Category Archives: Statute of Limitations

Catholic church accused of using ‘mafia-like’ tactics to fight sex abuse bill


Catholic church accused of using ‘mafia-like’ tactics to fight sex abuse bill

Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul Philadelphia Pennsylvania
Clergy process into the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, ahead of the papal mass in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 26 September 2015. Photograph: Mark Makela/Reuters

The Catholic Church’s pressure campaign on sex-abuse bill has crossed the line: John L. Micek


The Catholic Church’s pressure campaign on sex-abuse bill has crossed the line: John L. Micek

By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on June 09, 2016 at 7:09 PM

From the Link: http://www.pennlive.com/opinion/2016/06/i_would_much_rather_be_chastis.html

As they work their way through the thicket of complicated legislation that routinely comes before them, state lawmakers face constant pressure from the legion of clout-wielding lobbyists and impassioned advocates who prowl the halls of the state Capitol.

But what happens when one of those lobbyists also, theoretically, has the power of the Creator of the Universe on their side?

Roman Catholic lawmakers who supported a state House bill that eliminates the statute of limitations for criminal cases of child sex abuse and extends the window for civil lawsuits until the victim is 50 years old, are finding out firsthand.

Take, for example, Rep. Nick Miccarelli, a Delaware County Republican, who was called out by name in the parish bulletin for St. Rose of Lima church in Eddystone, Pa.

JUST SO YOU AWARE,” the update tucked among the routine church notices read, “State Rep. Nick Miccarelli voted in favor of House Bill 1947 which states that private institutions can be sued as far as 40 years ago for millions of dollars, while public institutions may not be sued for any crimes committed in the past.”

Miccarelli, who’s been attending the church for years, said he was shocked by the very public scolding.

And he took to Facebook to complain about it:

“There is no one, and I mean no one, with any understanding of the law who would claim, “public institutions may not be sued for any crimes committed in the past.” Google “Jerry Sandusky Penn State Lawsuit” if you need to see evidence that public institutions can be sued,” he wrote. “What this bill did, was to expand the statute of limitations for claims of child molestation. Put simply, it allows those people who are raped as children, more time to face those who raped them.”

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And in a business where where advocacy groups routinely seek out meetings and call lawmakers to talk about their issues, Miccarelli said his hometown pastor hadn’t reached out to him at all to discuss any concerns.

“Pope Francis can go to [U.S.] House of Representatives, and my parish priest can’t give me a call?” he marveled.

Miccarelli estimates that about a dozen of his fellow House lawmakers, who were among the 180 who voted in April to approve the bill sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Ron Marsico, R-Lower Paxton Twp., have been targeted in the lobbying action.

The scoldings, which are apparently being coordinated by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, and sit just this side of the kind of electioneering activity that would likely violate the church’s nonprofit status, are not only wrong, they’re barefaced in their arrogance and hypocrisy.

That’s because this bill wouldn’t exist were it not for – and there’s no polite way to put it – the Catholic Church’s systemic cover-up of years upon years of child rape that wrecked the lives of countless thousands of children, mostly young men.

State lawmakers are not only cleaning up the church’s mess, they’re providing additional recourse to others who have been preyed upon by monsters who have no place in our midst.

But facing potentially ruinous lawsuits for hideous crimes that never should have happened in the first place, the church is pushing back with the most potent weapon in its arsenal:

Good, old-fashioned Roman Catholic guilt.

“The problem with [the legislation] is its prejudicial content,” Chaput wrote in a June 6 letter obtained by The Morning Call of Allentown. “It covers both public and religious institutions — but in drastically different and unjust ways. The bill fails to support all survivors of abuse equally, and it’s a clear attack on the Church, her parishes, her schools and her people.”

The only problem is – it’s not true.

The legislation applies “equally to private and public institutions going forward. Due to the sovereign immunity protections afforded to state institutions by the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it appears that this reform cannot apply retroactively to them,” The Call reported, citing a fact sheet put together by a group called the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse.

The fact sheet was sent to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee ahead of a meeting Monday where the panel will take up the House legislation.

A spokesman for Chaput, Ken Gavin, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that pastors “in many instances” last weekend told their parishioners how some lawmakers had voted on the House bill.

“The bill is public and the voting records are public,” Gavin told the newspaper. “There’s nothing wrong with sharing that information. Obviously, parishioners are very concerned about this legislation. For those constituents to contact elected officials to voice such concern is a very normal thing.”

Which, of course, is nonsense.

When a powerful institution like the Catholic Church starts breathing on you, the effect is anything but benign. That’s especially true when, like Miccarelli and others, you’re one of 203 House members who are up for re-election in November.

And that’s just the way Chaput wants it.

That’s because he played a similar brand of hardball when he was Archbishop in Denver and worked to defeat a similar bill there, The Inquirer reported.

And it was part of a pattern of behavior on other issues.

“Chaput championed elected officials bringing their faith into political life — rebuking, for example, Catholic officeholders who declared themselves pro-choice,” Philadelphia Magazine observed in a piece published last August. “He lambasted Notre Dame in 2009 for awarding pro-abortion Barack Obama an honorary degree. He spoke out nationally against gay marriage and stem-cell research.”

All of which is within his right as a spiritual leader.

But it’s just another instance of the troubling conflation of religion and politics which seems so much a part of our contemporary debate.

And while each lawmaker will have to wrestle with his or her own conscience and beliefs when it comes to certain votes, that’s their business – and their business alone.

Because, the church should remember lawmakers also serve the entirety of the Commonwealth – not just one narrow slice of it. And those interests may not always be consonant with those of the church.

“Frankly, I would much rather be chastised from the altar, than to be damned for not allowing justice to be done,” Miccarelli wrote on Facebook.

Amen.

And if the church would like to continue to dabble in Harrisburg politics, then perhaps it’s worth taking a closer look at how often its activities cross the line into outright electioneering.

If it’s happening, maybe they shouldn’t be tax exempt at all.

And just think of how much money cities, towns and the state could raise with all those properties back on the tax rolls.

EXCLUSIVE: Only 1 NYC district attorney supports fixing state law to help child abuse victims seek justice


EXCLUSIVE: Only 1 NYC district attorney supports fixing state law to help child abuse victims seek justice

BY

EW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, April 20, 2016, 4:00 AM
From the Link: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-da-supports-fixing-child-rape-law-article-1.2607793

One of the city’s district attorneys is in favor of extending the criminal statute of limitations on charges of sexual abuse of children — but the others refused to take a stand.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown’s support of overhauling the oft-maligned law barring criminal charges after the victim turns 23 years old comes as the state Senate considers a bill to do just that.

“We have long been supportive of extending the criminal statute of limitations for young victims of sexual abuse,” Kevin Ryan, a Brown spokesman, told the Daily News.

But other district attorneys were more reluctant to tackle the issue.

The offices of Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark all referred The News to the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York.

The association occasionally issues position statements on legislation under consideration in Albany.

But when it comes to victims of child sex abuse holding their abusers accountable, the association does not plan to take an official position, according to Executive Director Robyn Pangi.

“People want to be able to bring these prosecutions, but as you know, a lot of these cases are 30 or 40 years old. It’s very difficult to collect evidence, find appropriate witnesses and build a case,” Pangi said.

She vowed that district attorneys were committed to doing everything in their power, whatever the law may be.

“We certainly want to ensure the victims feel we will be able to prosecute their case effectively,” she said.

Doug Auer, a spokesman for Staten Island DA Michael McMahon, echoed that sentiment.

“Regardless of whether the statute is changed, we will continue to do our utmost to do justice for the victims of these crimes,” Auer said.

Individual district attorneys do often take stands on certain issues — just not this one.

In recent months Vance has been among the leading voices in the city calling for law enforcement to have access to encrypted smartphones.

The DAs’ reluctance to take an official position comes as the Senate considers a bill to do away with the statute of limitations to bring criminal cases or civil suits in cases involving adults abused as children.

Previous efforts to reform the law have failed as GOP lawmakers have signaled they are against the legislation. Advocates say that is in large part due to the opposition of the Catholic Church and a consortium of yeshivas.

The issue came to the fore recently after Suffolk County authorities charged Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu with sexually abusing seven foster children that had been in his care.

Authorities said at the time they couldn’t bring charges in connection to additional victims of Gonzales-Mugaburu, 59, because of the statute of limitations.

He has pleaded not guilty.

Abolish time limits on childhood sex abuse cases


Abolish time limits on childhood sex abuse cases

By Stephen Estey | 11:11 a.m. April 22, 2016

From the link: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/apr/22/sex-abuse-law-change-04232016/

April is Sex Abuse Awareness Month. In light of this fact, it’s time we re-examine our state laws — particularly those that pertain to sexual abuse. More specifically, we need to take a hard look at the laws that can limit or bar a sex abuse victim’s ability to bring a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator and/or the institutions that failed to protect him/her. These laws are referred to as statutes of limitations. Though in place for a reason, statutes of limitations on childhood sex abuse cases frequently act to protect predators and harm victims.

Children who have been sexually abused face a lifetime of psychological issues. The trauma inflicted on them in their youth reverberates into adulthood. Often it takes years for victims of childhood sex abuse to come to terms with what happened to them. Their struggle is real: a childhood sex abuse victim is more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to help him/her deal with their emotional pain and low self-esteem. They may have difficulty forming meaningful relationships with coworkers and may find themselves in and out of romantic relationships due to trust issues.

In addition to the human cost of childhood sex abuse, there is a real cost to society. A 1996 Department of Justice study of child molestation victims determined that childhood sex abuse costs society an average of $23 billion annually.

There is one clear way that we can lessen the toll that childhood sex abuse takes on our society: increase and/or eliminate statutes of limitations on childhood sex abuse cases.

A statute of limitations puts a time limit on the civil or criminal prosecution of a pedophile. In California, a victim of child sex abuse generally has until the age of 26 to file a lawsuit. These time limits serve to protect pedophiles and the institutions to which they belong from legal or societal backlash. A good example of this is the Roman Catholic Church. Several of its prominent leaders have been made aware of sex abuse scandals taking place within the church, yet these leaders have done nothing — or have taken steps to cover up the crime, as seen in the critically acclaimed 2015 film “Spotlight.”

This must end.

Lawmakers in several states have committed themselves to bringing this disgraceful trend to a stop. California refuses to eliminate or even extend the statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims. Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed two legislative bills that would have extended the statute of limitations for victims, amid heavy lobbying from the Catholic Church and other institutions that have negligently enabled predators to sexually abuse young children.

In the end, justice is what matters most. Victims should not be silenced. Pedophiles, rapists, and molesters should not walk free simply because the statute of limitations in their state protects them. All childhood sex abuse statutes of limitations in every state should be promptly lengthened and/or eliminated.

Estey of the law firm Estey Bomberger represents childhood molestation victims and has twice been named “Trial Attorney of the Year” by the Consumer Attorneys of San Diego.