New York lawyer Jeff Herman and at least seven victims of clergy sexual abuse have filed a lawsuit in a Manhattan federal court alleging that the Vatican and the Pope knew about many priests who were abusing young people but covered it up, shuffling the abusive priests around and ignoring the victims.
The seven victims reportedly had settled their cases earlier with the Diocese of New York for "pennies on the dollar," said the New York Post. This new lawsuit, filed on Dec. 17, alleges that the defendant, "the Holy See, acted negligently by instructing its bishops around the world to cover up cases of sexual abuse," reported The Post.
The Holy See or See of Rome is the name given to the Diocese of Rome, headed by the Pope, which oversees the worldwide Catholic Church. Looking back several decades, there have been seven Popes since 1958: John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis.
“The Holy See has known for centuries that Catholic priests were using their positions and roles in Catholic parishes and schools to sexually molest children,” according to the lawsuit.
Attorney Jeff Herman, who prepared the lawsuit, told The Post that any settlements in the case could reach into billions of dollars.
“What we now know is that the Holy See through the Pope issued very specific rules and policies instructing bishops to keep secret information about kids being sexually abused by priests,” Herman told The Post.
“Because of that policy, families were not warned, kids were exposed to pedophiles, pedophile priests, and molested," he said. "They specifically kept it secret."
Instances of bishops and pastors keeping silent about clerical sex abusers, not warning families or parishes, and constantly assigning (and reassigning) the abusers to youth ministries and youth sports programs are well-documented in the research of Dr. Leon Podles, author of Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church.
Podles estimates the number of clergy sexual abuse victims since the 1950s to be as high as 200,000 in the United States alone. He also estimates that there have been up to 100,000 abusive priests worldwide since 1950 and anywhere up to two million victims.
“We have information now that specifically brings the Holy See into the cover up and into the secrecy leading to the abuse of thousands of kids in New York," said Herman.