November 2018 Church & State | AU Bulletin

Legislators in Pennsylvania are considering a bill that would make it easier for victims of sexual abuse to seek justice in the courts.

The move comes in the wake of a recent report by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, which detailed numerous cases of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests. The report was highly critical of church officials, asserting that they engaged in a cover-up by moving priests who committed such offenses to other parishes.

The news site PennLive.com reported that the bill, which has passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, “eliminates all criminal statutes of limitations on future child sexual abuse cases, extends the deadline for civil cases against perpetrators and those who supervise them to age 50 and creates a new, retroactive component permitting past victims who are timed-out of the legal system at present a temporary, two-year window to file civil suits.”

Under current Pennsylvania law, adults who were sexually assaulted as children can press for criminal charges to be brought only until age 50, and they can’t bring civil suits if they are over age 30.

The measure was sponsored by state Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks County), who was himself assaulted by a priest when he was a child. Rozzi thanked his colleagues for approving the measure.

“All victims ever wanted was an opportunity for justice, to be able to walk into that court of law and expose their perpetrators. And maybe we can protect future kids from being abused,” Rozzi said.

Lobbyists for the Catholic Church have opposed the bill, and it faces an uncertain fate in the state Senate.