Lawmakers Want to Extend Statutes for Church Abuse Victims
By Andy Sheehan
March 4, 2016
Outraged over the sex abuse scandal in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, state lawmakers are calling for justice for the alleged victims.
The alleged crimes against children are as sickening as they are hard to hear, but in announcing the grand jury findings this week, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane made a point to list them.
“Children reported having their genitals fondled, being forced to participate, watch or permit masturbation, being force to perform or receive oral sex from/or for priests and being anally raped,” Kane said.
The grand jury found that over a 40-year period, 50 diocesan priests and religious leaders sexually abused hundreds of child victims.
In the report, late Bishop James Hogan and retired Bishop Joseph Adamec are alleged to have warded off law enforcement while they shuffled predatory priests around the diocese.
But since the statute of limitations has run out, neither Adamec nor any priests still living can be criminally charged or prosecuted. The victims also cannot seek civil compensation.
“I’m frustrated like everybody else,” said State Rep. Frank Burns, of Cambria County.
Rep. Burns wants to change those state statutes to give victims a two-year window to file civil suits, and he wants to eliminate the limitations all together for future victims.
“I thought I could get over this. I thought I could bury it; I wanted to,” said Rep. Burns.
Burns was joined by Berks County Rep. Mark Rozzi, who was molested by a priest as boy. He decided to go public after a childhood friend who was also abused committed suicide.
“When that happened, I vowed I would never, never turn my back on the children of this Commonwealth ever,” said Rep. Rozzi.
Like Rep. Rozzi, many victims try to bury the abuse, and by the time they realize they’ve suffered irreparable harm, the statues have run out.
The state representatives say this legislation will give them another chance for justice.