The Catholic Church Could Face Thousands of New Cases and $4 Billion+ in Payouts


New lawsuits against the Catholic Church could surpass anything the nation's clergy sexual abuse crisis has seen before.

Rules enacted in 15 states that extend or suspend the statute of limitations, which allow claims stretching back decades to move forward, are bringing a new wave of lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by clergy, according to the Associated Press

The Associated Press reported that the nation’s clergy sexual abuse crisis could be more wholly unearthed, while the Roman Catholic Church could potentially face more than 5,000 new cases and payouts exceeding $4 billion. 

New York, California, and New Jersey are among the eight states that have “lookback windows” that allow such claims no matter how old.

“It’s like a whole new beginning for me,” said Nancy Holling-Lonnecker, 71, of San Diego. Her claim dates back to the 1950s, when she says a priest repeatedly raped her in a confession booth beginning when she was 7 years old. 

“The survivors coming forward now have been holding on to this horrific experience all of their lives,” she said. “They bottled up those emotions all of these years because there was no place to take it.”

The Catholic Church spent millions of dollars lobbying lawmakers for decades and argued that the system would be swamped with lawsuits if time limits on suing were lifted.

Bankruptcy is becoming an increasingly appealing option for many church arms. When a diocese files for bankruptcy, lawsuits are suspended and owed payments are frozen. It can also leave abuse survivors without a sense of justice. 

“They want to see how the church allowed them to be abused, how they ruined their lives. The church is solely in possession of the information and there is no other way to get it,” lawyer Adam Slater said. “It’s a different process in bankruptcy -- you don’t get discovery and you don’t get it in compensation programs. The truth never comes to light.”

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