Clients say it best

I couldn’t have asked for better representation and counsel...


We can tackle some of the most complex matters in the litigation world.


Year after year, our team delivers unmatched results for our clients.

What is Clergy Abuse?

Clergy abuse is the sexual assault of a member of a Church or congregation by a member of the clergy.  Clergy abuse is not limited to the Roman Catholic Church. It can and does occur in other religious institutions as well.  We hear most often about the abuses within the Catholic Church because they are more widely reported.  However, there are also confirmed reports of sexual abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and other religious institutions. 

Clergy abuse is a despicable crime that can not only cause deep emotional and physical scars, but it can cause spiritual wounds that rob the parishioner of their faith and the other comforts of their church community. If you or a loved one is a survivor of clergy abuse, please contact attorney Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller for a free, 100% confidential consultation.  

Who is Considered Clergy?

Members of the clergy can include, but are not limited to: 

  • Bishops 
  • Cardinals
  • Priests 
  • Pastors
  • Deacons
  • Elders 
  • Church camp staff
  • Church teaching staff
  • Volunteer church leadership

Consent is not a defense to clergy abuse.  Like with a doctor-patient, teacher-student relationship, the clergy member is in a position of power over their parishioner and is strictly precluded from having sexual relations with him or her.  

What are Examples of Clergy Abuse?

Clergy abuse can take many forms including: 

  • Sexual harassment
  • Inappropriate words, implications or comments
  • Touching or kissing without consent 
  • Sexual exploitation of a minor (regardless of consent)
  • Rape 
  • Sodomy 
  • Possession of child pornography 
  • Other forms of sexual misconduct

A person can be sexually assaulted once, or the assaults may turn into systematic and regular sexual abuse over time. Clergy abuse can occur between men, women and children.  All parishioners are susceptible to being abused, but our experience has shown us that the most vulnerable and isolated members of the church are likely to be targeted. Coming forward and sharing your story of clergy abuse can hold both your abuser and the church accountable, and may give other clergy abuse survivors the courage to step forward as well.  

Can I Be Compensated for the Clergy Abuse that Occurred?

Yes.  If you are within the statute of limitations, a lawsuit could result in a financial recovery for the harms and losses you suffered. The Michigan Attorney General’s Office has been actively engaged in investing all Michigan Catholic Diocese to accumulate the names of those priests that are known to or have been alleged to have sexually abused their parishioners. Currently, over 50 priests since the 1950’s have been named. We expect that the Attorney General will continue to release information as it becomes available.  

In the meantime, efforts are underway in the Michigan Legislature to expand the statute of limitations and create a limited revival window which would let those survivors abused even 40+ years ago bring a cause of action. If you believe your child or someone you know has been abused by a member of the clergy, notify the police right away. Then, contact a lawyer. Speaking to experienced sexual abuse attorney Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller could help you learn your rights and options at no cost or obligation.  She will listen to your story and walk you through the steps towards obtaining justice.

A Trusted Authority

Our attorneys have been featured on local and national media outlets, including:


Comments about Matthew Curtis from an Appreciative Client

Your efforts have changed my life, Matt. I’m forever grateful. My wife has tons of upcoming medical expenses, and we had both been working hard to make ends meet. I can’t thank you and your staff enough.

Praise for Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller and Matthew Curtis

I am writing to express my sincere gratitude for your hard work and dedication in handling my case. I appreciate your professionalism, your compassion, and your perseverance throughout this challenging process. You have gone above and beyond to protect my rights, to defend my interests, and to secure a favorable…

Praise for Wage & Overtime Pay Attorney Jesse Young

Jesse Young worked an employment case for me that ended with almost 700 people getting their unpaid wages back. He and his team are incredible. From the first communication to the last, they never missed a single beat – consistent and clear communication, quickly replying to my communication, and always making…

A Client Talks about Andy Dragovic

My wife had an accident, tripping over a cable line that wasn’t buried. Andy represented us and were very pleased with the outcome. Andy was very professional, personable, and quick to respond to us, answering any of our questions or concerns. The whole firm was responsive to our concerns, and…

Praise for Dina Zalewski

The lawyers at Sommers Schwartz, P.C. were nothing short of amazing when I came to them with my medical malpractice case! Dina truly helped to put my mind at ease and because of her and her firm, I finally have closure and can begin my healing process! I just want…

Gratitude for Rob Sickels

When our world was shattered by an unexpected medical diagnosis, we were referred to Rob Sickels of Sommers Schwartz. What a blessing to get this referral as Rob listened to us with caring and compassion, spent all the time necessary to help us, was always honest with us about our…

A Grateful Client Talks About Dina Zalewski

Dina never lied to us and was very straightforward. I feel like she took me under her wing. She got me through something that I thought was going to be incredibly difficult for me to relive. Dina felt like a friend, somebody I could trust and look to for guidance….

About Dina Zaleski, Rick Groffsky, and Andy Dragovic

Dina, Rick, and Andy were amazing lawyers. They helped me through an incredibly difficult time in my life after losing my son. I wanted answers on why, and they helped me through the whole process and they got me answers. After I lost my son, I was severely depressed. Every…

Our Clients Say It Best

40 5-star reviews on Google