New Tools to Fight Abuse

Boston Herald
July 25, 2003

It may be that families will henceforth be so vigilant, that church workers and clergy will be so pure of heart, that the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church will be so sensitized that no harm will come to another child. But one of the toughest lessons out of Attorney General Tom Reilly's report is what happens when we depend not on laws but on men to do the right thing.

Lawmakers made that mistake back in 1973 when clergy were exempt from the state's mandated reporting law that would have required church officials to report to the state suspected incidents of sexual abuse. That was corrected in 2002 in the heat of the scandal, but even now the penalty for not reporting is a mere $1,000 fine. Reilly wants to see that increased to $25,000 and a prison term of up to 2 years. A companion bill of rights for victims of sexual abuse would eliminate the current 15-year statute of limitations for sex crimes against children.

This time around lawmakers must provide the tools to prevent - or to punish - sexual abuse and its cover-up.


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