Click Below to Watch News Video on Catholic Church Reaction to Revisions to SOL
Unlike criminal cases, the burden of proof in a civil case lies with the plaintiff, not with the accused. If “witnesses become unavailable and memories fade,” as Bishop Barres mentions in his letter of March 30, 2016, and if files, documents and evidence become unavailable, have been shredded or otherwise destroyed, then a civil case goes nowhere. What is important to remember is that in a civil case existing evidence that may have been hidden will then be made public.
Why should private institutions and particularly religious denominations, be rewarded for “successfully covering up crimes until statutes of limitations passed,” as PA Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks has said (“’We have to make it right,’ Rep. fights to end time limits for reporting sexual abuse,” Tribune-Democrat 4/10/16).
Rozzi has called it a “slap in the face,” and rightly so.
Laws should allow victims to seek justice. “All victims of childhood sexual abuse should be afforded an opportunity for justice,” wrote Angela Liddle, CEO of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance in a memo to PA legislators (Tribune-Democrat 4/10/16).
Nowhere does the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference address the scourge that childhood sexual abuse is across the state and across the country. Rather, they are using the power and unlimited financial resources available to them to deny all victim/survivors of child sex abuse access to the justice that is their right.
Revelations of the collusion and conspiracy by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in covering up the sexual abuse of untold numbers of children over decades is something that bishops and state catholic conferences cannot allow to happen, regardless of financial costs.
Second only to the scandalous machinations of the church’s hierarchy is why so many Pennsylvania legislators are so quick to follow the siren song of such a powerful religious denomination instead of protecting society’s most grievously harmed to the best of their ability which is their responsibility.
Shame on both.
Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
Advocate for Victim/Survivors & Legislative Reform
Founding member of CatholicWhistleblowers.com
New Castle, DE
 Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Did you know … ?“, 2013,http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/child-and-youth-protection/upload/Did-You-Know-2013-2.pdf [See: #13]
Representative Mark Rozzi
Message From the Chair
Representative Rozzi has led the House of Representatives to finally passing this bill. His steadfast work over many years has been successful. He and his staff have encouraged our attempts to stir up concern for the abused children in the public, and the other lawmakers. We are so grateful to him and his faithful concern for the pain of the survivors and their families. May God be praised.
Marita Green, Chair
FACSA | Foundation to
Abolish Child Sex Abuse
PA HB 1947 as amended by Rep. Mark Rozzi passed the House today overwhelmingly. It totally eliminates the criminal statues of limitations going forward and increased the civil statues of limitations to age 50 (from age 30). We don't have the exact language of the Rozzi amendment, but we have heard unofficially that it does make the changed provisions in the bill retroactive to those who are 50 and under. It does NOT contain window legislation for those time barred from bringing a suit. It will be brought back to the PA House tomorrow for final consideration and will official be passed and then go to the Senate and subsequently be sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee for their consideration.
We are disappointed that the civil window legislation amendments were not supported enough to be added to the bill, but this is another successful step in reaching our goals of NO SOLs and some legislation that will allow past victims to gain a measure of justice and relief.
Speeches by Rep. Rozzi and Murt were very moving and we hope they will be put up on YouTube. Rep. Rozzi received a standing ovation from the House after his speech. He more than deserved it for all the work he, his staff and other representatives have done on behalf of victims.
And our thanks to all of you for all your support and calls/emails to legislators. We will let you know when the Senate Judiciary Committee receives the bill.
April 11, 2016
Dear Member of the PA House of Representatives,
Even though the Vatican has removed all statutes of limitation covering substantiated or admitted sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church’s own canon Law, U.S. bishops and state catholic conferences continue to oppose statute of limitation reform in state after state whenever more adequate child abuse legislation is proposed.
On its website the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says in response to changes in Church law established by then Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI: “Regardless of when the abuse occurred, a cleric against whom there is an established or admitted act of child sexual abuse is permanently removed from the priesthood. There is no statute of limitations for removing a cleric who has sexual (sic) abused a minor from public ministry in the Catholic Church” (emphasis by underscore added).
Pennsylvania’s bishops, the executive director of the PA Catholic Conference, its spokeswoman and their well paid lobbyists continue to trot out their well worn but unsubstantiated statements against the removal of all civil statutes of limitation which appears to contradict the example of both Saint John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in Canon Law.
Additional unsubstantiated claims are mentioned by Allentown Bishop John O. Barres in three of the last five paragraphs of his letter of March 30, 2016 which was recently distributed in parishes in the diocese along with church bulletins.
The fact of the matter is that recommendations by both the 2005 and 2011 grand jury reports on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia along with those of the grand jury report on the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown specifically request the complete removal of statutes of limitation as well as adding a civil window that would allow previously time barred cases of childhood sexual abuse to be brought forward.
No diocese in any of the states that have removed statutes of limitation going forward, especially those opening a civil window for previously time barred childhood sexual abuse by anyone, has been crippled.
In fact the opposite is true particularly in Delaware, Pennsylvania’s immediate neighbor to the south.
No parishes or schools in the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware were closed as a direct result of the passage of the Child Victims Law in 2007 or the two year civil window it included. Nor were social services or vital ministries curtailed.
It is important to note as well that the Diocese of Wilmington mounted two constitutional challenges to the 2007 legislation while one religious order of men, the Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales, mounted one. Both failed.
After California opened its civil window Cardinal Roger Mahony, the former archbishop of Los Angeles, fought the court’s order to release documents in that diocese for ten years. What that litigation cost will probably never be known.
Although passage of Delaware’s 2007 law “would not prosecute [criminally] a single child abuser from the past” to quote Bishop Barres, because retroactive criminal charges had earlier been found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States, it did open the doors civilly to the justice so many have been denied in the past regardless of who their abusers were.
Statutes of limitation covering the sexual abuse of children are not a matter of sound or proven legal practice when they concern the sexual abuse of children, by anyone. They are arbitrary, discriminatory and inappropriate when applied to such cases, too often giving more protection to sexual abusers of children than to victims. This reality has been the case in a majority of states for many decades.
Whistle: Fr. Tom Doyle's Steadfast Witness For Victims Of Clerical Sexual Abuse
by Robert Blair Kaiser
Available on Amazon
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