The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
Calls for Action from
July 24, 2003
Statement by Mary
Grant of Long Beach, CA
We know that the Supreme Court is the highest in the land. We know that they have spoken on the issue of California's criminal statute of limitations. We know a small majority of justices believe the statute cannot be changed retroactively.
But we also know that kids need to be safe. We know that we can't be content with this ruling. And we know that walking away, giving up, is not an option.
We hope Attorney General Lockyer knows this too.
For the second time in 24 hours, we in SNAP find ourselves in the rare position of criticizing an Attorney General. Historically, we've heaped praise on law enforcement officials and agencies.
But we are disappointed in the failure of Mr. Reilly in Massachusetts to push for extending the statute of limitations and other legislative reforms. And we are disappointed that Mr. Lockyer here in California has declined to meet with us, declined to seek a high court rehearing on the Stogner case, and has declined to use this moment to propose or lobby for tougher laws to protect kids.
We call upon Mr. Lockyer in California to:
Push the envelope. Try new approaches. Scour the statute books. Lobby for new statutes. But don't take this Supreme Court decision sitting down. Don't throw up your hands in despair.
Dig deeper, work harder, find a way to better protect children. That's your job. That's what parents want. That's what kids need.
We would be honored to work with you in this effort.
Mr. Attorney General, remember it's your job to protect children, not to speculate on what a judge or jury might do, not to worry about political survival, not to tactically "play it safe" all the time.
Many people have learned this year what most of us in SNAP have
known for a long time: child molesters and those who cover for them
are very crafty. Prosecutors therefore, need to be very crafty too.
But even without new laws, DAs across the country are finally beginning to become more assertive and creative when going after child molesters.
In Detroit, just this year, four priests are being prosecuted for abusing youngsters in the 60s, using a rarely used law that stops the clock from ticking when a perpetrator leaves the state.
(In Fall River Massachusetts, a decade ago, a wily prosecutor dug deep and found a similar statue from the 1800s. That creative DA was able to criminally charge perhaps the most notorious predator priest, Father James Porter, who is now behind bars.)
In St. Louis, just this year, prosecutors did extensive research and found that during just one year, 1969, the state legislature inadvertently removed the statute of limitations on sodomy. At least one abusive priest has been charged as a result.
So going after shrewd abusers, even men who've gotten by with their crimes for decades, can sometimes be done. It needs to happen here.
Please, don't be afraid to try a novel legal theory. Please don't' be afraid to stick your neck out.
Specifically, we want Attorney General Lockyer to:
1) Petition the high court for a rehearing of the Stogner case. Regardless of how slim the prospects might be, victims need to feel hope and children need to be safe.
2) "Lead the charge" for new legislation that will keep kids safer and make prosecuting molesters easier. Frankly, we're not sure what form new laws might take. Maybe toughening the penalties for child endangerment. Or child pornography. Or failure to report suspected abuse. But we call on you to assemble the best legal minds in the state, go back to the drawing board, and devise other ways to catch child molesters and keep kids safe.
Historically, California has been on the forefront of statutes designed to safeguard children. But now is not the time for complacency. Surely California can do even better.
3) Provide all sheriffs, police chiefs and prosecutors with very clear instructions on the ramifications of the Stogner decision.
There are thousands of peace officers and hundreds of prosecutors in California. There is considerable turnover, and there are new employees entering these agencies every day. These individuals need to be crystal clear that this decision only limits, not prohibits, the prosecution of older sex crimes.
4) Publicly urge victims to come forward, especially now, and especially to the independent professionals in law enforcement.
A few carefully chosen words from the state's top law enforcement official surely would have an impact, and would encourage at least one victim still trapped in secrecy, silence and shame, to come forward, expose a molester, and begin to heal. Just like victims of other crimes, abuse victims need to be gently prodded into disclosing their victimization so that others can be protected.
5) Endorse our proposal for a church-financed reward fund to encourage diocesan employees, ex-employees, volunteers and parishioners to break through decades of secrecy and report known or suspected abusers.
Because of the Stogner decision, many abusers cannot be prosecuted. So it is crucial that we do everything we can to investigate, prosecute and jail those abusers that can still be pursued. A reward fund could be helpful in prodding people to do this.
6) And, finally, meet with us soon.
Just this morning, SNAP members in Massachusetts sat down with Attorney General Reilly. We want to sit down with you too.
We in SNAP have 13 years of experience dealing with abusive priests and complicit church officials. Moreover, we have hundreds of hurting members in California, who are disillusioned by the Supreme Court ruling. We want to and need to work with you, to ensure that other kids aren't wounded as we have been.
Abuse victims are looking to you, Mr. Lockyer, for leadership at this critical time. Again, don't be complacent, and don't be despondent. Rise to the occasion, Mr. Lockyer, and work with us to better protect children in California."
For more information:
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests