Catholic Church Fights Connecticut Law Repealing Statute of Limitations on Child Sexual Abuse


I’m thinking the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican are a bit clueless.  How else, truly, to describe this?

Pam Spaulding, writing at Pandagon about a story first reported by CNN, reports that Roman Catholic Bishops in Connecticut are fighting a bill aimed at rescinding the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse.  The Connecticut Bishops released a letter to their parishioners Saturday imploring them to oppose the change in law.

Breathtaking.

According to CNN:

Under current Connecticut law, [minor] sexual abuse victims have 30 years past their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit. The proposed change to the law would rescind that statute of limitations.

The proposed change to the law would put “all Church institutions, including your parish, at risk,” says the letter, which was signed by Connecticut’s three Roman Catholic bishops.

The letter is posted on the Web site of the Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference, the public policy and advocacy office of Connecticut’s Catholic bishops. It asks parishioners to contact their legislators in opposition of the bill.

The “legislation would undermine the mission of the Catholic Church in Connecticut, threatening our parishes, our schools, and our Catholic Charities,” the letter says.

What exactly is the “mission of the Catholic Church in Connecticut?”

Certainly not to protect victims of abuse and apparently not to take responsibility for the Church’s role in child sexual abuse.  Clearly, such a change in law will have ramifications for the Church. 

Spaulding notes that:

When similar bills passed in California and Delaware, the result was over 1,250 plaintiffs filing suit against Catholic institutions, two dioceses in bankruptcy, efforts to foreclose on parish and diocesan properties, and the transfer of over $1.3 billion from Catholic institutions and their insurers to claimants and their counsel.

“Oh my,” writes Spaulding, “so the legislation is wrong because the church had to take a bath when there were judgments against it for kiddy diddling by its employees, the priests that got shuffled around from diocese to diocese, left to molest more innocents?”

Man, I didn’t think the church would go this far in admitting it has a problem, but apparently the smell of desperate fear of it all coming down is in the air and driving them stark raving mad.

Read more here.

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  • colleen

    ( http://www.bishop-accountability.org/ ) has been archiving the Church’s strident legal and political opposition to any local attempts to lengthen the statute of limitations for crimes involving the abuse of children.
    If one runs a search on that site alone there is enough data for a very, very long book. There are literally thousands of hits recording this strategy on the part of the church in the past few years.
    It’s a sad thing that most of the victims of clergy sexual abuse have received no justice for this core injury to their lives and the dignity of their persons.
    What I want to know is why any state or city continues to allow the Church to administer social programs that places it in contact with or authority over children.

  • offred

    What I want to know is why any state or city continues to allow the Church to administer social programs that places it in contact with or authority over children.

     

    In order to become a catechist, I had to have a criminal background check, as well as attend formal training in an instructor-led class aimed at eliminating sex abuse. The class was sobering, with video-taped interviews from convicted molesters describing how they found their targets.

     

    I came away believing that the Church is committed to effectively preventing abuse in the future. Whether they’re truly ready to do penance for the sins of the past remains to be seen.

  • paul-bradford

    Pandagon isn’t the only on-line publication covering this story.  I read about it, also, on the Catholic News Agency ‘site and in Catholic Culture.  Not surprisingly, most of the visitors to these ‘sites are Catholic so the responses to the story are drawn from Catholic opinion — and the reaction is uniformly negative.  Catholics are as disgusted by the Connecticut bishops’ action as anyone here.

     

    The issue of child abuse by priests and — more importantly — the grotesquely inhumane response by church authorities, is all that anyone wanted to talk about after Mass on Sunday.  According to Church teaching, reconciliation requires contrition, a firm resolve not to sin again, and a willingness to make amends.  Repealing the statute of limitations will give church authorities the opportunity to make real amends.  It will cost money — but the spiritual benefits will be worth it.

  • paul-bradford

    The 2005, the bishops signed off on The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.  It’s a thirty five page document with this conclusion:

     

    Let there be no doubt or confusion on anyone’s part: For us, your bishops, our obligation to protect children and young people and to prevent sexual abuse flows from the mission and example given to us by Jesus Christ himself, in whose name we serve.


    As the bishops pointed out, they serve — as does every Christian — in the name of Jesus Christ.  This very fact has been the source of “doubt and confusion” since it isn’t always too easy to see how their behavior flows from the “mission and example” of Jesus.

     

    To follow Jesus is to uphold the dignity of every human person — and we fail in this attempt in front of the entire world.

  • colleen

    Catholics are as disgusted by the Connecticut bishops’ action as anyone here.

    Clearly if they are still attending and supporting the Church they are not anywhere NEAR as disgusted as “anyone here”.
    Also Paul, I follow these stories very closely and there are many in the laity who are not disgusted by their church at all. All their disgust and rage is directed towards the homosexual, pro-choice, secular, anti-Catholic bigots, petty gossipers who dare to criticize the Church.
    And then there are those who insist that the crimes against children are all in the past despite ample evidence to the contrary.

  • crowepps

    I’d be a lot more impressed if the Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul had been told to get his priestly self onto a plane and come back and face the charges against him instead of being allowed to stay put at the Church owned home of his bishop, the Most Rev. A. Almaraj, who has refused to comply with the Vatican’s order to defrock him.

     

    Any bishop who can say with a straight face “these are only allegations…I don’t know what to do” is NOT paying attention.

     

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36175287

  • elyzabeth

    I was also a catechist in high school (despite being an atheist–hey, I needed the community service hours for National Honor Society).  It probably varies by diocese, but the 3-hour class I went to was a joke.  The pedophiles were a guy who ran a skating rink (and he even had a pedo-stach) and a girl’s softball coach if I recall correctly. 

     

    Not that I’m dissing them for choosinng inferior pedophiles, but the Church would have seemed more serious about protecting children if they interviewed, you know, a pedophile priest that they reported to the authorities and was currently in prison.  They really emphasized that pedophiles are everyway in secular society–so why pick on the Church?

     

    As for the criminal background check, the Church shields its resident child predators from secular (ei not make-believe) court so they don’t have criminal records that would show up on a background check.

     

    Incidentally, the class I attended was held at a Catholic high school were months before, the principal had been arrested for molesting two 14 year-old girls. 

  • faultroy

    I find most of the comments here completely off the mark.  We can all see the incredible hypocrisy of women claiming “being misled,” with both the Tiger Woods and the Jesse James fiascos.  We know that these women are strictly in it for fame and fortune and aided by opportunistic lawyers and  a news media that cannot get enough of potential scandal.  We know that with our hypersexualized society and our penchant for hypocrisy, people are coming out of the woodwork to falsely claim “sexual abuse.”  We know that there are women (Rosanne Barr for example) that claim their Fathers abused them when in fact actual members of the family (again in Barr’s case) swear the events never took place.  It even happens with men: Monte Roberts (the famous horse whisperer) wrote a book in which he describes his oppressive childhood–the only problem is that none of it was true according to his siblings and his cousins which lived with him 24/7 during the summer. (The implication was that he did it to make the selling of his first book more palatable.) He has never renounced these stories and it has caused a serious rift in his family relations. There is no doubt that sexual abuse has taken place in the clergy, but there is also no doubt that there are numerous innocent priests caught in the web of allegations especially in situations in which it is one person’s word against the other.  We’re seeing a similar situation in the military(check out the Dept of Defense’s 2009 report to Congress on Sexual Abuse in the Military).  There  is about a 50% incidence in which the charges are either unsubstantiated or false allegation.  Even if the incident is not true, one has to have an investigation and hire lawyers.  Who pays for all this?  The innocent parishoners–the Vatican has to pay none of it. It is the members of the church that pays. So, if innocents are being sexually abused, there is no question that innocents are being financially abused. If I were the Catholic Church, I would do away will all programs that have any minors involved–problem resolved.  Of course this would be in complete violation of everything the Church stands for, but I wouldn’t care less. What we really need in these situations is to remove the profit motive from these allegations.  This would make the charges far more honest and accurate.  Today, one can sue and receive financial damages for (pain and suffering).  All you have to do is to convince a jury that you aren’t lying. Ultimately if the law stands, it will be the individual taxpayer and the church member that must pay the price.  And of course the poor and destitute that depend on both the goodwill and the charity of organizations like the Catholic Church and missioinary organizations world wide–but hey, for most Catholic haters, that is a small price to pay for the privilege of being able to mock the church.  I see the Bishops in most cases being the victims.  There was no discussion of widespread abuse, and for the most part they thought this just isolated incidents. The idea of keeping it under wraps made a lot of sense, and knowing what they knew at the time, I would have conducted myself in the same manner.  Of course if I would have had any idea of how many people were abused, I would have done everything I could to take decisive action immediately, but when you are running a big operation like the Catholic Church with over 1 billion members, the number of charges are extremely small in looking at the big picture.  I don’t want to justify actions of moving one pedophile around, but in making these decisions, I think the Bishops were really completely out of their element.  I know I would have been totally horrified and tended to not believe it. But ultimately I would have tried to protect the image and the dignity of the church just like they did.  As we all know, the issue of child abuse and child molestation is rampant within our society.  Grandfathers, Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers, Aunts and Uncles have all been guilty of child abuse and molestation. We don’t give big financial awards to victims from one family member to the other, so why should these cases be any different.  Let’s put it in its proper perspective.

  • crowepps

     

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/14/how-the-church-shuffled-p_n_538010.html

     Even if the incident is not true, one has to have an investigation and hire lawyers.  Who pays for all this? 

    In the United States, the defendant would be provided with a free lawyer from the public defender’s office.

    I know I would have been totally horrified and tended to not believe it. But ultimately I would have tried to protect the image and the dignity of the church just like they did. 

    Would you also have transferred pedophiles to another parish where they could work with children?  If so, you are as foolish as they are.  Cover-ups NEVER LAST and the cover-up itself is what has and continues to cause damage to the “image and dignity of the church”.

    Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.  Matthew 23:27

  • colleen

    I know I would have been totally horrified and tended to not believe it.But ultimately I would have tried to protect the image and the dignity of the church just like they did.

    Yes, that conclusion is in line with what you have said in the past about rape and rapists. Every time you have commented on the subject here you have sided with rapists, blamed the victims and , indeed, you have in the past admitted to being a rapist yourself. It seems obvious and predictable that you would advocate for an institution that has made the physical, emotional and sexual abuse of children a perk of employment for a very long time.

  • offred

    I was also a catechist in high school (despite being an atheist–hey, I needed the community service hours for National Honor Society).

     

    You posed as a Catholic for a group of children, who looked to you as a spiritual mentor? And you used that to fulfill the “good works” requirement for an honor society?

     

    It boggles my mind that you aren’t ashamed of this double deception. Is this really the person you want to be?

  • elyzabeth

    Given that the entire curriculum consisted of coloring pictures and talking about how being nice to people is better than being mean, belief has nothing to do with it.  6 year-olds don’t need a “spiritual mentor,” they just need someone to talk to and to stop them from eating glue sticks.

     

    I think there was a shortage of volunteers, probably because no one else interested passed the criminal background check.

  • offred

    6 year-olds don’t need a “spiritual mentor,” they just need someone to talk to and to stop them from eating glue sticks.

     

    You are confusing 6 (and 7) year olds with 3 year olds. 7 year olds don’t eat glue sticks.

     

    My first grade daughter asks astute questions about the nature of God, that I find quite difficult to answer. If you didn’t get similar questions, then maybe you weren’t really listening.

     

    I think this also shows that bishops aren’t the only ones who don’t own up to failing the children entrusted to them.

     

    no one else interested passed the criminal background check.

     

    Background checks screen out the criminals, but unfortunately they don’t enforce integrity.

  • crowepps

    Keep in mind that so long as there is a stigma attached to being the victim of a sexual assaults, and people who don’t want that stigma attached to themselves or their children don’t report incidents to the police, the result is a large pool out there of people who have no problem passing a criminal background check because they have never been reported, charged with a crime or convicted.

     

    This is one of the major negatives of ‘investigating in-house’.  Reporting accusations and letting the police do the investigation may not result in a conviction in a particular incident weak substantiation, but a compilation of repeated unsubstantiated incidents can indicate a pattern of behavior that can alert people to problems.

  • colleen

    feel is only part of the problem. The Church has gone out of it’s way to shelter it’s ‘problem priests’.
    Here a link to an article I found interesting:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/16/world/europe/16vatican.html?hp

    In the middle of the article there is reference to a letter from the Vatican written by one Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos written to a French Bishop who went to jail for three months for not reporting a pedophile priest to the police. The Cardinal says:

    “I rejoice to have a colleague in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and all the other bishops of the world, preferred prison rather than denouncing one of his sons, a priest,”

    I was fascinated by the fulsome praise for refusing to protect children from a child rapist, by the notion that doing so would mean denouncing a “son” and by the blatant contempt these men have for civil law. One thing seems certain, the priest in question would would pass a criminal background check.

  • elyzabeth

    “My first grade daughter asks astute questions about the nature of God, that I find quite difficult to answer. If you didn’t get similar questions, then maybe you weren’t really listening.”

     

    Or maybe many of the Bible’s and Catholic Church’s claims make no sense, so there is no reason to lie to children and tell them that they do.  In between drawing on themselves with markers, children notice contradictions.

     

    Children notice that in the Old Testament readings, God kills a lot of people.  I did get asked, if God is all good, why does he kill people?  The Church’s answer is that we need to take it on faith that God knows better than we do and it was part of his plan.  Even a 6 year-old can tell that that’s a cop-out.

     

    Children have a hard time understanding transubstantiation (communion wafers and wine are literally, not symbolically, the Body and Blood) and why it is so important.  Kids don’t have a problem with the symbollism part and how it reminds us of Jesus’s sacrifices for us, and by choosing to recieve communion they are renewing their promise to live as Jesus instructed–they don’t understand the Church’s belief that the wafer is “really” Jesus’s body, and that when it gets dropped on the ground accidently it has to be disposed of in a very particular and respectful manner–ei put in water until it dissolves and..arbitrarily stops being Jesus’s body.  The children didn’t think that made sense for some reason.

     

    Of course, when talking about recieving the Eucharist, you mention that people who have sinned shouldn’t recieve it unless they confess to a priest.  If what they did was bad enough, the Church excommunicates them, so they are distanced from God and eventually go to Hell.  Children have trouble understanding that one–in fact they have a hard time grasping the whole “God loves you, but he will send you or your parents or your friends to hell to be miserable for eternity.” 

     

    The corollary, “By the way, God is perfect and all good, so it is really a good thing that you or your parents or your friends will suffer forever” is even tougher for them to wrap their little heads around.  Also, 6 year olds are scared to death of hell (I blame that scene from the first Fantasia).  You can tell kids that fire and brimstone has no biblical basis–that hell is just “separation from God,” but they just can’t shake idea that it is full of flames and demons. The other implication is that if you have a hard time accepting that God is all good, but sends people you love to hell, you don’t have enough faith.

     

    Similarly, the Church’s whole “animals don’t have souls, so they just die forever, and you will never see them again, not even in Heaven” is probably the single cruellest thing you can tell a child who loses a pet.  I found that the answer, “Heaven is perfect, so your pets will be there,” works, even though the Church teachs that in Heaven we will automatically be, not happy, but deeply joyous and fulfilled because we are close to God, and being close to God makes you deeply joyous and fulfilled, and we won’t be petty enough to need our pets to make us happy.  Children don’t have enough faith to realize that isn’t a tautology.

     

    Oh, children are also curious about why only men can be priests, bishops, popes, etc.  They recognize that “it’s always been done that way,” is a really crappy answer.

     

    I have more examples of questions that the Church can’t answer in a way to satisfy a child (or anyone with a functioning BS detector), but do you see where I’m going?  Asking the children about how their week went, and what happened at school, and how it made them feel, and how it made others feel, and other topics that develop a sense of introspection and empathy is much more important to growth into a functional human being than telling children to just take a set of unapplicable beliefs “on faith.”

     

    The first grade curriculum book was very vapid for a reason–it’s because none of the mythology about the faith makes sense.  All of the stories were sanitized to make God look like less of a douchebag (which he totally was), and all had the same moral that “God loves you, God will protect you, if you are unsure–look to God for guidence, God will ask difficult things of you, God will forgive you if you were bad, etc” even if that was in no way conveyed by the actual biblical version of the specific story.  The stories were then followed by some vague mundane way that the moral could apply to the child’s life (ei sharing is good, hitting your brother is bad).  Children weren’t being told anything they didn’t already know, and the Church never had any answers to the “why” questions they asked, so they are bored by the whole charade. 

     

    However, kids frigging love the craft projects, so they were okay with CCD in general.  And yes, in my class a little boy did eat glue because another boy dared him to.  Neither of them got their good-behavior sticker that day.

     

    You seem to think that Catholicism and a belief in its arbitrary dogma is required to help child develop good character.  You also seem to be underestimating Jesus’s value as a philosopher and moral genius that no secular humanist could deny.  Jesus was awesome, but he was awesome because of how he lived, not how he died and all the supernatural stuff.  Children can understand the importance of being a good, generous, forgiving, self-sacrificing person–they can’t understand the Church’s teaching that the good he did while he was alive the first time is trivial to the miracle of his death and resurrection.