LOS ANGELES — The Roman Catholic Church in the United States has become embroiled in a new pedophilia scandal with six women and one man alleging sexual abuse by a priest over three decades.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Oakland, California accused Father Stephen Kiesle of acts of sexual abuse between 1972 and 2001, and alleged that Catholic Church officials knew of the crimes but did not stop them.
Pedophile priest scandals and allegations of high-level cover-ups that swept Australia and the United States in 2004 have surged again since last year and rocked the Catholic Church in Europe and the United States.
“The Catholic bishops in the United States of America and the Holy See have long facilitated the sexual molestation of children by engaging in the harboring and protection of known child molesting priests,” read a copy of the latest lawsuit obtained by AFP.
“The bishops and Catholic hierarchs have done so to prevent the priests from being prosecuted and to avoid scandal,” the lawsuit read.
It said church figures “have subjected Catholic families and children in these communities to known pedophiles, counting on the devotion and reverence in the communities to keep any further abuse by the priests secret.”
The plaintiffs, six women and one man, said they were abused by Kiesle throughout childhood and adolescence, although one alleged victim, Teresa Rosson, 48, said she suffered abuse at the hand of the cleric until about a decade ago.
The lawsuit is the latest of several to embroil the US Roman Catholic church, which has been repeatedly accused of closing its eyes to the sexual and physical abuse of children by priests and church officials.
In response, the Vatican last month issued new rules against pedophile priests and promised an acceleration of internal investigations and extension by a decade of the statute of limitations in abuse cases.
The church paid out 436 million dollars in 2008 for sex abuse cases involving clergy members, according to an official report last year.
The bulk of that money — more than 374 million dollars — was paid out in settlements to victims, according to the report that tracks how well the church is implementing a charter to protect children.
The US Catholic Church was plunged into crisis in 2002 after the Archbishop of Boston admitted he protected a priest he knew had sexually abused young members of his church.
During a trip to the United States in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI, the leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Roman Catholics, sought pardon from victims, saying he felt deeply ashamed by the sex scandals.
The pope himself has faced allegations that, as archbishop of Munich helped to protect predator priests.