FOX43 Reveals: Survivors of Clergy Abuse vs. Catholic Church Lobbying Dollars

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Survivors of clergy sexual abuse are up against big money in politics as they push for criminal and justice reform. A recent report showed the Catholic Church spent $10.6 million lobbying in northeast states since 2011. FOX43 Reveals how much money the Church paid out to lobby lawmakers in Pennsylvania, fighting bills that would have helped child sexual abuse survivors like the Fortney sisters.

The five Fortney sisters have gone public with their story of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a trusted priest after they were silenced for nearly three decades.

“We were made to believe it was just us,” said Lara Fortney-McKeever.

In August 2018, a blockbuster grand jury report changed the trajectory of their story. The Fortney sisters learned there were hundreds of other children sexually abused by Catholic priests. The sisters’ traumatic stories of abuse were also detailed in that report.

“To know how many people are living the torture that you’ve lived, it’s shocking,” Theresa Fortney-Miller said through tears. “But it kind of makes you feel like you’re not alone too.”

Now, the Fortney sisters are voices for change. They are fighting to get rid of the criminal statute of limitations in Pennsylvania and open a 2-year revival window for survivors of sexual abuse to bring civil claims. Current Pennsylvania law allows victims of child sex abuse to come forward with criminal allegations until the age of 50 and can file civil claims until the age of 30.

“The Catholic Church, not the people but the hierarchy, has made it a Catholic issue with the millions of dollars that they have used to pay lobbyists that are right here [by the Capitol],” said Fortney-McKeever. “They have enough money, they have enough power to do it. So it all comes down to money and power. Survivors are struggling.”

A recent report revealed the Catholic Church spent more than $5.3 million in Pennsylvania, from 2011 to 2018, trying to influence the votes of lawmakers on a number of issues. Those issues include civil justice, crime victim assistance, criminal justice, courts, and liability reform. FOX43 asked the Diocese of Harrisburg about the Ch...

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