Ohio Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
Representing Survivors of Child & Adult Clergy Abuse
If you or someone you love were sexually abused by a member of the Catholic clergy in Ohio, you may be entitled to compensation.
In recent years, various record releases and court filings have produced evidence of a rampant sexual abuse problem within all six of Ohio’s Roman Catholic dioceses. In addition to revealing that more than 200 priests and clergy members have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse in parishes across the state, the records also show that church officials engaged in a decades-long coverup that enabled predator priests to abuse children without consequence.
Now, survivors are stepping forward in increasing numbers to seek justice and hold the Church accountable. Our award-winning attorneys at Levy Konigsberg are here to help.
Levy Konigsberg is a nationally recognized trial practice with a legacy of litigating civil sexual abuse lawsuitsagainst powerful institutions and religious organizations. If you have questions about a potential case, call (800) 315-3806 or contact us onlinefor a FREE and confidential consultation with an Ohio Catholic church sex abuse attorney.
Internal Records Reveal Long List of Accused Clergy in Ohio
Like other Roman Catholic dioceses that have been forced to respond to high-profile scandals, Ohio’s six dioceses have taken steps to publicize the names of priests and other church members who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse.
These publications include the names of 225 priests and clergy members who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse. The allegations date back decades to the 1950s and include claims of abuse that took place at parishes, schools, and other locations across the state. For example:
- Archdiocese of Cincinnati – 67 accused priests and clergy
- Diocese of Columbus – 53 accused priests and clergy
- Diocese of Cleveland – 25 accused priests and clergy
- Diocese of Youngtown – 36 accused priests and clergy
- Diocese of Toledo – 25 accused priests and clergy
- Diocese of Steubenville – 19 accused priests and clergy
Notably, these lists have their limitations. They do not, for example, include the names of priests who have faced allegations that don’t meet the Church’s definition of what constitutes a “substantiated allegation.” As such, they leave out many priests and clerics who have been accused of abusing minors in Ohio parishes over the years.
Advocates Push for Sweeping Investigation in Ohio Catholic Church After Decades of Accusations
In August 2023, advocates from three sexual abuse survivors’ organizations released a statement encouraging Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to initiate a sweeping statewide investigation into child sexual abuse within Ohio’s Catholic churches.
As detailed in the August 16th letter, advocates from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Ohioans for Child Protection, and the Greater Cincinnati Voice of the Faithful say that the history of abuse in Ohio’s Catholic churches, as well as decades of evidence of systemic failures, should warrant an investigation from the state’s top law enforcement official.
In addition to citing the benefits of such investigations in states like Maryland, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and at least 17 others, advocates referenced several high-profile cases of clergy sexual abuse from recent years, as well as dozens of cases of sexual abuse allegations that never resulted in criminal investigations or charges, as reasons for a more robust inquiry.
Legal Filings Detail Dark History of Sexual Abuse in Ohio Catholic Churches
In addition to lists of credibly accused priests released by Ohio’s dioceses and growing support from vocal advocates, various legal filings, criminal cases, and high-profile settlements have revealed alarming claims about the scope of child sexual abuse within Ohio Catholic Churches and how Church officials failed for decades to report abusive priests and protect victims. Some examples include:
- In May 2023, a federal jury convicted Father Michael J. Zacharias on five counts of sex trafficking involving three male victims abused by the priest while he was a seminarian at St. Catherine of Siena Parish School in Toledo. The abuse, which spanned from 2005 to 2020, took place while the victims were minors and continued into their adulthood. Zacharias had served in parishes Manfield, Van Werst, Fremont, and Findlay.
- In March 2023, three women filed lawsuits against the Diocese of Cleveland over claims that they were sexually abused at the now-closed Parmadale Children’s Village group home in the 1970s. The suits, which concern claims of abuse by Father Leahy spanning from 1961 to 2002, also involved claims of physical and mental abuse at the facility, which was closed in 2014 after authorities placed in on probation following a sexual assault by an employee.
- In March 2022, a 19-year-old survivor who was sexually abused by former priest Robert McWilliams filed a civil lawsuit against the Diocese of Cleveland. McWilliams, who served in the Cleveland Diocese from 2014 to 2017, was sentenced to life in prison in 2021 and committed suicide in prison several months later.
- In December 2021, former priest Geoff Drew pleaded guilty to multiple counts of rape in connection to his sexual abuse of an altar boy in the 1980s at St. Jude Church in Green Twp., Hamilton County, where he was a music minister. Drew also worked at St. Luke in Beavercreek from July 2004 to June 2005, and as pastor at St. Rita in Dayton from July 2005 to June 2009.
- In August 2020, the Catholic Diocese of Columbus agreed to pay $1 million to settlement a lawsuit filed by a survivor who was sexually abused by Monsignor Thomas Bennett while he was a student at Saint Charles Preparatory School in the early 2000s.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Sexual Abuse Lawsuits in Ohio?
Civil sexual abuse lawsuits are subject to a legal deadline known as the statute of limitations. In Ohio, current law caps the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases at the age of adulthood plus 12 years, which means that survivors sexually abused as minors typically only have until the age of 30 to file claims.
Because much of the abuse against children within Ohio’s Catholic churches occurred decades ago, the state’s current statute of limitations on civil sex abuse claims means that numerous survivors are unable to file lawsuits and recover compensation for their damages. However, lawmakers have pushed for changes in the law, including a pending measure to extend the civil statute of limitations.
Our team at Levy Konigsberg is closely tracking proposed legislation to extend Ohio’s civil sexual abuse statute of limitations and is available to discuss your legal options for pursuing a claim under current law. We can explain the statute of limitations in your case during an initial consultation.
You may have grounds to file a civil legal action if:
- You were sexually abused by a priest, church volunteer, or other clergy member.
- The abuse occurred anywhere in Ohio.
At Levy Konigsberg, we support survivors in civil actions that aim to hold the Catholic Church accountable for its failures to stop abusive priests and protect victims. These civil claims are separate from any criminal proceedings and focus on holding the Church liable for damages. This means that you may still have a claim even if:
- Your abuser is no longer alive.
- Your abuser was never charged or convicted of a crime.
Recoverable Damages in Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Claims
In addition to accountability and providing the sense of justice survivors deserve, civil sex abuse lawsuits allow survivors to recover financial compensation for their damages, which may include:
- Past medical and mental health expenses
- Future mental health expenses, including therapy, medications, etc.
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional anguish and psychological harm
- Lost income
- Other economic and non-economic damages
Call For a FREE Consultation: (800) 315-3806
Levy Konigsberg has recovered more than $3 billion in compensation for clients, including millions in compensation for survivors of sexual abuse. We’re passionate about helping survivors seek justice and provide the firepower they need to fight back against powerful institutions like the Catholic Church.
If you have questions about pursuing a sexual abuse lawsuit against an Ohio Catholic diocese over abuse that occurred when you were a minor or an adult, we want to help. Call (800) 315-3806 or contact us online for a FREE consultation.
Find out whether you have a case by speaking to one of our experienced lawyers via our 24/7 toll-free hotline or by submitting an email inquiry. Our attorneys will be quick to respond to you and happy to answer all of your questions.
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