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California Clergy Abuse Deadline looms

Timely Insights on Laws, Issues and New Developements
  • Several organizations in California face allegations stemming from sexual assault and abuse.
  • Californians affected by sex abuse have rights and can still pursue justice.

Several well-known institutions around the US – including the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, the YMCA, the Hanna Boys Center of Sonoma, and many more – face scrutiny for sex abuse allegations. These institutions may have covered up allegations of abuse, allegedly protecting their reputations at the expense of alleged survivors. Deadlines were put in place and have passed for filing such allegations in several states; but many California residents still have time to pursue justice in the courts.

Adults who were abused as children have until Dec. 31, 2022, to file a lawsuit under a look back window in California’s Child Victims Act.

Consolidated litigation has formed in Oakland, Los Angeles, and San Diego against the Roman Catholic Dioceses of California. “If you have a claim against the Roman Catholic Church for sexual abuse suffered at the hands of a clergy member, now is the time to act,” according to attorney Peter de la Cerda.

Such institutions have affected thousands of Californians. Some California residents may have suffered clergy sex abuse or other abuse by authority figures, or their children were subjected to such abuse.

Hundreds of Priests Named in Report

In 2018, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles added the names of 54 priests accused of child sexual abuse to a previous list started by the Diocese of Orange. That brought the total number of clergy members on the list to 323. According to The L.A. Times, the list began with only 14 names in 2016; however, victims’ advocates compiled many more names and pressured church officials to hold priests accused of abuse accountable.

Many of the priests on the list have been accused of sexually abusing children decades ago, in the 1950s and 1960s, said a local California news source, KTLA 5. Many of the named clergy members have died or moved out of the area.

For its part, the Archdiocese says that it is trying to be more transparent with the public by adding additional names of priests. The Archdiocese added names of deceased priests accused of abuse, as well as the names of clergy members facing “plausible” accusations of abuse.

current list of clergy members accused of child sexual abuse in the Los Angeles Archdiocese can be found on its website.

Institutions under Investigation for Sex Assault in California

California has also seen recent litigation over former UCLA gynecologist James Heaps. A suit has named UCLA and alleged the school knew about the sex abuse but allowed Heaps to keep working before belatedly reporting him.

The Thacher School in Ojai, California has also faced allegations of sexual misconduct committed by its faculty members over the last several decades.

Has the Catholic Church in California Accepted Responsibility for Clergy Sex Abuse?

The Catholic Church in recent years has attempted to grapple with the issue of clergy sex abuse and the church’s culpability in cases of abuse. The church has set up compensation funds for some victims. One such effort was the California victims’ compensation fund supported by six dioceses in California: Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Fresno, Orange.

Conditions for California Child Victims Act

The state of California does have a statute of limitations for clergy sex abuse claims that was expanded by the California Child Victims Act’ however, it does not apply to claims made for benefits as part of the California sex abuse settlement fund. Survivors originally had until March 31, 2020 to file a claim for benefits under the compensation fund.

How California Child Victims Act Affects Filing for Clergy Sex Abuse

The California Child Victims Act has expanded the previous limitations that existed to victims of clergy sex abuse. The amendments now provide a “look-back window” from January 2020 for the next three years that enables victims to file lawsuits for any past child sexual abuse.

Previous law in California only allowed adults up until the age of 26 to file childhood clergy sexual abuse claims, however the California Child Victims Act has now increased that age to 40.

What is the Average Settlement for Clergy Abuse?

The clergy sexual abuse crisis has cost the Catholic Church in the United States more than $3 billion in settlements, according to a 2018 report by National Public Radio, and that figure has only grown since then.

Out of the seven Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses, the average payout has been approximately $148,000, based on settlements arranged by the victim’s compensation funds set up in the state, per ABC News. This amount is significantly less than what some clergy sexual abuse victims may have expected if they took their case to court.

In May 2018, 450 clergy sexual abuse survivors in Minneapolis took their share of a $210 million settlement agreed with the Archdiocese of St. Paul.


  • California Free Clergy Abuse Case Review
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by Matthews & Associates

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