Advocates Ask Bishops to Help Prosecute
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS - May 9, 2002
NEW YORK (AP) -- Victims of clergy sexual abuse asked Roman Catholic
bishops in about 20 cities Thursday to help them lobby state legislators
to make it easier to prosecute errant priests.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said it was undertaking
the effort now because it feels U.S. bishops will fail to set an
abuse policy that fully protects children. Drafting a protocol for
handling molestation claims will be the focus of a bishops' meeting
Representatives of the advocacy group delivered letters to bishops
requesting their support for extending or eliminating criminal statutes
of limitations and for requiring clergy in every state to report
In St. Louis, Archbishop Justin Rigali came out of his office to
shake hands with the victim advocates who delivered the letter.
In Worcester, Mass., Bishop Daniel P. Reilly acknowledged receiving
the SNAP request and said in a statement that victims' needs were
``foremost on my mind.''
In Brooklyn, SNAP representative Mark London gave the letter addressed
to Bishop Thomas Daily to a worker in a church office.
``If we've learned anything in the past 20 years, it's that the
church cannot police itself,'' said London, standing before the
red brick diocese building where Vatican and U.S. flags flew side-by-side.
Daily's spokesman, Frank DeRosa, said the bishop hadn't yet received
the request but would consider it.
A spokesman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
declined comment. Daily and several other bishops have already agreed
to notify prosecutors of future abuse claims, and several more have
opened their files to law enforcement authorities.
But London, who said he was abused as a teen in Minnesota, said
many of the cases civil investigators are now evaluating are too
old to be prosecuted, underscoring the need for laws to be changed.
Statutes of limitations on prosecuting child abuse vary dramatically
by state: about a dozen have no time limits for prosecuting most
sexual offenses against children.
Roughly a dozen states specifically require clergy to report suspected
abuse, and about 16 others have laws saying, in broad terms, that
anyone with knowledge of abuse should report it.
Several legislatures have begun considering changes to their laws
on reporting abuse in light of the waves of clergy molestation scandals
that have shaken the Catholic church in America this year.
David Clohessy, SNAP's national director, said the church wields
significant influence over state lawmakers, making a lobbying effort
that included Catholic leaders critical to helping victims. SNAP
is launching a similar campaign in Canada, where the church also
faces abuse claims.
``I think it's such a reasonable step and something that could
really reassure people that bishops do take this seriously,'' Clohessy
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TEXT OF STATEMENT FROM N.
E. CHAPTER OF SNAP