How to Hold the Church Accountable for Sex Abuse

The Catholic Church has long been in the crosshairs of a sex abuse scandal that came to light in the 1990s. This issue has been the topic of numerous news reports, movies, and TV shows. The church has tried to cover up much of the abuse that happened in the past, but new bishops and even Pope Francis have noted that the church should hold itself accountable.

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That does not mean that local churches will do the right thing, and these tips explain how the church can be held accountable for sex abuse cases new and old.

Church Leaders Should Work Together

Church leaders should be held accountable for the actions of any priests or brothers who worked under them. Church leaders who have come into a building where sex abuse occurred should be willing to be accountable, and local authorities, the press, and even bishops in the church should hold each church or parish accountable.

This includes remote parishes where it is easy to hide from the spotlight. A Chicago sexual abuse lawyer might take a case in a rural community, and that sort of attention could push church leaders to look inward. If the local authorities or even a small-town newspaper press small churches to confront their history of sex abuse, the church as a whole can be held accountable.

Church Records Should Be Audited

Records from every Catholic church should be audited to search for complaints or suspicions of abuse. These churches may have records of complaints that occurred many years ago, or there may be suspicious documents that point to sex abuse in the building.

While the church may not want to audit its records, those churches can be compelled to audit their records as part of a court case. If one person comes forward, the church could be compelled to produce documentation for any family or child who reported suspected or actual sexual abuse.

Individual Churches Should Listen to Reports

As churches are questioned about alleged sex abuse, they should open their doors to any complaints or reports. These churches cannot take these complaints personally as many of the allegations could be very old. For example, a priest who completed seminary after the abuse occurred should be dedicated to the truth. That priest was not a part of the church at the time of the abuse, but they should try to make things right.

In the spirit of living like Christ, these priests should open their doors to all who may have a report or complaint. In Matthews 9:21, a woman hoped only to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe, and he turned to her saying her faith was healed. Even the smallest gesture can make a big difference in the church, and listening to complaints or suspicions without taking offense can go a long way to healing wounds within the faith community.

Anonymous Sources Should Feel Free To Come Forward

Anonymous sources should have a platform to come forward. There should be a hotline that allows people to call and tell any story that might concern the authorities. Of course, these stories must be corroborated with evidence, but some victims or their families are terrified of the spotlight that a child sex abuse case will bring.

When the Catholic Church is willing to hear all these allegations, it is easier for victims to come forward. The church can almost purge itself of any lingering accusations, and the church can begin to learn about how these abuse cases occur, how to stop them, and how to remove any predators in their ranks.

Investigate Each Suspected Offense

When the church has a new allegation of abuse, it should immediately investigate. Immediate action is a sign of good faith for the public, and it shows that the church no longer tolerates sexual abuse that went on for such a long time. The church should also welcome local authorities or attorneys who are looking into sex abuse cases.

As mentioned above, the priests and brothers in some of these churches had not yet completed seminary when the abuse took place. They are in no real danger, and they should be open to finding the truth. As the Catholic Church for the truth of God and the Heavens, it should also focus on the truth of any harm the church may have caused.

The Church Should Hold Internal Investigations

The church should internally audit and investigate suspicious activity. The church can learn from the mistakes of the past, and the church can track odd behavior among priests, brothers, and employees. When behavior mimics problems of the past, the church can take quick action. In fact, the church would do well to work with an expert attorney who understands these cases so that the investigation is as transparent as possible.

Bringing Back Offenders for Trial

The Catholic Church must be willing to bring back priests and brothers for trial if they are accused of sexual abuse. The church may need to be forced to find these priests or brothers, and local parishes should be asked to call on church leaders to bring these offenders back for trial. If the Catholic Church is not sending child sex offenders to jail, the church is not doing anything to heal the wounds that were caused.


The Catholic Church is a powerful entity throughout the world that should be held accountable for child sex abuse cases—no matter how long ago the abuse occurred. The ideas listed above will keep the church accountable, and these ideas can be used inside local churches. There are those in the Catholic Church who want to do the right thing, and they should be supported as the church is forced to face the sins of its past which could persist into the future.

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