Usually, when Catholic officials try to deny child sex abuse victims their day in court, I moan or cry or shake my head in dismay. But a sentence in a new National Catholic Register article on statute of limitations reform had the opposite effect on me. It made me laugh out loud.
Here’s the background: Gradually, more lawmakers are proposing civil “window” laws that temporarily suspend the civil statute on child sex crimes.
The laws enable child sex abuse victims to protect kids, stop predators, expose wrongdoing, and deter cover ups by seeking justice in court.
But Catholic officials claim these laws are unfair because they sometimes exempt public institutions.
So here’s the line that made me snort with laughter. Dennis Poust of the New York State Catholic Conference says window laws are “fundamentally flawed and unjust” because they “effectively discriminate against victims based solely on where the abuse occurs.”
That sounds awful, doesn’t it? Discriminating against victims based on where they were assaulted sounds awful. Who would do such a terrible thing?
Oh yea, I know who would: Catholic officials here in Missouri. The St. Louis archdiocese prevailed in a child sex abuse suit brought by Paul Alvino, who reports was molested as a child by Fr. Thomas Cooper.
Their argument: they can’t be held responsible for Cooper’s crimes because he abused Alvino on private property, not church property.
Please note that lawyers for St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson do not deny that Alvino was assaulted by Cooper. Nor do they deny that church officials knew of Cooper’s sexual propensities and misdeeds years before he molested Alvino.
Still, the archbishop's lawyers say that the archdiocese cannot be held responsible since the abuse happened at a “clubhouse” on a river, and not on church property.
Don’t take my word for it. Here’s how a local newspaper describes the case:
“The Eastern District Court of Appeals ruled that if a local Catholic priest with a history of sexually abusing children molests a young boy but does it solely off of church property, the Archdiocese of St. Louis can't be held legally responsible.”
I wonder how Poust of the New York Catholic Conference would explain or justify this discrimination?
Adding insult to injury, Poust goes on to claim that window laws create “two classes of victims — one who can bring a lawsuit for a claim of abuse from, say, 1940, and another who would be time-barred from pursing a lawsuit for abuse that occurred in 2005.”
Wow. More discrimination, right?
Then how to explain or justify the fact that in almost nearly every clergy sex abuse and cover up case, bishops try to exploit – often successfully – arbitrary, archaic, and predator-friendly statues of limitations which create “two classes of victims. . . .”