UPDATED DECEMBER 08, 2021 6:18 PM
Almost 20 years ago, clergy abuse survivor Phil Saviano told the first Voice of the Faithful conference: "I am not faithful." He said the repeated assaults he suffered from Fr. David Holley had led to losing his faith before he even went through puberty.
Updated: Dec. 02, 2021, 7:00 a.m. | Published: Dec. 02, 2021, 7:00 a.m.
Since Gov. Murphy signed a 2019 law that suspended the statute of limitations for civil sex abuse lawsuits for two years, more than 1,200 cases were filed -- two-thirds of them against clergy or a religious institution.
A window to justice opened, and the people who had spent years or decades harboring an unfathomable pain stepped through it.
But the deadline for those victims to file suit ended Tuesday, and examination of the available data makes this much clear: The suspension of the statute needs to be extended, and our lawmakers should consider waiving it entirely.
That’s why one examination of these lawsuits filed during this two-year window is revealing. The Record
reports that 80% are based on allegations that took place between 1960 and 1990. Only 40 are related to incidents that occurred after 1990.
More than 40 years after a 15-year-old boy was reportedly sexually abused by the Rev. John Capparelli, the alleged victim filed a lawsuit in Essex County Superior Court against the Archdiocese of Newark and the church where the disgraced, defrocked priest — who was murdered in 2019 — once served.
The plaintiff in the case, not identified by name, spoke of being raised in a devout Catholic family and participating in youth and church activities at Holy Trinity Church in Westfield, before ultimately becoming a victim to what was described only as “unpermitted sexual contact.”
It is just one of hundreds of civil lawsuits that have been filed in New Jersey since the state opened a two-year window that greatly extended the amount of time victims of sexual abuse had to sue.
And now, that window is closing. At the end of the month, a two-year extension allowing such lawsuits on decades-old allegations comes to an end.
Advocates, however, say the COVID pandemic has made it difficult for victims to meet with attorneys and build their cases and have called for more time to allow others to seek justice.
“The pandemic closed our courts for some time and it delayed in many ways the statewide investigation of the five Catholic Dioceses in New Jersey,” said Mark Crawford, a clergy abuse survivor and state leader of SNAP — Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
The New Jersey law, passed in 2019 and signed by Gov. Phil Murphy, waived the statute of limitations to sue under a 24-month time period ending on Nov. 30, 2021. The law also allowed adults who were assaulted as children to file civil suits until they turn 55, or seven years after they discover that they were abused. It targeted not only individuals who allegedly committed sexual assault, but the churches, athletic organizations, schools and community organizations for whom they had worked.
This November we have a great chance to bring the needs, wants, and asks of survivors to the world stage in a big way! SNAP and leading advocacy organizations, such as Darkness 2 Light, RAINN, Together for Girls, and the Army of Survivors, will recognize November 18th as the international #EndChildSexAbuseDay.
More than 50 countries will be joining us as we make noise on social media and in the streets to draw attention to the needs of survivors, the ways we can prevent abuse, and the action that we are demanding our leaders and elected officials take. We need your voice to join the chorus!
On November 18 we, as part of the steering group for the Keep Kids Safe coalition, will release our Federal Blueprint for action (click here to read the blueprint in full). A key part of this blueprint, and something that SNAPpers have demanded for years, is the importance of a federal investigation into institutions that perpetuate abuse and cover-up, like the Catholic Church, Southern Baptist Convention, and others.
By David Clohessy
An ex-priest in the St. Louis area, who is the most highly ranked and prominent US Catholic official to ever face criminal charges of child sexual abuse is back in a courtroom today.
Very few St. Louisans know that he and dozens of other predators from all across the US are living here. Sure, he’s old. Sure, the church center that houses him is ‘out in the boondocks.’ But that doesn’t mean he’s ‘cured’ and is now safe, nor that we should care less about the safety of rural kids. And virtually none of those predators in Dittmer - who’ve been deemed too dangerous, by their own church supervisors, to live back in their home dioceses - are known to St. Louis parents, police, prosecutors, or parishioners.
The cleric in court today is Theodore McCarrick, the only US Catholic cardinal, current or former, ever to be charged with child sex crimes. We hope his prosecution happens quickly. We hope that his victims feel some measure of relief and validation that he’s finally facing justice. And we hope that Catholic officials in St. Louis finally begin honoring their pledges to be ’open’ about abuse and disclose the names of the hundreds of out-of-state child molesting clerics who’ve been secretly welcomed into our archdiocese for decades.