Clergy Sexual Abuse Litigation: The Policymaking Role of Tort Law

87 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2007

See all articles by Timothy D. Lytton

Timothy D. Lytton

Georgia State University College of Law


By all accounts, the prevalence of clergy sexual abuse and its cover-up by Church officials represents a massive institutional failure. Obscured by all of this attention to the Church's failure is the largely untold story of the tort system's remarkable success in bringing the scandal to light in the first place, focusing attention on the need for institutional reform, and spurring Church leaders and public officials into action. Tort litigation framed the problem of clergy sexual abuse as one of institutional failure, and it placed that problem on the policy agendas of the Catholic Church, law enforcement, and state governments. This Article examines these framing and agenda-setting effects of clergy sexual abuse litigation. It argues that private lawsuits can have a powerful and beneficial effect on policymaking.

Keywords: torts, mass tort, clergy sexual abuse, litigation

Suggested Citation

Lytton, Timothy D., Clergy Sexual Abuse Litigation: The Policymaking Role of Tort Law. Connecticut Law Review, Vol. 39, No. 3, p. 809, 2007, Available at SSRN:

Timothy D. Lytton (Contact Author)

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States


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