Catholic Officials Again Lobby Against SOL Reform
Once again, Catholic officials are spending their money to oppose legislation that would support survivors and help prevent future cases of abuse. We are disappointed but not surprised and hope that their challenge fails.
Church leaders from the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, are opposing a bill that would extend legal liability so that victims of abuse can sue the institutions that enabled their perpetrators. We believe that the amendment proposed to “Annie’s Law” is a good one that will ensure that the heavy costs borne by survivors of childhood sexual abuse are passed on to the abusers and to the institutions that covered up for them. The changes will also provide critical information about perpetrators and enablers to enter into the public domain, allowing parents to better protect their children. To us, the fact that the Catholic Church is opposing this amendment is akin to saying that the Church opposes doing all it can to protect the children in its care.
Fr. Bernard Healey’s statement that the Catholic Church has made "great strides" in protecting the young lives in its care is grandiose and does not mesh with reality. Across the country, nearly two arrests per month of Catholic clergy or staffers have happened in the past two years, and the Church’s own accounting shows that 2019 saw a “dramatic increase” in the number of allegations reported to Catholic officials. To this day, a dozen US dioceses do not name their abusers, and hundreds of religious orders operating in this country also refuse to publish lists.
Because of public pressure, more and more states are undertaking secular investigations. In each of those, dozens of new names are found in secret abuse archives. Since 2002, nearly 3,000 more accused priests have been identified. That means that across the United States, abusers may be hiding while wearing their collars and receiving a Church paycheck. Surely, some of those perpetrators are in Rhode Island.
In Providence, Catholic officials list 52 abusers, but based on SNAP's analytics, it should be double that number. For example, Providence's list doesn’t name one single lay employee or nun who has been accused. There are news reports that lay employees have abused, and we know from data from bankruptcies and secular investigations around the country that somewhere between 5% and 15% of perpetrators are nuns. It is hard to believe that this is not also true in Rhode Island.
We believe that Catholic officials in Rhode Island are resistant to this law for two reasons: to protect their pocketbook and to protect their reputation. Allowing survivors their day in court will expose not only abusers but also enablers who may still work within these institutions today. The change will also paint a clearer picture of the true scope of abuse in Rhode Island. We hope that this challenge fails and that HB 5725 is adopted by the state.
CONTACT: Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected])
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)