Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court Deals Major Blow to Survivors of Childhood Abuse, SNAP Reacts
We are very disappointed in the 5-2 decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which ended plaintiff Renee Rice's pursuit of justice. Her strength and conviction to hold the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown responsible for covering up and enabling sexual abuse speaks volumes. It inspires others to continue their path to justice. Rice alleges abuse at the hands of the alleged abuser, Fr. Charles F. Bodziak; in the 1970s, Rice was then the church organist at St. Leo's church in Altoona, Pa.
In 2016, Rice filed a lawsuit but was denied due to the Pennsylvania statute of limitations. A Superior Court panel ruled in 2019 that there was enough discovery to let a jury decide if Rice had been prevented from learning of the alleged cover-up by church officials.
In today's ruling, the Supreme Court overturned this claim, and Justice Christine Donohue wrote, "We need not resolve the issue as it is clear the statute of limitations expired decades ago."
We stand loudly with survivors and advocates in Pennsylvania who will continue their pursuit of truth and justice when the State Senate returns after the summer recess. We know that victims deserve to have the courtroom doors open to them and believe that day will soon come.
SNAP Board President Shaun Dougherty weighed in to say that the news is “profoundly heartbreaking, but not surprising news for survivors of childhood sexual assault here in Pennsylvania. For decades the predators and those who have enabled their behavior have long been protected in Pennsylvania. Victims have struggled to have our collective voices be heard in our courts. Today is just another example of our struggle.”
(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)