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In England, the Home Office is finishing up a massive investigation into historical sexual abuse perpetuated by government, religious, education, and other institutions. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) recently heard testimony from top Catholic officials in the country, where clergy admitted there was “much, much more to achieve” in terms of changing the culture of the Catholic Church.

According to the Catholic Church’s statements, they are just now beginning “to see everything from the perspective of the victim/survivor.” The statements also indicate the Church did not have this perspective as recent as 2007 and 2001, when the last major investigation into the church was conducted.

Attorneys for survivors of abuse in England say the Church’s promises to do better have exposed themselves as “hot air.” They say the church is too slow in removing abusive priests; their clients have been treated poorly; and that because of the structure and culture of the Catholic Church, it is “incapable of delivering the changes survivors need”.

The sentiments of English survivors and their attorneys ring true across the pond. In the US, survivors of clergy abuse are expected to work with the Church, the very institution that betrayed their trust and innocence, to receive therapy or counseling as compensation for years of abuse. Of course, this doesn’t represent the type of justice survivors deserve, and survivors are not backing down.

In fact, hundreds of priests and former priests from across the US are being charged criminally and sued civilly, where the statute of limitations allow such lawsuits to proceed. Given the time that has passed since the last date of incidence in many child sexual abuse cases, states are also changing their laws to allow these lawsuits move forward.

In England and the US, the Catholic Church has sadly shown that words are meaningless, because they are not accompanied by a change in behavior. The Church must hold offenders of sexual abuse accountable, and those we are complicit. They must work transparently when handling reports of sexual abuse. And they must become serious about offering justice for survivors.

 

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