It’s no secret that many sexual abuse cases involving members of clergy have come to light over the last decade. A great number of victims in these cases never spoke about the abuse because of shame, fear, and any mix of emotions that a child might feel after dealing with such trauma. By the time many of these victims are ready to report the abuse, the statute of limitations has expired.
Because of this, victim advocate groups across the nation are lobbying to change these laws and reopen sexual abuse cases. These efforts are met with opposition from church leaders, concerned that reopening cases might bankrupt church organizations.
“We just think it’s fundamentally unjust. Evidence is lost and memories fade; witnesses are dead. There’s just no way to defend against such cases,” said Daniel Poust, spokesman for the New York Catholic Conference.
He expressed that it is fine to extend the statute of limitations for future sex crimes, but felt that opening retroactive windows could be troublesome. “Plaintiff’s attorneys have been teeing these cases up for many years and are more than willing to harm today’s Catholics, who had nothing to do with abuse of the past,” he said.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has even handed out fliers during mass alerting parishioners of Catholic lawmakers who support extending the statute of limitations. These efforts made by church leaders have successfully stalled or ended potential bills extending the statute of limitations in NY and PA. In the meantime, victims of childhood sex abuse are denied the closure they need to move on. For more on this story, check out the article by NPR.