PA--Victims to Pope: “Stop bishops’ lobbying”
SNAP: “Prelates fight secular child safety bills”
Battles are being waged in places Francis visits: PA, DC & NY
“Chaput uses flock’s donations to protect predators,” group says
It begs church-goers: “Donate elsewhere until real change happens”
SNAP: “As Francis talks of ‘protecting families,’ bishops ‘fight them in court’”
Holding signs and childhood photos, after Francis’ mass, clergy sex abuse victims will
--urge the pope to make his bishops, in PA & elsewhere, stop blocking better child safety laws,
--urge lawmakers, in PA and elsewhere, 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 is visiting: Pennsylvania, New York 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.
Saturday, Sept. 26 at 1:30 p.m.
Outside St. Patrick Church, 242. S. 20th, in center city Philadelphia, PA (where a predator priest worked)
Three-four members of an international support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org), including a Missouri woman who is the organization’s long time outreach director
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.”
In PA, a bill has been introduced that would give child sex abuse victims more time to file lawsuits. Catholic officials have fought hard and successfully against measures like this in Harrisburg and in every other state capitol where the issue has been raised, SNAP says.
SNAP wants Pope Francis to forbid such “reckless, callous expenditures” that “save bishops’ reputations but enable abuse and cover up 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.”
(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. That, in turn, helps predators continue molesting children, SNAP charges.
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.”
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).
Sponsors of the SOL window measure in PA include Reps. Mark Rizzo of Berks County (610-921-8921) and Louise Bishop (D-Philadelphia).
Similar legislation is pending in New Jersey, where church officials are also leading the opposition.
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, jdi[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.
For more than a dozen years, (1991-2004). Msgr. Philip J. Dowling pastored S. Patrick’s church. According to according to the Inquirer, he admitted some child sex crimes and “is one of the highest-ranking priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese to be publicly implicated in alleged crimes against minors,” and “a theologian who studied in Rome, taught at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, and headed the Cardinal's Commission on Human Relations.”