26 May 2011

NY Senator says powerful institutions fighting legislation that would offer justice to time-barred survivors of sex abuse

Times Union  -  Albany, NY     May 25, 2011

N.Y.'s obligation to sex abuse victims

By Thomas K. Duane  |  Opinion

The beatification of Pope John Paul II in Vatican City has caused much fanfare around the globe, yet for many people it stirred painful memories of the clergy sex abuse scandal that occurred under his leadership.

Child sex abuse is not limited to the Catholic Church or to any other organized religion. A child or teenager can be molested by any adult in a position of authority or trust.

It is also true that those molested at an early age do not come to terms with what has happened to them until much later in life. I have spoken to many survivors and the pattern of delayed reaction, and pain, is always the same. In the case of institutional sexual abuse, the pain is magnified when it becomes clear that officials knew about the proclivity of abusers and did nothing.

Survivors deserve justice. Because transparency so rarely occurs voluntarily, the criminal and civil justice systems are the only way to seek relief. Tragically, New York is one of the worst places in the United States for sexual abuse survivors seeking justice.

New York relies on an antiquated statute of limitations. As a result, many abusers escape conviction unless they went across state lines to abuse a child in a state with a rational state of limitations. The conviction of New York priest Gary Mercure in Massachusetts is a recent example.

It is too late to prosecute abusers who ran out the statute of limitations clock in New York. The only hope for justice lies in New York's civil courts.

Regrettably, an abused child only has to the age of 21 to bring a lawsuit. Yet most survivors don't come to terms with their abuse until decades later, according to Marci Hamilton of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

In 2002, California, facing a similar problem, enacted a one-year window allowing time-barred survivors the ability to file a lawsuit.

These lawsuits are not solely about money. A lawsuit allows a survivor to review documents that show what institutions knew about an abuser and when they knew it -- a discovery process that is validating and powerful.

The window works. In jurisdictions that have created a retroactive window, the Catholic Church has quickly entered into a closed settlement agreement with survivors to prevent records from being disclosed. In New York, no settlements are offered because institutions are protected from document disclosure and the sunlight of the courts.

The church also uses bankruptcy as a tool. Bankruptcy is not caused by damages paid to victims. This is a common misconception. Bankruptcy is declared to delay or avoid disclosure and prevent fair payment of economic damages.

Since 2003, I have introduced legislation in the state Senate that would create a one-year window for time-barred survivors of sexual abuse. It ensures that both private and public entities are subject to the same liability. Church and state, religious and secular, public and private are all treated equally under my legislation.

The legislation is aggressively lobbied against by many of the powerful institutions it would affect [see links below] and has never made it to the Senate floor for a vote. Lobbyists hired to fight this legislation are like a who's who of the most connected in Albany. Survivors feel betrayed by officials who care more about appeasing powerful and well-funded interests than creating a path to justice.

It is time the Senate and Assembly pass this legislation to provide relief to survivors and make our communities safer.

State Sen. Thomas K. Duane, D-WFP, represents the 29th District in Manhattan.

This article was found at:


Review of sex abuse guidelines at US bishops conference will not close loopholes that continue to endanger children

Catholic clergy abuse review boards made ineffective by bishops who hide cases from them

Powerful impact of 'open window' church sex abuse laws

Summary of 2010 US legal reform of statutes of limitations related to child sex abuse

Catholic church spends millions protecting predators and keeping victims out of court by fighting time limits law reform

Illinois appeal court finds diocese liable despite lapsed statue of limitations because it kept silent about pedophile priest

Catholic diocese bankruptcy settlement plan seeks to reinstate pensions for two priests who abused children

Catholic diocese bankruptcies protect assets from abuse survivors but provide no relief for moral bankruptcy of church leaders

Dan Rather exposes Catholic tactics to shield assets from liability in abuse cases, SNAP founder compares Belgium raids to Toledo case

Catholic orders plead poor in abuse compensation cases, but hold billions in sheltered assets

Delaware diocese finally settles with clergy abuse victims, agrees to release internal church documents

Delaware clergy abuse survivors are first victims to ever testify in any U.S. diocese bankruptcy

Delaware Catholic Diocese files for bankruptcy 1 day before start of first of 8 clergy abuse trials

The first Delaware lawsuit filed in the wake of the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal settled out of court

Two new suits alleging sexual abuse by former Delaware priests were filed Thursday in Delaware Superior Court.

Family sues diocese over alleged abuse, suicide

Lawsuit claims 13 years of clergy abuse

Priest who molested teen returns

Clergy abuse survivor tells Delaware court that church officials blamed him for tempting pedophile priest

Lawyer suggests Milwaukee archdiocese shielding assets to avoid paying compensation to clergy abuse survivors

Milwaukee archbishop blames bankruptcy on individual pedophile priests, ignores systemic coverup by church leaders

California Supreme Court declines review of lower court order to unseal secret files of Franciscan friars accused of molestation

California court rules that confidential files of Franciscan friars accused of child sex crimes should be made public

Court allows release of clergy personnel files

Connecticut Diocese forced to unseal secret clergy sex abuse documents after 7 year legal fight

Abuse Files Shouldn't Be Secret

Priest files in sex abuse lawsuits to be released

Secret Documents Released in Clergy Sex Assault Suits

Irish cardinal tries to block access to abuse files

Court says evidence seized in Belgian Catholic church raids can't be used, probe finds hundreds of clergy abuse cases


  1. Victims of alleged N.J. priest child abuse push to eliminate statute of limitations against claims

    By Mark Mueller, The Star-Ledger December 16, 2011

    The lawsuit Richard Fitter filed in Superior Court in Newark Wednesday is almost certainly doomed to fail. Fitter knows that. The statute of limitations on his claim of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest has long since passed. But the 45-year-old Montclair man wanted to make a point.

    "He’s never been held accountable," Fitter said of the Rev. John Capparelli, the man who allegedly groped him repeatedly in the early 1980s. "Without a change in the law, people like me will never be able to truly seek justice and expose pedophiles like the man who abused me."

    Thursday, Fitter brought that message to Trenton, where he and other advocates urged lawmakers to act on a stalled bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations entirely in civil cases alleging childhood sexual abuse.

    After a news conference outside the Statehouse, Fitter hand-delivered letters to the offices of Gov. Chris Christie, Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex). The letter asked the legislative leaders for their support in passage of the bill, which was introduced late last year.

    As it now stands, New Jersey’s law is among the more restrictive in the nation, allowing lawsuits to be filed for up to two years after a childhood victim turns 18.

    Older victims can bring suits within two years of "reasonably discovering" the connection between the abuse and the emotional damage it caused, but the hurdles established by the state Supreme Court in such cases make it "very, very difficult, if not impossible" to make it to trial, said Fitter’s lawyer, Greg Gianforcaro.

    The advocates’ appeal comes as many states move to expand or abolish their own statutes of limitations in civil sex abuse cases. The issue also has taken on added resonance with the recent scandals at Penn State and Syracuse universities, where coaches are alleged to have sexually abused boys as long as two decades ago.

    Mark Crawford, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, compared Fitter’s predicament to the situations faced by some of the alleged victims at Penn State in that they’re barred from suing because the statute of limitations had passed.

    "People who have been abused are dealing with a range of issues," Crawford said. "Some have post-traumatic stress disorder. They’re under great stress. It’s very difficult to get your wits together and speak to anyone about it, much less a lawyer. Two years is far too short." ...


    Amid claims of inappropriate contact with boys, Capparelli was suspended from ministry by the Archdiocese of Newark 1992, though he has not been removed from the priesthood.

    That same year, he was hired as a public school teacher in Newark. The district removed him from the classroom and placed him in an administrative position last month following two Star-Ledger reports about Capparelli’s past.

    Fitter’s lawsuit, which also names the Archdiocese of Newark as a defendant, is the second against Capparelli. In June, a 48-year-old Somerset County man, Andrew Dundorf, made similar claims. Dundorf attended Thursday’s press conference to show his support for Fitter and to urge the Legislature to pass the statute of limitations measure.

    The Senate bill, S2405, was approved with unanimous, bipartisan support by the judiciary committee last December but was then referred to the Senate budget committee, where it remains.
    The committee’s chairman, Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), said Thursday he’s evaluating the measure and considering whether to put it up for a committee vote Jan. 5. ...

    read the full article at:


  2. Church Battles Efforts to Ease Sex Abuse Suits

    By LAURIE GOODSTEIN and ERIK ECKHOLM, New York Times June 14, 2012

    While the first criminal trial of a Roman Catholic church official accused of covering up child sexual abuse has drawn national attention to Philadelphia, the church has been quietly engaged in equally consequential battles over abuse, not in courtrooms but in state legislatures around the country.

    The fights concern proposals to loosen statutes of limitations, which impose deadlines on when victims can bring civil suits or prosecutors can press charges. These time limits, set state by state, have held down the number of criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits against all kinds of people accused of child abuse — not just clergy members, but also teachers, youth counselors and family members accused of incest.

    Victims and their advocates in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York are pushing legislators to lengthen the limits or abolish them altogether, and to open temporary “windows” during which victims can file lawsuits no matter how long after the alleged abuse occurred.

    The Catholic Church has successfully beaten back such proposals in many states, arguing that it is difficult to get reliable evidence when decades have passed and that the changes seem more aimed at bankrupting the church than easing the pain of victims.

    Already reeling from about $2.5 billion spent on legal fees, settlements and prevention programs relating to child sexual abuse, the church has fought especially hard against the window laws, which it sees as an open-ended and unfair exposure for accusations from the distant past. In at least two states, Colorado and New York, the church even hired high-priced lobbying and public relations firms to supplement its own efforts. Colorado parishes handed out postcards for churchgoers to send to their representatives, while in Ohio, bishops themselves pressed legislators to water down a bill.

    The outcome of these legislative battles could have far greater consequences for the prosecution of child molesters, compensation of victims and financial health of some Catholic dioceses, legal experts say, than the trial of a church official in Philadelphia, where the jury is currently deliberating.

    Changing the statute of limitations “has turned out to be the primary front for child sex abuse victims,” said Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University who represents plaintiffs in sexual abuse suits.

    “Even when you have an institution admitting they knew about the abuse, the perpetrator admitting that he did it, and corroborating evidence, if the statute of limitations has expired, there won’t be any justice,” she said.

    The church’s arguments were forcefully made by Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, in testimony before the State Legislature in January opposing a proposal to abolish the limits in civil cases.

    “How can an institution conceivably defend itself against a claim that is 40, 50 or 60 years old?” Mr. Brannigan said. “Statutes of limitation exist because witnesses die and memories fade.”

    “This bill would not protect a single child,” he said, while “it would generate an enormous transfer of money in lawsuits to lawyers.”

    Timing is a major factor in abuse cases because many victims are unable to talk about abuse or face their accusers until they reach their 30s, 40s or later, putting the crime beyond the reach of the law. In states where the statutes are most restrictive, like New York, the cutoff for bringing a criminal case is age 23 for most serious sexual crimes other than rape that occurred when the victim was a minor.

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    In more than 30 states, limits have already been lifted or significantly eased on the criminal prosecutions of some types of abuses, according to Professor Hamilton. The Supreme Court ruled that changes in criminal limits cannot be retroactive, so they will affect only recent and future crimes.

    In New York, the Catholic bishops said they would support a modest increase in the age of victims in criminal or civil cases, to 28. But their lobbying, along with that of ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders, has so far halted proposals that would allow a one-year window for civil suits for abuses from the past. The bishops say the provision unfairly targets the church because public schools, the site of much abuse, and municipalities have fought successfully to be exempted.

    The New Jersey proposal to abolish time limits for civil suits could pass this summer, said its sponsor in the Senate, Joseph Vitale, a Democrat of Woodbridge. The main opposition has come from the Catholic Church, he said. Mr. Brannigan of the Catholic Conference has testified at hearings, and bishops have “reached out to scores of legislators,” Mr. Vitale said, warning that an onslaught of lawsuits could bankrupt their dioceses.

    California was the first state to pass a one-year “window” law to bring civil suits, in 2003, and those involved say that the legislation moved so quickly that the church barely responded. But the experience proved a cautionary tale for the church: more than 550 lawsuits flooded in.

    Since then, only two states have passed similar laws: Delaware, in 2007, and Hawaii, in April. Window legislation has been defeated in Colorado, Ohio, Maryland, Illinois, Washington, D.C., and New York.

    Joan Fitz-Gerald, former president of the Colorado Senate, who proposed the window legislation, was an active Catholic who said she was stunned to find in church one Sunday in 2006 that the archdiocese had asked priests to raise the issue during a Mass and distribute lobbying postcards.

    “It was the most brutal thing I’ve ever been through,” she said of the church campaign. “The politics, the deception, the lack of concern for not only the children in the past, but for children today.” She has since left the church.

    The Massachusetts Catholic Conference has spoken out strongly against a bill that would eliminate both criminal and civil statutes of limitations, but advocates still hope to win a two-year window for filing civil claims.

    If that happens, “we’ll see a lot more victims come forward, and we’ll find out more about who the abusers are,” said Jetta Bernier, director of the advocacy group Massachusetts Citizens for Children.

    The landmark trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn in Philadelphia, who is accused of allowing predators to remain in ministry, almost did not happen because of the statute of limitations.

    A scathing grand jury report in 2005 described dozens of victims and offending priests and said that officials, including Philadelphia’s cardinal, had “excused and enabled the abuse.” But the law in place at the time of the crimes required victims to come forth by age 23. “As a result,” the report said, “these priests and officials will necessarily escape criminal prosecution.”

    But victims emerged whose abuse fell within the deadline and in 2011, a new grand jury brought charges against Monsignor Lynn, who had supervised priest assignments.

    Pennsylvania expanded the limits, and for crimes from 2007 on, charges will be possible up to the time that victims reach age 50. Advocates are now pushing to abolish the statute of limitations for child sex abuse and open a window for civil suits over long-past abuses. But the legislation appears stalled in the face of church opposition.

    The new archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles J. Chaput, who led the successful campaign to defeat such a bill in Colorado, says that current restrictions exist for “sound legal reasons.”


  4. Lawyers Say Ruling Allows Abuse Suits

    By SOPHIA HOLLANDER, Wall Street Journal August 29, 2012

    New York state has one of the country's strictest statute of limitations for sexual abuse claims, despite lobbying by advocates who say the law can stymie victims who come forward too late.

    Now some attorneys believe that legal framework may be shifting after a federal judge this week allowed a lawsuit detailing decades-old sexual abuse to go forward against one of Brooklyn's elite prep schools.

    "Frankly I'm going over my files right now to see if there's anything that could be done," said Michael Dowd, an attorney specializing in abuse cases. He plans to review some 300 suits.

    "It's the best news out of a court for the victims of sexual abuse this year, and probably in a number of years," he said.

    U.S. District Court Judge Frederic Block ruled Tuesday that the statute of limitations didn't automatically disqualify a case against Poly Prep Country Day School, even though some allegations date back to 1966.

    Twelve alumni of the Brooklyn private school and its summer program claim they were raped and abused by Philip Foglietta, a revered football coach whose 25-year career at the school started that same year. Mr. Foglietta died in 1998.

    The plaintiffs argued that the statute of limitations shouldn't apply because Poly Prep knew about the abuse and covered it up—continuing to publicly celebrate Mr. Foglietta as an upstanding member of the school. As a result, the plaintiffs say, they were prevented from promptly filing their lawsuit.

    In a 40-page ruling, Judge Block dismissed some claims—including racketeering charges against Poly Prep—but allowed substantial portions of the case to move forward.

    "Any person who was sexually abused by an institution that covered it up should look very carefully at the specific facts of his or her case before making a determination on whether or not to try and seek legal relief," said the plaintiffs' attorney in the suit, Kevin Mulhearn. "They shouldn't automatically assume that the case is too old and they can't do anything about it."

    Poly Prep officials downplayed the decision. The school "believes the claims will ultimately be dismissed following a hearing," said spokesman Malcolm Farley. "We are still hopeful that the case may be settled."

    Some legal experts said that the ruling was a significant victory for the plaintiffs—as well as other litigants whose sexual-abuse cases have been blocked by the statute of limitations.

    "Generally in the state of New York the courts have been relatively hostile to these kinds of claims," said Marci Hamilton, a Cardozo Law School professor specializing in sex-abuse cases. "So this is a very noteworthy case because a judge has approved a theory that would permit individuals who are older than 23 years of age to still be able to sue."

    The case has attracted widespread attention in the wake of local sexual-abuse cases at Horace Mann, an elite Bronx prep school, and within New York City's Hasidic community, as well as high-profile cases involving Penn State University and the Catholic Church.

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    Messrs. Mulhearn and Dowd represent five of the plaintiffs in the Horace Mann case, which also involves decades-old abuse charges.

    Mr. Mulhearn combined several cutting-edge strategies being used in other sexual-abuse cases, many of which had previously failed in New York courts.

    One claim relied on the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly known as RICO. Although Mr. Mulhearn and his co-counsel brought RICO claims on behalf of all 12 plaintiffs, only two claims survived in the judge's ruling.

    Still, that result may be unprecedented in the context of sexual abuse, he and other experts said. In the surviving RICO claims, both plaintiffs donated money to the school after administrators allegedly covered up their knowledge of the abuse.

    Mr. Mulhearn also invoked Title IX, more widely known for providing parity for women's sports programs.

    The law can apply in abuse cases if a predator exclusively molests children of one gender.

    Mr. Farley, spokesman for the school, noted that "nearly all of the RICO claims" had been dismissed, with the rest now subject to an evidentiary hearing.

    New York judges have largely resisted both theories, experts said, preferring to defer to lawmakers.

    But advocates pointed to a potential breakthrough.

    Assemblyman Vito Lopez, a powerful lawmaker widely seen as blocking legislation in Albany to extend the statute of limitations, was censured last week after an ethics investigation substantiated sexual-harassment complaints made against him.

    If the scandal results in Mr. Lopez's departure from the Assembly, "that removes someone who has been a major factor in opposing revision of the New York state statute of limitations for sexual abuse," said attorney Ed Wilson, an advocate for people who claim to have been abused by the Catholic Church.

    Mr. Lopez could not be reached for comment.


  6. Church sex abuse files unlikely to lead to charges, experts say

    Statute of limitations is the main stumbling block to prosecuting Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and aides in the sex abuse files from the 1980s released this week, experts say.

    By Harriet Ryan, Ashley Powers and Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times January 22, 2013

    Over the last decade, there have been numerous calls to prosecute Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and his top aides for their mishandling of clergy sex abuse. At least three grand juries, two district attorneys and a U.S. attorney have subpoenaed documents and summoned witnesses. None of those cases resulted in charges against the archdiocese's hierarchy.

    The release this week of a trove of internal church records showing a concerted effort to hide abuse from police triggered new demands from victims and church critics that Mahony and his advisors be held criminally accountable.

    The Los Angeles County district attorney pledged to review all the files and evaluate them for criminal conduct, but legal experts consulted Tuesday said the reams of new documents were unlikely to lead to charges, let alone convictions.

    A nearly insurmountable barrier is the statute of limitations, the experts said. A quarter-century has passed since Mahony and his chief aide for sex abuse cases, Msgr. Thomas J. Curry, wrote memos outlining strategies to prevent police investigations of three priests who had admitted abusing boys. The 1986 and 1987 letters fall decades beyond the three-year statute of limitations for felonies such as child endangerment, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to commit those offenses.

    "I can't imagine them figuring a theory out that goes back that far," said veteran defense attorney Harland Braun.

    While there are a number of different federal and state laws that deal with concealment of crimes, none have statutes of limitations long enough to cover acts in the 1980s, said Rebecca Lonergan, a USC law professor and a former prosecutor.

    "It's tough, very tough," Lonergan said. The only possible way to prosecute would be if the cover-up continued through 2010, an almost inconceivable scenario given reforms made by the archdiocese, she said.

    After the scandal broke in 2002, the L.A. Archdiocese removed accused abusers from ministry, issued a lengthy public report naming abusers and adopted wide-ranging measures to protect children, including fingerprinting of employees.

    Perhaps the only possible charge for which the statute of limitations hasn't run out is perjury, said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson.

    "If Mahony lied under oath in a lawsuit or grand jury or lied to a federal investigator, and the documents show something to the contrary, they might be able to bring charges on perjury or false statement," Levenson said. She added, however, that those types of cases are generally very difficult to prove in court.

    "I think people desperately want Mahony to have more accountability for what happened, but it would be very difficult in the criminal justice system," she said.

    Mahony and Curry have been deposed numerous times about their handling of abuse cases, but they were never asked about the attempts to avoid law enforcement detailed in the newly released files, attorneys said.

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  7. In addition to the passage of time is the issue of whether what Mahony and Curry did constituted a crime in the 1980s. The memos the men wrote made clear that they were aware children had been raped and otherwise assaulted and were attempting to keep authorities in the dark. They discussed giving the abusive priests out-of-state assignments and keeping them from seeing therapists who might have alerted law enforcement.

    After the files were released, Mahony issued a statement in which he apologized and recounted humbling meetings with about 90 victims of abuse.

    "I am sorry," he wrote.

    Former Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, who oversaw a fruitless investigation of the church hierarchy in the mid-2000s, said "it would be great to prosecute" Mahony and Curry but noted that clergy were not required to report suspected child abuse to authorities until 1997.

    "Whatever they did back then is horrendous, unethical and immoral to the point of biblical proportions, but it may not be criminal," said Cooley, who retired last year.

    The five-year investigation Cooley supervised led to convictions of a handful of priests but no charges against supervisors in the archdiocese. In 2007, he announced he was placing that part of the probe on hold until authorities could gain access to more internal church records. A spokeswoman for current Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey declined to say whether the prosecutors already had seen the files made public in a civil court case Monday. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, which convened its own grand jury in 2009 to look into the hierarchy, declined to comment.

    Files related to 75 more priests are expected to be made public in coming weeks.

    An attorney for the archdiocese said Tuesday that he did not believe the information in the files could be the basis for prosecution.

    "Criminal misconduct is something vastly different than simply not reporting to police," attorney J. Michael Hennigan said, adding, "That's not to say that a creative prosecutor might not take a different view."

    He said the church's policy in the 1980s was to let victims and their parents decide whether to go to authorities.

    If prosecutors were to try to proceed under a theory of conspiracy to commit crimes such as child endangerment, they would face the challenging task of proving that church officials' intent was to harm children and not just protect the archdiocese from scandal.

    "It's hard to sway jurors that players in the church intended for children to be abused," said Marci Hamilton, a law professor at Yeshiva University in New York and a consultant to a 2005 grand jury report about abuse in the Philadelphia archdiocese.

    The first time a member of the Catholic hierarchy has been held criminally liable in the U.S. for covering up sex abuse occurred in Philadelphia. Msgr. William Lynn, who handled job assignments as secretary of clergy, had returned an abusive priest to ministry in the mid-1990s. The priest went on to sexually assault a 10-year-old altar boy in 1999, prosecutors said. Lynn was sentenced last summer to three to six years in prison for child endangerment.

    His prosecution was enabled by recent changes to state law that extended the statute of limitations for some victims and expanded child endangerment laws to include supervisors whose employees abused children, Hamilton said.


  8. Its All About the Money (Or: We Won’t Pay)

    by Lewis Blayse, Commentary on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Australia)

    http://lewisblayse.net/2013/05/06/its-all-about-the-money-or-we-wont-pay/ May 6, 2013

    Compensation by the Catholic Church for victims of abuse by their clergy has the potential to involve very large sums. At present, being able to hide behind the statute of limitations, the “Ellis defence” (see previous posting), hush-money, confidentiality agreements and so on, has limited their costs in this area. This is unlike the U.S. situation where, in the absence of many of these constraints, payouts by the Catholic Church have exceeded $3 billion.

    In the wake of the Royal Commission, it is likely that some of these constraints will also be removed, or diluted, in Australia. This will become one of the great battlegrounds for the Catholic and other churches as they attempt to protect their enormous wealth.

    There are two things we will never achieve – time travel and finding out how much the Catholic Church is worth. One estimate in 2004 by the “Economist” was that the Australian organisation had a turn-over of $15 billion a year, and had a superannuation fund of $4 billion. Net worth was estimated at over $100 billion. The reputed pay-outs of about $30 million pale into insignificance by comparison.

    Previous postings’ postscripts have highlighted just how seriously the Churches regard theft by clergy, in relation to the soft line adopted for abusers. This indicates something of the assertion that they are mostly concerning with protecting their collective wealth.

    Much of their wealth derives from their tax-free status. If public opinion turns too much against them as a result of revelations by the Royal Commission, this status may become threatened. Recently, an article in The Punch estimated, on the basis of research by Max Wallace and Adele Ferguson, that in Australia this is worth about $21 billion a year for religious organisations, which is subsidized by taxpayers and other businesses.

    Some might say that the issue of having to pay taxes like everybody else will never become a problem for the churches. However, the Catholic Church’s alarm bells rang rather loudly recently with developments in the Catholic Church’s heartland, Italy. From this year, the Catholic Church in Italy will be required to pay property taxes there. It is estimated by the Local Government Association of Italy, that this will amount to up to two billion euros a year.

    Getting back to the matter of victim compensation – the Victorian Parliamentary enquiry was fronted by the manager of the Catholic Church Insurance ((CCI), Peter Rush. This company insures the Catholic Church in most areas of liability, including clergy abuse compensation. Over the past 31 years, it has returned a profit of $196 million to the Catholic Church, its sole owner.

    It is the insurance activity of organisations like the Catholic Church which shows they really do know the extent of clerical child sexual abuse. Mr. Rush admitted that he had a list of cleric and others who would not be covered by insurance because it was known that they were offenders. When asked by the Committee if he would provide them with the list, Mr. Rush said he would. The Royal Commission is also moving to subpoena this list.

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  9. It is the insurance documentation which is likely to yield a gold-mine of information about what the Churches already knew, but didn’t admit. A Report by an Irish Government enquiry into the Dublin diocese put this in perspective. It noted that the Catholic Church took out insurance coverage for abuse claims as early as 1987. It then reported that “The taking out of insurance was an act proving knowledge of child sexual abuse as a potential major cost to the archdiocese and is inconsistent with the view that archdiocesan officials were still ‘on a learning curve’ at a much later date, or were lacking in appreciation of the phenomenon of clerical child sex abuse.”

    Taxpayers in general subsidize the activities of the churches, even though 25% of Australians list “no religion” on their census forms. Similarly, are customers of insurance companies subsidizing risk on paedophiles? If you lie to an insurance company, it may refuse to make a pay-out. What is the case when the churches lie to an insurance company about what they knew about the extent of abusive clergy? The records of many insurers may need to be accessed by the Royal Commission.

    Mr. Rush, CEO of CCI, has been in the position since 1999. During some of the preceding time, the Chairman of CCI was Monsignor Penn Jones. In 2004, Melbourne Archbishop, Denis Hart, was forced to apologize to victims of Mr. Jones’ sexual abuse over many years. Mr. Jones was a director of CCI from 19971 to 1992. Presumably, being himself a paedophile, Mr. Jones knew something of the problem associated with insuring the Catholic Church against claims against paedophile priests. Perhaps, the documents will provide some interesting information. Further, Mr. Rush must have been looking the other way a bit not to have noticed what Mr. Jones was, since he told the Herald Sun that he had no knowledge of Mr. Jones’ fondness for child sexual abuse.

    As an editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald today states, “The knowledge of the insurer should be front of mind for the NSW commission,” as well as for the Royal Commission.

    [Postscript: The carbon footprint of the Australian Catholic Church is up to 1.5 million tonnes annually (compared with the Australian Government’s 1.7 m tonnes). Despite its carbon emissions being “comparable to large national and multi-national corporations”, according to Ms Remond, Executive Director of Catholic Earthcare Australia, it does not pay the $30 million annual carbon tax, apparently.]

    Read more here:












  10. New Jersey Catholic Church spending big to keep abuse victims silent

    By Rob Tornoe for NewsWorks, New Jersey June 12, 2013

    This is commentary from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.

    Rev. Michael Fugee is a New Jersey priest who was put on trial for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy, and later confessed to fondling the child while he was under his care... twice.

    Fugee was convicted, but that conviction was later overturned by an appeals court. Instead of a retrial, Fugee was allowed to sign a binding agreement not to work with or around children. Unsurprisingly, he was arrested last month after it was revealed he attended weekend youth retreats on behalf of St. Mary's Parish in Colts Neck.

    Now, there's no indication Fugee engaged in this type of behavior this time around, but what if he did? And what if those victims, traumatized by shame and humiliation, weren't able to muster the strength to come forward for many years?

    Well, they'd be out of luck in New Jersey, and the Catholic Church is spending lots of money to keep it that way.

    Currently, the statute of limitations for a victim of child-abuse in the state isn't ten years or even five years. It's two years. If abuse victims don't come forward within two years of their 18th birthday, they're out of luck, which puts us way out of step with neighboring states. In New York, victims have until they turn 23 to file suit. In Pennsylvania and Connecticut, they have until they're 30. Delaware doesn't even have a limit.

    State Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-19th) wants to do something about that. He is sponsoring legislation that would extend the window for statute of limitations for sexual abuse victims to 30 years.

    "Protect the child molesters" doesn't appear anywhere in the Bible that I know of, but the New Jersey Catholic Conference seems to be acting like it does, hiring the most expensive and powerful lobbying firm in Trenton, Princeton Public Affairs, to fight against Vitale's bill

    This isn't a New Jersey-specific issue. The Catholic Church has been active in pushing back proposals that lengthen the time allowed for victims of alleged abuse to come forward. And in addition to New Jersey, high-priced lobbyists have been hired in Colorado and New York to fight similar attempts.

    There position isn't about protecting kids. It isn't even as much about protecting priests anymore. It's about money, pure and simple. Since the first instance of child abuse came to light, the Catholic Church has spent $2.5 billion on legal fees, settlements and prevention efforts related to sexual abuse.

    We know that it's not easy for some victims to come forward. Mike Crawford was only 13 when he said his priest fondled him. He wasn't able to muster the strength to tell anyone until his early adulthood, which made it too late to prosecute. He now heads the New Jersey chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, and has been an outspoken advocate of extending the statute of limitations in New Jersey.

    It seems to make common sense to anyone that doesn't wear a frock and molest little kids. By extending the window for victims to come forward, we'd be allowing a judge, not a priest, to look at the evidence, review the relevant facts, and make a judgment as each individual case warrants it

    "People deserve their day in court," Crawford said, and I couldn't agree more. After all, the Bible calls for the death penalty for child molesters, saying "it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea."

    No one is calling for that. All we want is for victims to be heard. Is that too much to ask?

    to view the links embedded in this article go to:


  11. New law gives child sex abuse victims more time for prosecutions, lawsuits

    By John Sittler TheStatehouseFile.com June 13, 2013

    INDIANAPOLIS – Victims of child sexual abuse now have more time to bring a civil case against their offenders and prosecutors will have more time to file charges in those cases under a law that takes effect July 1.

    Senate Enrolled Act 142 – authored by Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond – extends the statute of limitations for lawsuits to either seven years after the offense or four years after the victim leaves the care of the alleged offender. It had been two years.

    Prosecutors will now have 10 years from the commission of a crime or four years after the victim is no longer a dependent of the abuser – whichever is later – to file criminal charges. Currently the statute of limitations on those criminal offenses is five years.

    Mrvan said it doesn’t make sense to have the same limits for child sex crimes as the state has for lawsuits resulting from other incidents such as car accidents.

    He said the extension is necessary because many children do not report the abuse right away, especially if it is committed by someone the child knows. That’s the situation in 90 percent of sex abuse cases, he said in a video posted on the Indiana House Democrats website.

    “This gives the victims time to mature and file charges,” he said.

    Mrvan emphasized the importance of protecting Hoosier youth saying, “Nothing is more important than our children.”

    Erik Scheub, director of media and public relations for the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said the new law is “a step in the right direction.”

    He said that often survivors take awhile to feel safe or empowered enough to come forward and report the abuse.

    “The longer statute of limitations gives the system time to better prosecute those offenders,” Scheub said. This is “a great achievement for families, survivors, and potential victims.”

    John Sittler is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.


  12. Catholic Church lobbies to avert sex abuse lawsuits

    SB 131 would give some victims of sexual abuse more time to file suit against employers. But church officials argue the bill opens it up to suits that are too old to fight.

    By Ashley Powers, Los Angeles Times July 15, 2013

    At the height of the clergy sex-abuse scandal in 2002, Catholic leaders stayed silent as California lawmakers passed a landmark bill that gave hundreds of accusers extra time to file civil lawsuits. The consequences were costly.

    California dioceses paid $1.2 billion in settlements and released thousands of confidential documents that showed their leaders, including Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles, had made plans to shield admitted molesters from law enforcement.

    Now, state legislators are considering a bill that would give some alleged victims more time to sue. But this time, the church is waging a pitched battle in Sacramento to quash it.

    A group affiliated with the church has hired five lobbying firms and spent tens of thousands of dollars fighting SB 131. Opponents argue that the bill unfairly opens the church, the Boy Scouts, and other private and nonprofit employers to lawsuits over decades-old allegations that are tough to fight in court. Two bishops have visited the Capitol to argue their case to the bill's chief author.

    In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the campaign extends to the very top. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez warned parishioners last month in the church newspaper that the proposal "puts the social services and educational work of the Church at risk" and urged them to press their lawmakers to scuttle it.

    The church, Gomez said, "faces deep challenges from the government" and cited the proposal as an example without explaining what it would do. "Let's pray for our religious freedom … and let's exercise that freedom by contacting our legislators about SB 131," he wrote.

    The current battle has roots in 2002, when lawmakers were searching for a way to respond to the unfolding clergy scandal. At the time, California's civil statute of limitations — or the time limit for plaintiffs to file lawsuits — was relatively strict for child sex-abuse claims.

    Plaintiffs could sue alleged abusers or their employers until age 26. After that, they could sue within three years of finding links between past molestation and present psychological problems, but they could no longer sue employers who may have failed to protect them from known molesters.

    The 2002 bill extended the three-year discovery rule to employers and lifted the statute of limitations on lawsuits against them for all of 2003, allowing a slew of claims related to decades-old abuse. Church leaders didn't mount a campaign against the bill. They didn't testify at hearings. They didn't write a single letter in opposition. The legislation zipped through both chambers of the Legislature — not one lawmaker voted against it.

    "At the time it didn't seem like too unfair of a response to the sexual abuse of children," said Edward Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, the church's political arm. "I don't think anybody anticipated the exposure that would be there."

    In 2007, the L.A. Archdiocese alone settled with more than 500 plaintiffs for $660 million. Church officials were also forced to make public a trove of confidential papers in January of this year. In an acknowledgment that the documents had sullied the church's reputation, archdiocese attorneys tried this year to get upcoming sex-abuse trials moved to another part of the state, saying the media firestorm had tainted the Southern California jury pool.

    Since the California law took effect, lawmakers in other states have introduced similar bills, arguing that civil lawsuits are a key way for abuse victims to seek justice. But only three states — Delaware, Hawaii and Minnesota — have passed such laws, said Marci Hamilton, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School...

  13. ...of Law at Yeshiva University in New York and an expert on child sex-abuse statues of limitation.

    That's partly because of the Catholic Church's opposition efforts, she said, which have included hiring lobbyists and dispatching bishops to try to sway legislators. "The 2002 bill caught the church off-guard," said Hamilton, who supports lengthening the time child sex-abuse victims have to sue. "Now the Catholic bishops are bringing their A-game to California."

    Their target is a bill introduced by Sen. James Beall Jr. (D-San Jose). Its key provision would again lift the statute of limitations for one year, but only for a group who were 26 or older and missed the previous deadline because they more recently discovered abuse-related psychological problems.

    Advocates say loosening time limits is crucial in sex-abuse cases because it often takes decades for victims to admit that they were molested and seek legal recourse. Supporters of SB 131 include the National Center for Victims of Crime and the California Police Chiefs Assn.

    "There are victims out there who deserve justice and accountability," said Joelle Casteix, western regional director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Casteix sued the Diocese of Orange during the 2003 window, alleging abuse at the hands of a lay choir director at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana.

    Casteix not only won a $1.6-million settlement, but she also received documents that showed administrators knew about — and ignored — the abuse. "It gave me my dignity back," she said.

    Opponents argue that it's hard to mount a defense against decades-old accusations because key witnesses are often dead or infirm and evidence may have vanished. They also say that legislation that temporarily suspends the statute of limitations encourages people to make false claims in hopes of walking away with a settlement check.

    Because Beall's bill doesn't apply to schools and other public agencies, church lobbyists also say they're being scapegoated. The California State Alliance of YMCAs and the California Assn. of Private School Organizations, whose members include Catholic dioceses, oppose the bill as well.

    "We're not going to open up a window again. We have done that once," Dolejsi said. "Are you going to open another window five years from now? When does it end?"

    A group linked to the church, the California Council of Nonprofit Organizations, spent $75,000 in the first three months of the year to oppose SB 131, according to papers filed with the secretary of state. The ties between the group and the church, including Dolejsi's affiliation with both, were first reported by the Orange County Register.

    Beall said two high-ranking church officials told him that the bill could financially hobble schools and parishes: Auxiliary Bishop Gerald E. Wilkerson of the L.A. Archdiocese and Bishop Jaime Soto of the Diocese of Sacramento, who are president and vice president of the California Catholic Conference. Other bishops have urged their flocks to help defeat the bill.

    In Southern California, at least one parish, St. Timothy in West Los Angeles, rounded up letters signed by parishioners to send to Sacramento. An archdiocese spokeswoman did not respond to questions about whether other churches did the same.

    It's unclear what effect the campaign has had, though a posting on the California Catholic Conference's website said that it persuaded some lawmakers to either vote against the bill or abstain from weighing in.

    The bill recently squeaked through the Senate and passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee. It goes to the lower house's Appropriations Committee next. Because of the church's lobbying efforts, Beall said, he was concerned about its survival.

    "If people don't like a bill, they kill it in appropriations," he said.

    Times staff writer Anthony York in Sacramento contributed to this report.


  14. Child sexual abuse claims no longer subject to limitation periods in Victoria

    by Steven Troeth, Gadens Lawyers, Victoria, Australia July 16 2015

    Victoria has now abolished limitation periods within which to sue for injury arising out of child abuse.

    These amendments resulted from a recommendation from the Betrayal of Trust inquiry in Victoria that the Limitations of Action Act be amended to exclude child abuse from the operation of the limitation periods under that Act. The changes commenced on 1 July 2015.

    There will now be no time limit within which to sue if an action is founded on the death or personal injury of a person resulting from:

    - acts or omissions that is physical abuse or sexual abuse against the person when he or she was a minor; and

    - psychological abuse that arises out of the abuse.

    A court will determine what is “physical abuse”, “sexual abuse” and “psychological abuse” by reference to the ordinary meaning of those words. “Psychological abuse” has been included to avoid doubt and allows claims to be made without limitation times in relation to psychological elements of physical or sexual abuse (an example given in the explanatory memorandum is where a child is erroneously made to feel complicit in physical or sexual abuse that has occurred).

    These amendments mean that an action may now be brought at any time after the date on which the act or omission alleged to have resulted in the death or personal injury occurred. This is irrespective of the date of the relevant act or omission and irrespective of whether or not the action was subject to a limitation period at any time in the past.

    The effect of these amendments is that a person who was the subject of sexual or physical abuse when a minor will not have to seek an extension of time within which to sue if the limitation periods for bringing such claims would have otherwise expired.

    However, the abolition of limitation periods within which claims may be made does not limit a court’s power to summarily dismiss or permanently stay proceedings where the lapse of time has a burdensome effect on the defendant that is so serious that a fair trial is not possible. An example would be where crucial evidence has deteriorated or been lost over time.

    Reference: Limitation of Actions Amendment (Child Abuse) Act 2015 (Vic), assented to on 21 April 2015, proclaimed to commence operation on 1 July 2015.


  15. Who Would Oppose Eliminating the Statute of Limitations on Child Sex Abuse Cases? Catholics.

    by Hemant Mehta, Friendly Atheist May 3, 2016

    When former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was given a 15-month jail sentence last week, it was only because of bank fraud. Even though he reportedly molested four boys, he wasn’t punished for that because the statute of limitations had expired.

    You would think that if he actually abused them, it wouldn’t matter how much time had passed, and it’s scary to think that he could very easily have gotten away with it scot-free if not for some idiotic bank transactions connected with it.

    In New York, where you only have until the age of 23 to bring charges against your childhood abuser, legislators are working on a bill to eliminate the statute of limitations once and for all in these cases.

    Who would oppose something so sensible?

    The Catholic Church, of course. The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue issued a full-page ad in the Albany Times-Union yesterday denouncing the legislation:


    On May 3-4, activists will descend on Albany pressing to lift the statute of limitations on the sexual abuse of minors. Their motives are not pure: their real goal is to stick it to Catholics.

    If the lawmakers and activists behind this effort were sincere, they wouldn't devote an entire day, May 4, to the Catholic Church. Had they chosen to address sexual abuse among Orthodox Jews—and no one else—it would properly be labeled anti-Semitic. That is why this stunt smacks of anti-Catholicism.

    Because of sovereign immunity, the public schools are exempt from proposed revisions in the law. To wit: Unless a proposed law explicitly states that the revisions apply equally to the public and private sectors, it means public school victims have only 90 days to bring suit. For private school victims [read: Catholic], they could sue for offenses that occurred decades ago. Get the point?

    Even if the playing field were equal in law, there is no organized effort to target the public schools the way Catholic schools are. Consider, for example, the groups invited to speak on May 4. Here are some fast facts:

    • One of them is known for advising its supporters how to manipulate the media with "holy childhood photos," using "feeling" words. It is also known for lying to the media (its leader admitted this under oath). Another official even said that accused priests should not have equal rights.

    • An official from a second group has made unsubstantiated charges against the leaders of the Church. How do I know? Because I have repeatedly asked for proof, yet none has ever been provided. This same outfit goes public with the names of accused priests, yet it makes no attempt to confirm the veracity of allegations. Innocent priests are therefore smeared.

    • Another group is so extremist that one bishop excommunicated its members. After they appealed to Rome, the Vatican confirmed their excommunication. This is not exactly an everyday occurrence. These persons are not reasoned critics: they are professional victims' activists who trot around the nation to promote their hate-filled agenda. That some are funded by Church-suing lawyers is incontestable. Even worse is the invidious stereotype inviting the public to think that the Church owns this problem, and that no
    reforms have been made.

    On May 4, there will be a showing of the movie "Spotlight"; it accurately portrays the misdeeds of the Boston Archdiocese. But it is being used for propaganda purposes to convince the public that nothing has changed, when, in fact, much has: dramatic, and successful, reforms have been implemented in all Catholic institutions. In fact, almost all the abuse took place between 1965 and 1985.

    continued below

  16. When this story broke in 2002, I was quoted in the New York Times saying, "I will not defend the indefensible." But I hasten to add that I will also not defend those who seek to exploit this issue to serve their agenda.

    According to Dr. Paul McHugh, former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, "Nobody is doing more to address the tragedy of sexual abuse of minors than the Catholic Church."

    In the past ten years, the average number of credible accusations made against 40,000 priests is 8.4. Which means that in any given year, less than 1 percent of priests nationwide have had a credible accusation made against him. Who can beat that record?

    It is in the public schools where this problem is most acute today.

    • "NYC Public Schools See Record Number of Complaints Against Staffers." That was the headline in a Daily News story on January 6, 2016.

    • In 2013, it was reported that school officials in New York City tried to fire 128 employees for molestation, yet only 33 were terminated.

    • In 2012, a report covering the previous five years found that 97 tenured teachers or school employees were charged with sexual abuse of students.

    What accounts for this condition? Here is a Daily News headline from 2015: "UFT to Blame for Keeping Perverts in City Schools: Chancellor Walcott." They may not call them "rubber rooms" any more, but nothing has fundamentally changed.

    The Catholic Church is not opposed to legal revisions that would allow more time for victims to come forward in the future, but it is opposed to changes allowing for an expanded "look-back" period. We know what this is all about, and it has nothing to do with justice for all.

    If lawmakers want to make real changes, let them demand that the clergy and all counselors be added to the list of mandatory reporters. The Church supports such a change. Working against this is the New York Civil Liberties Union and Family Planning Advocates, the lobbying arm of Planned Parenthood. Why?

    Because that would require Planned Parenthood counselors to report cases of statutory rape that come to their attention, and that is not something they can stomach.

    The sexual abuse of minors is a serious problem in our society—it even led to jail time last week for a former Speaker of the House. It demands a serious response, free from politics. Those who harbor an agenda against the Catholic Church have no legitimate role to play in such matters. http://www.catholicleague.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Completed-Times-Union-Ad1.pdf

    What a despicable ad. Donohue claims the legislation is anti-Catholic — even though eliminating the statute would allow punishment for all pedophiles — and dismisses it outright. He then deflects the issue by saying there are teachers who have molested kids at a greater rate in public schools… as if taking second place in the Child Sexual Abuse Olympics is a badge of honor.

    All the more reason for the state legislators to take action swiftly. A more moral Catholic Church would embrace this legislation so that the victims they created could finally get justice. But we know all too well that Catholicism and morality are hardly intertwined. This is just the latest example.

    Those who oppose the window provision or eliminating statutes of limitations outright include the Catholic Church, the insurance lobby and other religious institutions who say they can’t afford to defend themselves against lawsuits that are old and difficult to prosecute.

    Just to make that point explicit, it’s not just Donohue opposing this. It’s the Church and other religious groups, too. They’re the ones who have the most to lose if victims suddenly had more power.
    (via Joe. My. God. Image via Shutterstock)


  17. Will New Jewish Effort Force New York To Change Sex Abuse Laws at Last?

    by Jane Eisner, Opinion THE FORWARD May 4, 2016

    Sara Kabakov had never done this before. Never driven three hours from her home in Ithaca, N.Y., to the state capitol in Albany nearly 200 miles away, never tried to enter the mosh pit of lobbying lawmakers, never thought of herself as a political activist.

    But there she was yesterday at the capitol, seeking an audience with her state senator, meeting with other legislators, learning from other advocates, all in service of persuading them to protect victims of child sexual abuse.

    She was moved to do this by a simple act of bravery: Last January, Kabakov shared her own story of sexual abuse at the hands of Marc Gafni, the former rabbi and spiritual guru. “I am the woman Gafni molested when she was 13 years old,” she wrote in an exclusive essay for the Forward . “This is the first time I am telling my story in my own name.”

    Gafni was a Yeshiva University rabbinical student five or six years her senior, who regularly molested her at night in her bed when he would stay at the Kabakov family home for Shabbat. The abuse continued for months; the pain and confusion lasted for many years, exacerbated by the refusal of an array of Jewish leaders to take Kabakov’s story seriously. By the time she was able to fully address what happened, she was 38 years old.

    And in New York State, that was 15 years too late.

    That’s because New York has one of the most cruel, reactionary laws in the nation, ranking right down there with Mississippi, Michigan and Alabama as states that advocates say are the worst for victims and the best for predators.Victims of sexual abuse in New York have only until the age of 23 to bring either criminal charges or file a civil lawsuit against their alleged abusers, one of the shortest windows in the country.

    While other states have reformed their laws — Georgia did so last year — legislators in Albany have rebuffed repeated attempts by the indefatigable Queens assemblywoman Margaret Markey. Since 2006, she has championed the Child Victims Act , which in its current iteration eliminates the civil statute of limitations in the future and creates a one-year window when older abuse victims can bring their claims. A companion bill would eliminate the SOL in criminal cases in the future.

    The measures have passed the state House and have been left to die in the state Senate, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo has stayed uncharacteristically silent.

    Sensing a growing national disgust with this kind of harmful politics, Markey and State senator Brad Hoylman from Manhattan, both Demcorats, organized a two-day lobbying blitz continuing today. The lawmakers and their supporters are veritable Davids battling the Goliath of the Catholic Church on this, and the church’s compatriot in blocking real reform, Agudath Israel of America, which represents ultra-Orthodox Jews.

    continued below

  18. But rabbis and other Jewish leaders are beginning to fight back. Just last week, Rabbi Ari Hart of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale was the first to sign a petition he organized with the group Kol v’Oz supporting the Child Victims Act; now there are 161 names below his, representing all denominations.

    Hart was in Albany yesterday, too. He considers this advocacy part of his rabbinate — not only because of his pastoral obligation to hear and heal the pain of fellow Jews, but out of the shameful recognition that too many Jewish leaders have denied the seriousness of child abuse for too long.

    “Early on in my rabbinate, I sat in a room of survivors who shared stories of abuse, and heard how rabbis and Jewish institutions had failed these survivors over and over again,” he told me. “I feel like it has to change. Religious institutions should be places of healing, places of hope and protection for people — not the other way around.”

    This urge to protect institutions from allegations of abuse that may have happened long ago is rooted in ignorance and fear. There’s no need for either anymore. We know from research and countless human examples that it may take an abuse victim decades to be able to even verbalize the experience, especially when the abuser was a person held in high esteem, like a rabbi or teacher.

    “It can take a lifetime to learn how to speak up to Jewish authority,” Kabakov told me as she drove home from Albany. “It can silence people. It silenced me.”

    Besides ignorance, there is fear that opening a window to claims from the past will unleash a torrent of frivolous lawsuits that will bankrupt churches, yeshivas and other institutions. But none of that has happened in the states where the SOL has been reformed or eliminated.

    And then there’s a deeper fear that Kabakov names, one that especially afflicts Jews and other minorities — fear of bringing shame onto one’s own. “That’s probably one of the biggest barriers to changing the paradigm of silence,” she said. “Everyone is afraid of persecution, of stigma, and we don’t want to add to it.”

    We simply have to get over it, if for no other reason than suppression of abuse inevitably leads to more harm and more communal shame. The Jewish advocates in Albany yesterday, along with their coalition partners from other faiths, are not disrespecting their communities and traditions by lobbying on behalf of child victims. They are acting out of love made desperate by denial and suffering.

    Do the right thing, New York. Allow the victims their voices. Let their stories be heard.