Church is against easing time limitations for filing child sexual abuse suits

Church is against easing time limitations for filing child sexual abuse suits

New York City : NY : USA | Jun 14, 2012 at 4:29 AM PDT
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Child sex abuse: moves to put the pope in court

The Roman Catholic Church in Philadelphia is fighting against efforts to ease time limitations on reporting child sexual abuse. These limitations are not the same in all states. Since the trial of a Roman Catholic Church official, who allegedly covered up child sexual abuse, legislators in Albany, NY, have made efforts to relax laws on reporting abuse in the state. But, the church is reportedly fighting the efforts in state legislatures throughout the country.

According to church officials, they are fighting for the limitations because it's an issue of principle, but critics say that the church's efforts have quite a great deal to do with the lawsuits' costs - billions of dollars.

“This bill would not protect a single child,” said Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, according to the New York Times. “It would generate an enormous transfer of money in lawsuits to lawyers.”

It is pertinent to mention here that decades-old sexual abuse accusations at the Horace Mann School perhaps can't be put on trial in New York due to the state's decree of limitation that only provides victims up to five years following their 18th birthday to file a childhood abuse report. Moreover, this time limitation, laid down in laws of several other states, has held down several criminal trials and civil charges against anyone, not only priests, indicted of child abuse.

Meanwhile, victims and their supporters in several states are approaching lawmakers to increase the limit or eliminate it completely and to set up provisional “grievance’s windows” via which victims can report abuses regardless of the time period passed after occurrence of the abuse.

On the other hand, the church has reportedly employed lobbyists and PR firms to support their fight to block the efforts in New York and Colorado. Church officials have said that the provisions of limits are present to avert supposedly unjust cases in which several of the eyewitnesses are dead and proof is hard to come by.

According to the NY Magazine, “The church argues that the statutes of limitations exist to prevent unfair cases in which many of the witnesses are dead and evidence is hard to come by. Religious leaders are pushing hardest against 'window' laws, in which victims are given a year or two to file suits no matter how long ago the alleged crime occured. It's likely they're afraid of a repeat of what happened when California passed such a law in 2003. In just one year 550 sexual abuse lawsuits were filed.”

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Church easing time limitations
Roman Catholic Church in Philadelphia easing time limits for reporting sexual abuse, AFP photo.
Kamran Ahmed is based in Seattle, Washington, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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