Pennsylvania Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
Claims Against PA Catholic Dioceses for Child & Adult Sexual Abuse
If you or someone you love were sexually abused by a priest or clergy member in a Pennsylvania Catholic Church, you may be entitled to compensation.
Thanks to several high-profile investigations into rampant abuse within all eight of Pennsylvania’s Catholic dioceses, as well as pending legislation that will create new opportunities for victims to file claims over abuse that occurred years or decades in the past, a growing number of survivors are stepping forward to seek the justice they deserve.
At Levy Konigsberg, our sexual abuse team has earned national recognition fighting for survivors of adult and childhood sexual abuse. We’ve recovered over $3 billion in compensation for clients and have the experience and resources to help survivors fight back against powerful institutions.
Our firm proudly serves survivors across Pennsylvania and beyond. Call (800) 315-3806 for a FREE and confidential consultation with a Pennsylvania Catholic church sex abuse attorney.
Investigations Reveal Hundreds of Predator Priests Abused Over 1,000 Child Victims
High-profile investigations conducted in recent years have confirmed that hundreds of priests in all eight of Pennsylvania’s Catholic dioceses have been credibly accused of abusing more than 1,000 child victims, and that church officials repeatedly brushed aside complaints to protect priests and the church’s reputation rather than victims.
Here are some details:
- In August 2018, a sweeping grand jury report found that more than 300 “predator priests” in six of Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses have been accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 child victims. The report includes credible claims dating back to 1947 and includes priests from the Dioceses of Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton. Pennsylvania’s two other dioceses, Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown were the subject of earlier grand jury reports that made similar findings. The report noted that in nearly every instance of abuse, the church worked to systematically conceal complaints and cover up abuse.
- In January 2020, ProPublica released a comprehensive list of priests who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse in various states across the country, including Pennsylvania. The ProPublica investigation revealed that church leaders overwhelmingly underreported the number of credibly accused priests over the past 40 decades and included a searchable database that allows survivors to look up clergy members by name, diocese, or parish.
ProPublica’s List of Credibly Accused Pennsylvania Priests
ProPublica’s database of credibly accused priests includes hundreds of clergy members from all eight of Pennsylvania’s Catholic dioceses. The breakdown of known abusers in each diocese is as follows:
- 76 abusers from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia
- 108 abusers from the Diocese of Pittsburgh
- 50 abusers from the Diocese of Allentown
- 83 abusers from the Diocese of Scranton
- 72 abusers from the Diocese of Harrisburg
- 94 abusers from the Diocese of Erie
- 21 abusers from the Diocese of Greensburg
- 35 abusers from the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown
Highly publicized lists like ProPublica’s provide shocking revelations about the scope of sexual abuse within the Catholic church. Moreover, they show how church leadership failed for decades to properly protect children and victims, and how the church prioritized its own reputation rather than reporting known abusers and keeping victims safe. As was the case in Pennsylvania, many of these names were kept from the public until the church was compelled to release them.
Litigation Over Pennsylvania Catholic Church Sexual Abuse
Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses have been named in numerous lawsuits filed by survivors since the release of the grand jury report and ProPublica list, as well as high-profile bankruptcy filings.
These cases, many of which were brought by survivors seeking to hold the church accountable for systemic failures in stopping and preventing abuse, revealed further evidence about the scope of child sexual abuse within the church and the dioceses’ inexcusable failures to investigate claims, report abusers, and uphold their duties to protect children. Several lawsuits also resulted in large settlements.
Some of the high-profile litigation and payouts against Pennsylvania dioceses include:
- August 10th, 2023 the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has agreed to a $3.5 million settlement in a case involving allegations of sexual assault by one of its priests against a 14-year-old boy nearly two decades ago. The settlement holds the archdiocese accountable for failing to protect the plaintiff and other children. The incident occurred in 2006 when the plaintiff was 14 years old, serving as an altar boy, and attending religious school in a Philadelphia suburb. The plaintiff was allegedly assaulted by pastor John Close. The archdiocese acknowledged the settlement and stated that it had no prior knowledge of the allegation before Close's death and reported it to law enforcement in 2019 upon being informed by the plaintiff's attorneys. The victim's lawyers argued the archdiocese has a pattern of trying to cover up predatory behavior citing a Philadelphia grand jury report that found "credible allegations" against 300 "predator priests" and identified over 1,000 child victims in the church's records.
- In November 2022, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, as part of a reorganization plan under the diocese’s bankruptcy case, agreed to create an $18.25 million settlement fund to resolve abuse 59 sexual abuse claims. The Harrisburg diocese had previously paid $12.8 million to compensate 111 survivors in 2019.
- In May 2020, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced that it had paid out $44 million to settle approximately 200 of the 600+ certified sexual abuse claims it had been facing, and that it expected to pay out an additional $130 million by the time the fund closed.
- In December 2020, the Pittsburgh Diocese paid $19.2 million to settle 224 claims filed by survivors of clergy sexual abuse.
- In March 2019, the Erie Diocese announced that it reached a $2 million settlement with a survivor who had been sexually abused by former Priest David L. Poulson, who previously pleaded guilty to multiple sex crime charged and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
- In October 2019, the Greensburg Diocese reported that it had paid $4.35 million to settle claims with 57 clergy sexual abuse survivors.
Statute of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuits & Pending Pennsylvania Law
Civil sexual abuse lawsuits are subject to a legal deadline known as the statute of limitations. In Pennsylvania, current law caps the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases at the age of adulthood plus 12 years, which means that victims who were sexually abused as minors typically only have until the age of 30 to file claims.
Because much of the sexual abuse against children within Pennsylvania’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, there are several pending measures before the Pennsylvania Legislature that could change that.
These groundbreaking measures, which are expected to pass, will create new opportunities for survivors to step forward and obtain long-overdue justice. If passed, these measures would:
- Extend the civil statute of limitations for child victims to age 55.
- Create a temporary two-year window for child sexual abuse survivors to file claims over abuse that occurred at any time in the past.
Our team at Levy Konigsberg is closely tracking the proposed sexual abuse measures in Pennsylvania and is actively working with survivors looking for information about filing claims under the new extended statute of limitations or two-year lookback window, should these measures become law. Our firm also pursues any out-of-court settlement programs for financial compensation that may be available to victims.
Learn more about the pending Pennsylvania child sex abuse measuresor contact our firm to discuss your legal options under the current statute of limitations or amended laws.
Do I Have a Pennsylvania Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Lawsuit?
Our attorneys at Levy Konigsberg have extensive experience litigating civil sexual abuse lawsuits and are available to help you evaluate your eligibility.
While every case is different, you may have a potential claim if:
- You were sexually abused as a child or an adult by a priest, Church volunteer, or other member of the Catholic Church.
- The abuse involved a clergy member from any of Pennsylvania’s eight Roman Catholic Dioceses (Diocese of Pittsburgh, Diocese of Allentown, Diocese of Scranton, Diocese of Harrisburg, Diocese of Erie, Diocese of Greensburg, Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, or the Archdiocese of Philadelphia).
It is important to note that there is no requirement for your abuser to have been criminally convicted to file a claim. In fact, you can still pursue legal action in civil court even if your abuser was found innocent in a criminal case or never criminally charged.
Can I File a Lawsuit if My Abuser is Deceased?
Yes. Civil sexual abuse lawsuits against the Catholic Church focus on holding church leadership accountable for failing to prevent, stop, and appropriately respond to sexual abuse committed by its priests and clergy.
For this reason, your abuser does not need to be alive to file a claim – an important point considering that many of the accused priests identified by Michigan authorities are deceased.
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 a Pennsylvania Catholic diocese over abuse that occurred when you were a minor or an adult, we’re available to help. Call (800) 315-3806 or contact us online for a FREE and confidential 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.
Over $3 Billion Won
We have represented numerous individuals and groups of workers, winning for them multi-million-dollar settlements and verdicts.
There's No Case Too Big
Our team has achieved groundbreaking victories in highly complex cases and has gone up against some of the toughest defendants in the country.
Our attorneys excel in the courtroom and are not afraid to bring a case in front of a jury if a fair settlement for the client has not been reached.
A Thought Leader in the Industry
Our firm's knowledge and experience are in high demand, and many news outlets have asked us to share our legal expertise.
Access to World Class Resources
Our experienced attorneys use cutting-edge technology and highly regarded experts to help us achieve the best possible result for our clients.
Changing the World for Good
We not only want to achieve the best possible results for our clients, but we also strive to prevent future harm by changing public health policies.
Professional, responsive and very good at their jobs.- Lisa Ross
They have truly gone above and beyond.- Anne Fahey
I put my Faith and Trust into Corey Stern!- Dennis McGowan
With this team on my side we came out on top.- Angie Garrido
Very happy with our settlement.- Lori Rosa
Wow is all I can say.- Carol N.
Their dedication to receive the highest results for their clients was amazing.- Emily DeRogatis
Such a great team!- Kevin Kober
We definitely got the right law firm!- Mark Wells
Levy Konigsberg continued to help my family fight for the justice my father deserves.- Stephanie Vitale