Victim Oriented Tort Law in Action: An Empirical Examination of Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Cases

Gijs van Dijck*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

34 Downloads (Pure)


Catholic Church sexual abuse cases have received worldwide attention, with lawsuits and nationwide investigations reported in various countries. This study examines a procedure—a hybrid between tort litigation and a victim compensation fund—that not only allowed sexual abuse victims to seek monetary compensation on an individual basis, but also nonmonetary relief, including an apology, recognition, and measures against those responsible for the abuse. The publication of all decisions offers a unique opportunity to analyze what victims pursued by filing a claim, whether what they were offered matched their objectives, and what impacted the probability of victims obtaining certain types of nonmonetary relief. After analyzing 1,237 decisions, this study reveals a mismatch between what victims sought and what they were offered. Surprisingly, the presence or absence of a few panelists (out of 27) turns out to be the best predictor of whether adjudicators ordered nonmonetary relief. Consequently, whether victims obtained nonmonetary relief did not only depend on a proper legal infrastructure, but mostly on the mentality and attitudes of those participating in the system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-164
Number of pages39
JournalJournal of Empirical Legal Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2018


  • tort law
  • victim-oriented
  • sexual abuse
  • Catholic Church
  • non-monetary relief
  • Empirical legal research
  • Empirical Research

Cite this