NY--SNAP: “Church officials fight secular child safety bills”
Victims to Pope: “Stop bishops’ lobbying”
SNAP: “Prelates fight secular child safety bills”
Battles are now being waged in each place Francis visits
“Church uses flock’s donations to protect predators,” group says
It begs church-goers: “Donate elsewhere until real change happens”
SNAP: “As Francis ‘talks nice’ with lawmakers, bishops ‘quietly fight dirty’”
Holding signs and childhood photos, while Francis meets with politicians in DC, clergy sex abuse victims will hand fliers to church-goers. They will also
--urge Francis to make bishops stop blocking secular child safety law reforms,
--urge lawmakers (federal and state) to ignore bishops’ “self-serving” lobbying efforts, and
--urge Catholics to donate elsewhere until their church officials push for, not against, better laws that protect kids, expose predators and punish enablers.
Such legislative struggles are pending in each place Francis will visit: New York, Pennsylvania and DC.
The victims will also urge all victims, witnesses and whistleblowers – in every institution that serves kids – to
--report everything they know, see or suspect to law enforcement,
--seek help from independent sources (not church, school, camp or coaching staff), and
--join the growing movement to end or extend archaic, predator-friendly statutes of limitations.
Wednesday, Sept. 23 at noon - 1:00 p.m.
Outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral (5th Avenue entrance) in Manhattan
Seven-eight members of an international support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org), including 1) an Illinois woman and attorney who is the organization’s long time president and 2) a California woman who is a best-selling author on abuse prevention.
While clergy sex abuse and cover up lawsuits attract considerable media attention, most victims of pedophile priests can’t seek justice in court because bishops exploit archaic, predator-friendly deadlines called “statutes of limitations.” Worse, SNAP says, US bishops are spending “hundreds of thousands of dollars” on “high-priced lobbyists” to block moves to reform these rigid statutes that “give wrongdoers incentives to intimidate victims, threaten witnesses, discredit whistleblowers, destroy evidence and ‘run out the clock’ on child sex crimes and cover ups.”
SNAP wants Pope Francis to forbid such “reckless, callous expenditures” that “save bishops’ reputations but make abuse and cover up likely to continue.” The group also wants state lawmakers to pass civil “window” laws that “make it easier for struggling victims to protect others, expose predators, deter cover ups and seek justice.” And they want federal legislation and policies that reward states that work harder on abuse prevention.
(Four states have enacted civil “window” laws. As a result hundreds of adults who committed and concealed child sex crimes have been exposed, fired, demoted or otherwise punished and dozens of criminal prosecutions have taken place that likely would not have, SNAP maintains. The group says “windows” are “the single quickest, safest and cheapest way to expose predators, safeguard kids and end cover ups of child sexual assaults.”)
Because bishops exploit tight statues of limitations, very few victims are able to “out” their perpetrators in court. In the Milwaukee archdiocese, for example, over the last four years, 575 victims have come forward reporting abuse by clerics there. But the identities and whereabouts of roughly 100 of these clerics remain hidden because victims cannot file lawsuits against them. The same is true of dozens of clerics who ignored or hid these crimes. http://www.jsonline.com/news/religion/some-victims-say-archdioceses-plan-doesnt-go-far-enough-b99564000z1-322893251.html
In one Montana diocese (Helena), between last year and this year, 390 survivors came forward. Again, little information about their predators and enablers was made public.
(In both of these dioceses, bishops sought bankruptcy protection, SNAP says, to stop lawsuits, discovery, depositions and trials, all of which “would have exposed high ranking Catholic officials who ignored or hid these heinous crimes.” The group says that Chapter 11 for bishops “is about protecting secrets, not money.”)
Catholic officials disingenuously claim “window” measures “unfairly target” churches, SNAP says. But they are “neutral” bills that usually include all private non-profits where child sex crimes are most often covered up. Bishops say over time “witnesses die, memories fade and evidence is lost.” SNAP says these factors just make it harder on victims, who face the burden of proof in such cases.
“By opposing these bills, Catholic officials are “putting more kids in harm’s way in all kinds of institutions, secular and religious,” says SNAP director David Clohessy. “And they contradict all the nice-sounding things Francis says about safeguarding the vulnerable and healing the wounded.”
Often, the measures pass by large margins in one chamber but fail in another chamber. (The NY Child Victims Act, for example, has passed the Assembly four times but never made it to a vote in the State Senate.)
The Hawaii and Minnesota windows are still “open.” The California and Delaware ones have closed. They range from one year (California) to three years (Minnesota).
The sponsors of the pending SOL window measures (in the jurisdictions Francis is visiting) are New York Assemblywoman Marge Markey of Flushing (718-651-3185,518-455-4755, [email protected]), Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Rizzo of Berks County (610-921-8921) and DC Councilmember-at-Large David Grosso (202-724-8105, [email protected], Katrina S. Forrest, Legislative Director).
Similar legislation is pending in New Jersey, where church officials are also leading the opposition.
Markey’s bill (A02872) is the “Child Victims Act,” Rizzo’s bill is H.B. 661 and Grosso’s bill is the “Childhood Protection Against Sexual Abuse Amendment.” Markey and Rizzo are Democrats and Grosso is an independent.
Opponents include NY Senator Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx) and PA reps. Ron Marsico (R-Lower Paxton) and Thomas Caltagirone (D-Berks).
Other lawmakers backing the “window” include NY Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) and PA Rep. Louise Bishop (D-Philadelphia).
For a legal perspective on SOL reform: See http://sol-reform.com/ or contact Professor Marci Hamilton of the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University (212-790-0215, [email protected]), attorney Jeff Dion of the National Crime Victims’ Bar Association (202-467-8700, [email protected]) and attorney Jeff Anderson of St. Paul MN (651 227 9990, [email protected]). A leading advocate for SOL reform in Pennsylvania is abuse survivor and businessman John Salveson, 215-870-0680, abolishsexabuse.org) of the Philadelphia-based Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse.
Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected]), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, [email protected]), Joelle Casteix (949-322-7434, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, [email protected]), David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected])