Window To Justice: Will PA Senate Support Victims Or Child Predators?

Pennsylvania senators must decide whose interests they’ll represent. Will it be the victims and children or will it be the predators, their enablers and insurance companies?

When the PA Grand Jury Report revealed 1,000 victims of Catholic clergy child sex abuse and that it had been covered up, there seemed to be a bi-partisan wake-up call. Yet, there’s been no progress in the senate. Where is the humanity and common sense?

Pennsylvania’s legislative shortfalls enable child rapists and molesters to live among us – unnamed, unpunished and undeterred.

Current law allows child sex abuse victims to pursue criminal charges against abusers until age 50; they can file civil lawsuits until age 30. The grand jury recommended eliminating the statute of limitations for prosecutions, noting that “no piece of legislation can predict the point at which a victim of child sex abuse will find the strength to come forward.”

Eliminating the statutes of limitation for child sex abuse is smart, but it wouldn’t be retroactive. Marci Hamilton, an expert in constitutional law and CEO of Child USA, explained to CNN in a recent article, that US Supreme Court precedent prohibits extending criminal liability after a case’s statute limit expires. So, even if a bill passed in Pennsylvania, it would not apply to any victim age 51 or older.

And worse, the limits for child sex abuse cases used to be five years for prosecution and two years for civil suits. Think of the thousands of victims silenced due to that short time frame. If that doesn’t grab you, think of all their anonymous abusers.

The solution is to eliminate the statutes of limitation for child sex abuse AND pass limited window legislation to clean up the past and prevent abuse.

A two- or three-year window would allow victims, who aged out of previous statutes of limitation, to file civil lawsuits. Arguments that a window is unconstitutional have been refuted by Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who references ample precedent in other states, including Delaware. He is confident that window legislation will survive legal challenges.

WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW

Every Pennsylvania parent, grandparent, person who cares about kids should let their state senator know they support this solution.

Download the Excel spreadsheet compiled with the help of attorney Slade McLaughlin. It provides insight to each PA senator’s stance on window legislation as well as contact information. Please tell them you want them to open a window to justice and send them pictures of the kids they should be representing.

With more feedback, we will continue to update spreadsheet.

PA Senators Vote This Week: Tell Them Window Protects Kids

Dear Senators Scarnati, Corman and Costa,

As a kid, you might have been told you had a guardian angel who watched over and protected you? We were. It was fascinating to think there was an invisible presence keeping us from harm. Some kids even named their guardian angel and wondered if they’d meet them in heaven.

We’ve met our children’s angels. Their names are Vicky, Mark, Mike, Shaun, Julie Ann, Mary, John, Patty, Carolyn, Jim, Jeanne…. Every victim and survivor in Pennsylvania who has spoken out about their clergy abuse is helping to protect kids. They’ve sacrificed privacy and emotional wellness to warn future generations of Catholic families about predator priests. They’ve done everything in their limited power to ensure no child endures the horror they experienced. But it’s not enough.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been the subject of two Grand Jury reports (2005 and 2011), which lead to dozens of abusive priests being removed from ministry and some legal reforms. The PA Grand Jury Report has revealed so much more.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia touts their victims’ assistance program and child protection efforts. But the devil is in the details, literally.

  • The PA Grand Jury Report points out what we already know, that child predator priests from all over the country are shipped to a Catholic facility in Pennsylvania located across the street from 1,000 Archdiocesan students.
  • The Archdiocese has a set of standards for all church personnel who interact with children and young people but they don’t educate the kids and teens on the standards. How will they know what to report?
  • The Archdiocese will not agree to implement policy agreeing to notify parents of a child when church personnel violate the standards. 
  • In Philadelphia, a victim can pick up a newspaper and read that Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, the head of Office of Child and Youth Protection/Victims Assistance has celebrated the funeral of a child predator priest.
  • Parents at a parish find out that a priest being investigated for child sex abuse was left at the parish for almost a year while being investigated.

When Archdiocesan leadership promises they will report sexual abuse, that’s because it’s the law now. Anything less than law leaves it to their judgment, which has been proven to put children at risk.

Yes, their victims assistance program provides free therapy. Imagine if a car manufacturer knowingly sent cars with defective brakes out on the road and then offered free physical therapy for those injured as a result. Would that be enough? We’ve witnessed victims, and family members of deceased victims, ignored and even hassled.

This institution takes more guidance from attorneys than the Gospel. We say this as Catholic moms, both the product of Catholic schools, who sent our kids to the same. Lucky to have only been betrayed, we trust in God and in our legal system. We don’t believe the bishops. Neither should you.

Window legislation benefits all Pennsylvanians. Civil suits can expose even more abuse and cover ups. A copy of memo, made prior to it being shredded, listing the names of 35 abusive priests was introduced during a criminal trial in Philadelphia. One priest from the list was still in ministry at the time. Archdiocesan leadership knew, but did nothing until his name was revealed in a court room. Children are the safer for it. Civil suits will offer the same opportunity for discovery.

The victims, survivors and their family members have been heroic in their efforts to protect our children. They deserve justice and they deserve to be released from the clutches of the Church, whose reach extends to our commonwealth’s capitol. And what about abuse survivors who aren’t Catholic? The bishops and Catholic Conference lobbying efforts block justice for those abused by a uncle, coach or neighbor. 

Who is lobbying on behalf of our kids?  It’s the victims, those who were raped and molested as children. It’s tragic and beautiful that they are the ones on the front lines. We wish we could offer the words that express the empathy, gratitude and respect they deserve. But you can offer those words in new legislation.

Please extend an opportunity for civil justice, an opportunity to expose child predators and the institutions that hide them, and an opportunity to better protect all Pennsylvania children.

Sincerely,

Kathy Kane & Susan Matthews

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WRITE & EMAIL YOUR LETTERS TODAY

Please  share your thoughts with these senators and your own:

jscarnati@pasen.gov

https://www.senatorcorman.com/contact/

http://www.senatorcosta.com/contact/

This week is the final time the Pennsylvania Senate will be voting before the two-year session ends in November. So much is at stake for victims and children.

Excerpts from: As Pa. Senate session winds down, last-minute push would allow two-year window for clergy abuse victims, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 14, 2018

Senator Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, has declined interview requests and “his office circulated a counter-proposal calling for the creation of a ‘tribunal’ of judges appointed by the state’s appellate courts that would, in turn, select an administrator to manage a compensation fund. Mr. Scarnati’s proposal also would create some sort of public registry that would allow victims to petition courts to have an abuser’s name added to it.

The proposal was swiftly opposed by victims and their advocates, many of whom characterize it as a bailout for the Catholic Church and the insurance industry. Both have argued that it could lead to devastating financial blows.

‘We don’t need more bureaucracy,’ said York-area advocate Kristen Pfautz Woolley, who was abused as a child. ‘We need a two-year window for survivors to use the existing court system to obtain justice.’

Ms. Woolley said her abuser was not a priest, but a man her family trusted. She said for many victims, compensation has little to do with achieving justice.

‘I want to face my abuser in court,” she said. “I want to make sure that he never harms another child.’

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, declined a media request made last week through his spokeswoman.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, said he believed there was support in his caucus for the measure, but he didn’t have a specific vote count.

‘I think there are a number of members in our caucus who would like a two-year window, but I don’t believe that that is where our colleagues in the Senate Republican caucus are at,’ Mr. Costa said.”

 

 

 

Bishops’ Victim Compensation Plan Ignores Greater Good

Bishops Victim Compensation Plan Ignores Greater Good

by Susan Matthews

Last week, Pennsylvania bishops issued a joint statement outlining a myopic and self-serving plan for compensating past victims of clergy child sex abuse.

Read the statement here.

In a PhillyCatholic.com editorial on the statement, Archbishop Chaput seemingly boasts about how the archdiocesan victim’s assistance program “has quietly served hundreds of abuse victims and their families for more than 15 years and underwritten their therapy and care in an amount totaling more than $18 million.”

Grand Juries = Grand Gestures

First, let’s state the obvious. None of it would have been necessary if the hierarchy hadn’t allowed priests to continue abusing children while covering it up for DECADES.

Why did it take another Grand Jury report for the bishops to make this grand gesture? Is that commitment or public relations? I think it’s the latter combined with a strategic lobbying effort. One PhillyCatholic.com reader, Anita, writes in the comments section, “So now the bishops are pledging ‘new’ aid….if the statute of limitations issue was not on PA’s radar screen would these ‘new’ funds have been available?”

If this gesture were at all sincere,  these resources would be available even if the statute of limitations were to be temporarily lifted for civil cases. But they aren’t.

Crystal Clear Agenda (For Once)

“We’re committed to dedicating substantially more resources to the task of helping survivors, unless destructive, retroactive statute of limitations legislation makes that impossible.”

Note the word – “unless.” Chaput explains “destructive” by warning that parishes may go bankrupt. Are any of bishops concerned about moral bankruptcy? They’ve become pros at mitigating financial risk and placing the burden on those in the pews.

For insight, check out: The Bishop’s Alter Ego: Enterprise Liability and the Catholic Priest Sex Abuse Scandal, Journal of Catholic Legal Studies

Ignores Justice for ALL Victims

The bishops’ compensation plan doesn’t take into account ALL victims of child sex abuse. What about those abused by an uncle or a coach? Shouldn’t they be entitled to pursue compensation through a civil case? The bishops’ plan doesn’t even apply to victims abused by Catholic order priests – only diocesan clergy. Semantics. They’ll let Franciscans or Oblates teach in archdiocesan schools and celebrate Mass at parishes, but they won’t take responsibility for them. Retroactive statute of limitations legislation would apply to everyone.

Doesn’t Protect Kids

This legislation also provides an important element of prevention. Not all of these alleged abusers are dead. One could be living next to your granddaughter or your nephew. They are in a community living in anonymity alongside children. The legal process allows for identification and public awareness.

Read “No One Is Monitoring Former Abusive Priests,” by the National Catholic Reporter

Yes, it’s disheartening that the diocesan coverups in Pennsylvania have put so much at risk. That’s why the Pope should create a betrayal compensation plan for parishes, Catholic social services and other ministries. I don’t blame the legal system. The blame lies squarely with the Church.