catholic church

Grooming and Sexual Abuse In The Catholic Church

The Catholic Church has a sordid and unfortunate history of child sexual abuse that goes back decades but has only come to light relatively recently. In the vast majority of Catholic Church abuse cases, the priest, nun, or other predator doesn’t just start abusing a minor one day. The abuse takes time and patience, using a gradual process known as grooming. Understanding what the signs of sexual grooming are can help prevent abuse or at least put an end to it before more harm is done. If your child has been abused in the Catholic Church, the legal team at Paul Mones can help you fight for justice.

Why is sexual abuse in the Catholic Church so common?

Sexual abuse that takes place in an institution like the Catholic Church is almost always the result of someone exploiting a position of authority. Priests, nuns, and other leaders in the church are respected and entrusted with a great deal of influence over parishioners. Even still, the abuse itself is often the product of methodical and predatory behavior that takes place over an extended period of time. That’s where the concept of sexual grooming comes in.

According to the American Bar Association:

“Sexual grooming is a preparatory process in which a perpetrator gradually gains a person’s or organization’s trust with the intent to be sexually abusive.”

In other words, grooming often involves a number of concrete steps designed to build and then exploit that all-important trust with the victim. For example, the steps might include:

  • Identifying potential targets. This is typically done by using existing relationships within a congregation with the intent of targeting a specific child.
  • Gaining access to and isolating the victim. Parents already trust priests and other Catholic Church leaders with their children, but the groomer will often go further by requesting time outside of church under the pretense of spiritual leadership or counseling.
  • Gaining the trust of the victim. This may happen in a number of ways, such as by assuming a caring or understanding role or acting as a friend to the victim.
  • Hiding and controlling the relationship. Sometimes, the predator will use threats or even invoke God to intimidate the victim into silence, all while taking a controlling lead on what is done to the victim.

Signs of Grooming

Some of the signs that an abuser is actively attempting to groom a minor include:

  • Taking an unusual interest in children, especially fixating on a particular child
  • Attempting to create opportunities for being alone with the child
  • Initiating contact with a child, especially outside of the church setting
  • Offering unusual assistance to the child that doesn’t fall within the individual’s official role (e.g. offering to give rides to and from church)
  • Buying gifts for the child
  • Appearing to favor the child while ignoring the rest of the family
  • Catering to the child’s interests or problems
  • Attempting to interfere with parental authority

Sometimes, sexual grooming and abuse happen within parochial schools affiliated with the Catholic Church. That’s how one of Paul’s brave clients brought his case against the Archdiocese of New York, which settled in 2000. Teacher Linda Baisi, a former nun, had abused Paul’s client at her apartment in the Bronx when he was a grade schoolboy. The case is an example of how teachers, principals, and others acting within these schools often engage in the same type of behaviors as those listed above.

If you suspect that your child is being groomed in the Catholic Church, or you were a victim of such abuse yourself, you may be able to seek monetary compensation. Taking legal action can also prevent other children from becoming the next victim of a sexual predator. Reach out to Paul Mones today to learn more about your legal rights.