For many Americans, faith is an integral part of living a good and productive life. It could be Christians going to church, Jews to synagogue or Muslims to a mosque, but a belief in a higher power, with an established spiritual and moral code, is fundamental to the way many people choose to view their lives and live it.
Unfortunately, while our faith in higher powers may be pure and answer to judgments that go beyond human fallibility, the institutions that organize and govern those religious activities here on Earth are run by fallible, imperfect humans. Sometimes, in the best-case scenarios, that means that honest, but unintentional mistakes occur that people work together to overcome.
Sometimes, in the worst-case scenarios, these earthly representatives of a faith seize the power that their title confers, and abuse it for their own personal gain.
Sin Can Happen To Anyone
Clergy Abuse, as it is commonly referred to in a legal environment, is when members of a religious organization take advantage of the authority that the organization grants them, and uses it in ways that are unethical and illegal. In some cases, the illegal acts may not be considered criminal, but there are other, more serious incidents, such as sex crimes involving children, where criminal charges may also be at play.
Even when an act of clergy abuse isn’t a criminal violation, that doesn’t mean that it’s not against the law, just that there may not be criminal punishments—such as a jail sentence—involved in the outcome. However, whether criminal or civil, a lawsuit can always be carried out to get some financial compensation from the individual or organizations that are involved in the abuse.
Personal & Financial
Clergy Abuse can occur in many different ways. One of the most tragic is when sexual abuse is involved. This can sometimes be with lay members of the church, synagogue, or another group, or it can sometimes be within the religious order itself, such as nuns being sexually abused by priests. It can also, tragically, involve children, as some faiths that have persisted through the centuries also have a long history in which child sexual abuse occasionally comes up.
In other instances, the abuse can be not one of sex, but one of financial trust. Some unscrupulous religious authority figures, such as priests or evangelists, may use funds acquired through the attendees for personal enrichment, rather than to support the religion or its associated charities. One example is of a priest who helped administrate a retirement home and was eventually found to have embezzled over half a million dollars from the vulnerable elderly residents.
It is always upsetting when trust is betrayed, but when that trust is broken by something as fundamental as an authority figure or leader of faith, the sense of betrayal can be devastating. However, that doesn’t mean that such acts should go unpunished. Talk to a lawyer experienced in Clergy Abuse, so you can find out more about how to get legal justice and get work on restoring your faith and spiritual balance.