The National Catholic Review

Here's one of the most cogent reasons why the New York State Legislature shouldn't open a "window" to extend the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases in the Catholic church, from Commonweal's lead editorial this week.  And I emphasize the Catholic church.  Now, it sometimes takes years for sexual abuse victims to be able to recognize, name and voice the crimes that were perpetrated on them, and so, in general, extending the statutes makes sense for sexual abuse cases.  But if the statutes are extended for the church (or are designed to be extended that way) they should be extended for all institutions.  Otherwise it's simply targeting one instititution. 

Here's Commonweal: "[L]ike other window legislation, the proposed Markey bill exempts public institutions from such civil suits. But a recent Associated Press report revealed that between 2001 and 2005, 2,750 public-school teachers nationwide had their licenses revoked or restricted because of sexual misconduct with minors. Victims’ advocates know that it is nearly impossible to overturn laws protecting public institutions from civil suits. (Under state law, civil suits against such institutions must be filed within ninety days of the alleged abuse.) As a consequence, the Markey legislation appears to target the Catholic Church while depriving the largest group of victims, namely public-school students, of their day in court."

The New York State Catholic Conference notes this: "The most common location for sexual abuse is in the home. Outside the home, public schools are the most frequent place where children encounter abuse. A recent report by the Associated Press revealed that in New York State and across the country, the number of children abused by public school employees, such as teachers, overwhelms the number of children abused by Catholic priests. For example, there were 485 reports of abuse in New York State public schools in just the five year period between 2002 and 2006. That’s nearly 200 more cases than the total number of priests accused in New York since 1957, a period of more than 50 years. These statistics are meant to provide context often missing in the media and not to attempt to in any way minimize the crimes of clergy members who have so gravely abused the trust given to them."

Sexual abuse is a crime and perpetrators should be brought to justice--in all arenas, not just the Catholic church.

James Martin, SJ

Comments

Anonymous | 6/21/2009 - 4:54pm
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Anonymous | 5/8/2009 - 11:16am
I am writing in response to your article on extending the statute of limitations.  As someone raped and abused by a priest more than thirty years ago, I applaud their efforts.  My suppressed thoughts and feelings were brought to my attention during a series of psychological exams as a result of symptoms and my actions and behaviors over a period of years that concluded I was an undiagnosed and unmedicated manic depressive (bipolar).  It was suggested that this experience may have contributed in some way to my diagnosis.  I was encouraged to pursue a claim with the Diocese of Trenton in NJ, regarding the behavior of a priest in Ocean County in the seventies.  I did, they settled, no criminal charges were brought as the statute of limitations had run.  I approached the former priest, he left, married, now top guy at a major non profit corporation representing a textile/commodity producer.  I wanted closure, a simple sorry.  Despite the settlement, he agreed to pay some small medical bills afterwards, but did not apologize, only expressed his disappointment in me.   When I pressed him for a meaningful apology, something I knew he meant, he claimed I was trying to extort him and hired a lawyer to scare me.  He is an alcoholic, sought treatment, but despite steps eight and nine in the twelve step program, never reached out to me.  I understood he may not have remembered all of it, being drunk most of the time.   But he remembered enough to settle and make a subsequent payment.  A simple apology was all I was seeking to bring some kind of closure.   The statute of limitations worked in his favor.  While my life was destroyed at almost every level, suicide attempts, professional ruin, I have worked hard to regain success and continue to do so.  I don’t think of myself as a victim, but work to find something positive in all of this to help others.  The legislature's pursuit here is a noble cause, it can help others.  The Catholic Church more than any other institution teaches you can sin and be forgiven, people make mistakes, but the church and its priests and former priests need to be held to account.  They can be forgiven, but to forget the past is to repeat the past.  We don’t need more victims.
Anonymous | 5/8/2009 - 8:56am
[color=#365f91]2)[/color] IT MADE NO DIFFERENCE IN COLORADO where after calling for a level playing field, “L. Martin Nussbaum, attorney for the Colorado Catholic Coalition, refused to say that the Catholic Conference would endorse legislation even if it did treat public and private institutions comparably. SNAP’s National Director, David Clohessy, described this argument as “a ruse, a diversion designed to derail the effort.”…   ”One argument that was never fully stated against the Church’s call to “level the playing field” between public and private entities, was the fact that public entities can also be sued under the Civil Rights Act of 1871 [[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Code]42 U.S.C.[/url][url=http://www.law.cornell.edu/usc-cgi/newurl?title=42&section=1983&type=titlesect] § 1983[/url]], where there is no cap on damages and no statute of limitations for the violation of one’s rights. Private entities are immune to such action, but the bishops were obviously not bidding for that kind of equal treatment and liability.” [url=http://fjdtestbed.blogspot.com/2007/05/test-on-paper.html]http://fjdtestbed.blogspot.com/2007/05/test-on-paper.html[/url][color=#1f497d][/color]
Anonymous | 5/8/2009 - 8:55am
[color=#1f497d]1)[/color] The whole issue of exempting public institutions from civil lawsuits is a red herring for Catholic lobbyists working hard to defeat statute of limitation reforms like window legislation. Even if public institutions were included, bishops would still oppose opening the courthouse door to past victims. So, all the hue and cry about discrimination is only noise to distract from the bishops’ strenuous efforts to keep documents secret that would expose their criminal negligence. Including public entities would not make one whit of difference in the bishops’ opposition to the Markey-Duane bill.   IT MADE NO DIFFERENCE IN DELAWARE where public entities were included in a bill that passed in 2007 over fierce opposition from the diocese.  Its principal sponsor, State Senator Karen Peterson, noted in an op-ed:   “The diocese claims that S.B. 29 isn't "fair" because it does not allow public employees to be sued. That is absolutely false, and the diocese knows it. Line 12 of the bill specifically includes "public entities" and the state solicitor has confirmed (in writing) that the bill does, indeed, cover public as well as private employees. The diocese has thrown this "red herring" out there in an attempt to garner support from private institutions to gut the bill. Some have fallen for it. Its argument relies on the notion that people will think that "sovereign immunity" means that public employees cannot be sued. The truth is that public employees are sued all the time (the numerous successful suits against the state police and Department of Correction are evidence of that). The state's "immunity" simply means that if a state employee performs an act that is a) within his/her discretion to do, b) is done in good faith, and c) is not done in a "grossly negligent" manner, they will have immunity from suit. I cannot imagine that any court would find that a public employee: a) had the discretion to sexually molest a child; b) molested the child in good faith, or c) was not grossly negligent in his/her duties when molesting the child. That is why the church's argument on this point is a "red herring." [url=http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2007/05_06/2007_06_17_Peterson_ShouldWe.htm]http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2007/05_06/2007_06_17_Peterson_ShouldWe.htm[/url]
Anonymous | 5/11/2009 - 12:50pm
Lets say that the bill passes. Hopefully, Cardinal Dolan will immediately appeal it as a violation of due process. The California Bishops, in their desire to make fair compensation (however late or coerced), never challenged the constitutionality of the California bill. They paid for it dearly as a hostile legal establishment rapidly ordered payments that went far beyond justice and strongly seemed to be designed to eliminate an imagined socio / political opponent.   - "The diocese claims that S.B. 29 isn't "fair" because it does not allow public employees to be sued. That is absolutely false, and the diocese knows it. Line 12 of the bill specifically includes "public entities"- Now this is the actual red herring! Even if they are technically eligible to be sued under the Delaware bill, government institutions have sovereign immunity. They do not need to comply with court orders commanding payments for anything. Collecting money from them is practically impossible (unless they agree to pay it). I wonder, how many school districts are going to agree to pay 25 year old claims? 
Anonymous | 5/7/2009 - 2:19pm
Correcting the 3 big lies that have been spread about the Child Victims Act (A2596)   The Lie: The CVA (Child Victims Act)  window singles out private institutions, because it does not also remove the 90-day notice of claim requirement for  public institutions.   The Truth: The CVA window also permits victims of public entities to avoid the statute of  limitations, because claims20against public institutions  brought under federal civil rights law (42 U.S.C. § 1983)  are not subject to the 90-day notice of claim. Felder v. Casey, 487 U.S. 131  (1988). The Lie: Private institutions will go bankrupt as a result of the CVA window.    The Truth:  No school or other private institution had to file for involuntary bankruptcy when a window was in place in  California or in Delaware. One  voluntary bankruptcy was filed by the San Diego Diocese,  which then voluntarily withdrew its bankruptcy  petition. Over half of the claims  paid in California (which involved various churches and other private groups) were paid by insurance  proceeds. No services were affected,  because the vast majority of social services’ funds come  from the government and tax proceeds.    The Lie: The New York Assembly has many options to protect children from sexual  predators.  The Truth: The CVA window is the only proven method of  identifying unknown child predators. A  vote against the CVA is a vote to enable child predators to continue to sexually abuse New York’s children in the  home, private, and public  institutions. The CVA is the  only path to the truth and the liberation of children from  their sexual abusers.
Anonymous | 5/6/2009 - 10:29am
Excuses, excuses, excuses.   Martin's comments are so like those the ones the institutional church unsuccessfully used in 2007 in the state of Delaware in opposing the 2007 Child Victims Law which holds every sexual predator of children accountable for his or her actions going forward.    There are no statutes of limitation going forward on childhood sexual abuse in Delaware by anyone and it also incorporated in that law a two year civil window for previously time barred cases of childhood sexual abuse.   Yes, we all know that child abuse happens mostly in the home by family members.  Some of that is referred to as incest.  It seems to me that it is also INCEST when it happens in the CHURCH as the CHURCH IS THE FAMILY OF GOD.    Instead of complaining about how he, Martin, or the bishops of the church for that matter, perceive as unfair, the treatment of one particularly religious denomination, Martin along with the bishops should be pro-actively supporting the Markey-Duane bill not opposing it with all kinds of specious arguments.   REMEMBER, THE ONES WHO GOT US INTO THE SCANDAL THAT CONTINUES TO DRAG THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH DOWN ARE NONE OTHER THEN THE BISHOPS OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, PAST AND PRESENT.   JUST GO TO: [url=http://www.bishopaccountability.org/]www.bishopaccountability.org[/url], [url=http://www.votf.org/]www.votf.org[/url], [url=http://www.snapnetwork.org/]www.snapnetwork.org[/url], [url=http://www.richardsipe.com/]www.richardsipe.com[/url], [url=http://www.nsacoalition.org/]www.nsacoalition.org[/url], [url=http://www.childvictimsvoicemaryland.org/]www.childvictimsvoicemaryland.org[/url], [url=http://www.votf-li.org/]www.votf-li.org[/url] and read for yourself.   So it would behoove the institutional Roman Catholic Church to stop bemoaning the fact that the SCARLET CLOAK OF CLERICALISM AND SECRECY HAS BEEN RENT, own up to that fact, and try to be a leader in supporting the Markey-Duane legislation instead of complaining that the Roman Catholic Church is not worse than anybody else when it comes to the sexual abuse of innocent children.
Anonymous | 5/6/2009 - 10:11am
In response to John B:  It is incomprehensible to me that anybody could be against the equal application of these laws to all sexual predators--regardless of their profession, relationship to their victims or employer.  Regardless of what source you choose to reference, statistics consistently show that most sexual abuse of children occurs in the home by relatives, and that the next most frequent sexual abuse of children is by public school teachers--by far.  Why in the world would anybody be against a revision of the statute of limitations that would hold all such predators accountable?!  Why would anybody seek to protect the largest group of sexual abusers from accountability?! Public schools, school officials, school districts and teachers unions have assisted public school teachers to avoid criminal prosecution, loss of teachers licenses and civil liability for decades.  Many of these teachers just move to a different school district or a different state, and their former districts never warn the new shcools and districts.  Many of these teachers have left a wake of victims in multiple schools in multiple states.  Teachers unions have protected these predators for decades, and prioritized the teachers over students they have abused.  The Catholic Church had some bishops and other diocesan officials who covered up the abuses of their clergy (Cardinal Law, Cardinal Mahoney, etc.).  That is despicable and those dioceses should be held civilly liable for claims that are not time-barred.  However, contrary to the unfounded screeching pronouncements of self-proclaimed victims advocates and plaintiffs attorneys, the incidence of cover-ups was not nearly as common as they would have you believe.  Review of priest personnel records and other diocesan records obtained through discovery and--in some cases--voluntary production reveal that in most cases, the diocese did not know about a priest's abuses until much later.  That is because victims do not come forward for many years after the abuse.  It happens behind closed doors. I am the father of four daughters.  Statistics suggest that one of my daughters is likely to be sexually abused by the time she reaches age 18.  My work, my advocacy, my efforts are to try to prevent that from happening at all costs.  I am not interested in targeting a particular church merely to assist plaintiffs attorneys to get rich and further exploit victims who have already been the targets of such horrific abuse and exploitation.  I am not interested in helping public institutions avoid accountability but going after private institutions.  Children abused by public school teachers are subjected to draconian time restraints and statutes of limitation (usually six months) from the date they were abused to file a claim.  Even in the rare instance when they are able to overcome their many emotional and psychological barriers to make a claim within such a short time, they are subjected to caps on what they can recover--often $250,000.  Teachers unions and school officials and districts vigorously advocate on behalf of the accused teachers at the expense of the students. John, you want to direct your anger at somebody?  Direct it at the so-called and self-proclaimed victims advocates and plaintiffs attorneys who show no compassion for or interest in the overwhelming number of victims who have the double misfortune of being abused by a public school teacher or relative.  These people consistently refuse to advocate on these victims' behalf, because there is no money in it.  They labor mightily to distract victims' attention from the predators that abused them to the institutions that employed them--often without knowledge of the abuser's actions--because that is where they stand to make money.  Then, when it is all over, the victim still has not addressed their needs for justice and healing, because their abusers have never been held accountable.   
Anonymous | 5/6/2009 - 10:01am
James Martin has not done his homework here.  Like many ordinary catholics in the pews he buys into the disinformation spewed out by the high priced PR firms hired by the New York State Catholic Conference and many dioceses across the country.   Actually there is no mention in the Markey/Duane bills of the Catholic Church or any other organization.  It is not anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish or anything else.  It has been written as a ''Bill of Rights for Victims of Sexual Abuse.''   In that sense it is not unlike Delaware's Senate Bill 29 which was unanimously passed into law on July 10, 2007 as the Child Victims Law.  It removed ALL statutes of limitation on the sexual abuse of children going forward while providing a two year window for bringing forward previously time barred cases of sexual abuse, BY ANYONE.   While New York's Markey/Duane bills are asking for the barest of minimums both with the SOL extension and the Civil Window, New Yorkers should support it because it is ANTI-SEXUAL PREDATOR, ANTI-MOLESTER & ANTI-CHILD RAPIST. It is not anti any organization put it is very much PRO CHILD.
Anonymous | 5/6/2009 - 9:43am
With all due respect, you highlight one reason.  Allow me to ask some questions: - currently the NY Catholic Conference is spending big bucks to fight this legislation.  Commonweal's editorial begins with a quote from Bishop Dolan on the need for the church to reform, renew, and reach out to victims.  But, there are no details, no plans, just words (again).  What is the Catholic Conference doing to try to work with the NY legislators to write and bring forward a bill that deals with abuse in both private and public institutions?  It appears all legal efforts are for one purpose - defeating the Markey Bill? - the editorial focuses on the NY bills and only briefly touches on the fact that this is a two sided monster for the catholic church......pedophiles/victims and the cover-up of bishops.  Only indirect reference to bishops? -  if you look at other current issues in the public domain e.g. torture, conscience protection, etc.  the church appears to take the stance that labels torture as unjustifiable at all times and a violation of natural law, Vatican II documents, JPII Veritatis Splendor, etc.  The church also protects catholics and others who claim "conscience" protections are needed - again, justifying by the use of natural law, church history, etc.  This approach does not leave out one group in order to speak its truth  (for example, to achieve the common good (safety and protection of citizens) the US legal system justifies torture in extreme cases. =  analogously, your comments and the Commonweal editorial seem to make a prudential judgment that expands the time period for some victims but, then, with no clear reason or justification beyond the tried and old "private v. public" or money or rights of the accused, leaves many victims to fend for themselves.  Is this justice?  For a catholic community built on mercy, the lost sheep, forgiveness, justice - how can we make a prudential judgment to ignore a group of victims because (in a civil court) they may harm the church's common good? You mention that most sex abuse happens in families or schools - so, does this justify the church washing their hands of their responsibility, for leading the way in how best to support victims and keep children safe? - would suggest that one paradigm we are experiencing in the church today is the growing role of factions, single issue bishops/groups, partisanship within the church, alienating various groups via language, names, labels.  Wonder if these issues are really (freudian) just cries from the heart because the church is wounded by sexual abuse, seemingly unable to confront this honestly, and are left with a "gaping hole" in the soul of the church - everything else is merely "cymbals and brass" - interesting Commonweal editorial - note that it barely refers to the victims (they have no name, no face, no passion, and no place in the church).  Rather, it focuses on legal and legislative issues - yet, ends by basically saying that, until we get past these types of games, we will not heal.  The editorial is guilty of the same issue that it points out in the last paragraph.  Disappointed because my respect for AMERICA and Commonweal is that they give voice to victims, to the marginated, to those forgotten, to the kingdom of justice, to expressing always the preferential option for the down and out.  Victims have suffered "soul murder" and yet there is no recognition of this beyond words?
Anonymous | 5/6/2009 - 2:27am
For example, there were 485 reports of abuse in New York State public schools in just the five year period between 2002 and 2006. That’s nearly 200 more cases than the total number of priests accused in New York since 1957, a period of more than 50 years. Comparing 485 reports of abuse against the number of accused priests. Would it not be more appropriate to compare the number of reports of abuse by priests against the reports of abuse in public schools or compare the number of abusers in the public schools with the number of abusers in the priesthood. This is great maths and does not address the issue of the global scale of abusers found within the church and the cover up and reductionist mentality as shown here which is the result one would expect after such a prolonged period of covering up of the sexual abuse of children within an institution such as the Catholic church. Therefore the statement "These statistics are meant to provide context often missing in the media and not to attempt to in any way minimize the crimes of clergy members who have so gravely abused the trust given to them." is contemptous and is simply another good individual unwittingly playing their part on this day in the continuation of this covering up and the minimisation of the horror these acts bring into our society.