Last week, the Los Angeles Archdiocese settled what is believed to be the last pending lawsuit involving sexual abuse against the church by reaching a $13 million agreement with 17 victims. The case involved Father Nicolas Aguilar-Rivera, a cleric from Mexico, who had allegedly molested more than two dozen boys over the course of a nine-month period in 1987.
The settlement brings the LA Archdiocese’s decade long legal battle to a close. In total, the sexual abuse scandal cost the Catholic Church more than $740 million. The $13 million settlement was awarded to 11 alleged victims of Aguilar-Rivera, as well as six others who claimed to have been molested by other priests.
A Legacy of Litigation
The case marks the end – at least for now – of lengthy sexual abuse litigation against the church. In 2002, a nationwide scandal erupted when hundreds of victims stepped forward to announce that they had been abused by priests and church officials in the past. In total, more than 500 victims received compensation from the church, which had to sell off real estate, take out massive loans, and set aside previously allocated funds to cover expenses.
As equally devastating as the church’s financial loss was its tarnished public image. As more information became known, including internal church records, it was discovered that many church officials were aware of the abuse, yet did nothing to stop or prevent it. Many officials even shielded priests from criminal repercussions. This was one of the most significant reasons why the church paid such a heavy social and financial price and remains a significant cause for community distrust.
While the settlement is a welcomed victory in the fight against child sexual abuse, it should be reiterated that serious changes must occur in order to ensure that these events do not repeat themselves in the future. By stepping forward and asserting their legal rights, abuse victims can play a role in holding wrongdoers accountable, raising awareness about sexual abuse, and helping prevent others from becoming victims as well.
For more information about pursuing a claim with the assistance of a California sexual abuse attorney from The Senators (Ret.) Firm, call (949) 557-5800.