Catholic Church Fights Plans to Expand Abuse Claim Timetable

Thursday, 14 Jun 2012 12:18 PM

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The Roman Catholic Church has been quietly working in state legislatures around the country to fight proposals that could open the church to a new round of law suits and criminal charges over child sexual abuse.

The proposals would lengthen deadlines for when claims or prosecutions can be brought, The New York Times reported.

The expansion of deadlines would affect not just priests but teachers, counselors and even family members charged with incest. The laws are being pressed by victims and advocates in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York, the Times reported.

The church has already succeeded in defeating proposals in other states. They have argued that it is hard to get reliable evidence decades after an alleged incident when witnesses and others may have died.

The church has spent over $2 billion on legal fees and settlements in child abuse cases. In Colorado and New York, the church hired lobbying and public relations firms and Colorado parishes handed out postcards for churchgoers to send to state legislators, the Times reported.

Victim’s advocates maintain that current statutes of limitations deny justice to victims even in cases where the abuse has been admitted. However, Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, asked in testimony, “How can an institution conceivably defend itself against a claim that is 40, 50 or 60 years old? Statutes of limitation exist because witnesses die and memories fade.”

Brannigan also noted that the “bill would not protect a single child, it would generate an enormous transfer of money in lawsuits to lawyers.”

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