge often hurts the person who tries to inflict it more than the intended recipient. Punishment is only sometimes a worthy goal. And compensation isn’t always necessarily a good thing. But there are plenty of reasons to speak up that don’t relate to revenge, punishment, or compensation. These include prevention, justice, healing, and reform.

Q: If someone at your church abused you, don’t you want to sue them and stop it from happening again?
A: “I don’t want people to think I’m angry and bitter.”

Follow-up: That’s understandable. But maybe what other people might think of you shouldn’t be your top priority. Maybe stopping others from committing or concealing heinous crimes against kids should come first. Besides, if you have the personal wherewithal to survive horrible crimes and reach a level of maturity and success in your life, then you may be much more able to look beyond your own personal needs and wants. You may have a greater capacity to focus on the bigger picture: those who may have been hurt already or maybe in the throes of an abuser right now but are not so fortunate or don’t have the personal strengths you have.

Q: If someone at your church abused you, don’t you want to sue them and stop it from happening again?
A: “Basically, I feel like I’ve recovered from my abuse, so why would I sue now?”

Follow-up: Congratulations on your progress and hard work! We commend you for rebuilding your life. Others, however, are likely not so successful in overcoming abuse. Please think about them and how your taking action may well help them move further along in their own recovery. Think about the fact that self-serving clergy may still be in positions of power, both those who perpetrated and those who concealed your abuse. The fact that you’ve healed does nothing to hold these clerics accountable or decrease the chances that they’ll act hurtfully to others in the future.

Finally, please think about children who are at risk right now. Your speaking up through litigation might stop a child molesting cleric or a deceitful church supervisor. Filing a lawsuit might prevent another girl or boy from being severely violated by a supposed ‘Man of God’ like you were. Catholic church corruption has been going on for decades and it needs to stop. Check out Bishop Accountability for more info on your diocese.

Attorney Adam Horowitz represents children and adults who were victims of sexual abuse by a priest, minister, rabbi, deacon, nuns, or other clergies in civil lawsuits. If you or someone you know was a victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault at a church or other religious organization, please contact our law firm at (888) 283-9922 or send an email to adam@adamhorowitzlaw.com.