Guest Column: Pa. Senators need to return to pass 'window to justice'
By Mark Rozzi
Delaware County Daily Times
October 22, 2018
|REP. MARK ROZZI|
Times Guest Columnist
And they call themselves leaders? What cowardice that state Sens. Joe Scarnati and Jake Corman couldn’t bring the statute of limitation reform bill up for a vote!
The Senate needed to do its job. And it didn’t.
I know this will not be lost on their constituents.
What did the Senate leaders not get about the statewide grand jury report? Did the leaders not comprehend that when predators harm children and their employers knowingly covered up the crimes, they violated the law and therefore subjected themselves to liability?
The Senate leadership demonstrated once again they are hell-bent on carrying the water for the Catholic Church and by extension, all the other organizations that have gotten away with raping children because of ridiculous statutes of limitation.
Sen. Scarnati accused me of not being willing to compromise on SB 261, which overwhelmingly passed the House 173 to 21 in September. He claimed that no one from the other side was willing to negotiate and that he was negotiating with himself. He claimed that no counter solutions were offered.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
To date, I was never presented with language proffered by Sen. Scarnati, which I now understand was floated by the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. We were never informed about the amendment being debated in the Senate Republican Caucus, and what information we had was gathered piecemeal and forwarded to us through victims, lobbyists and the media, who waited all day long to try and determine what was under consideration.
I was promised several meetings by text from Sen. Scarnati to negotiate, but they did not take place. I made it clear to him I was available. On Oct. 12, I held a press conference stating that I was willing to compromise on a few things, but not the two-year retroactive window.
I sent via text message to him on Monday morning that I could consider a fund to begin in 2019 followed by a window to open in 2020. Never heard back.
It is a travesty of justice.
A window that does not include institutions is not a window at all. Victims have endured a lifetime of suffering as a result of being sexually abused and then having that abuse covered up by the institutions.
The product before the Senate is an insult to victims and to the due process of law. It seems that only where bishops are concerned, due process becomes an issue. Look at how the redacted report went to the Supreme Court.
What ever happened to the separation of church and state?
Why is state government concerned with bailing out an institution that systematically harmed children?
Those organizations – like the church, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, like the Boy Scouts, like the Methodists – created the mess. They should own it, and deal with it, like the bishops of New York. At least those dioceses helped hundreds of survivors through their OWN compensation funds.
Let’s talk about excuses.
Sen. Scarnati’s favorite: The retroactive provision is unconstitutional. But it’s in his latest proposal now.
We knew Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput and the bishops would fall back on their decades-old excuses.
You know – memories fade, people die, evidence disappears. That’s true, and it’s why most victims can’t bring suit.
But the grand jury report exposed the role of the church’s hierarchy, and the church’s own records held the proof.
So the church once again pleaded for mercy in the Sunday bulletins and through their grade schools, claiming they’d go bankrupt if a window was enacted.
The church’s “bias of omission” is that any bankruptcy on the part of the Catholic Church has been voluntary to protect their assets and shield them from civil litigation.
Shame on them.
Of course, they immediately supported Sen. Scarnati’s idea of a compensation fund. After all, a tribunal would give the bishops and the insurance companies immunity from discovery, and it would keep the crimes of predators secret.
The bill would allow us to sue the pedophile priests – but think about that. These priests are housed and insured by the church and basically paid a stipend. The ones who have been defrocked or who have voluntarily left the church are nowhere to be found, because the church doesn’t keep those records.
For the record, no church has gone out of business because of civil court actions.
Let’s not forget, that this is not just a Catholic problem. One in four girls and one in five boys will be abused by the time they reach 18.
The sexual abuse of children is a worldwide epidemic, and the world is watching.
The bishops of Pennsylvania have had every opportunity, time and again, to do the right thing.
Now they have attracted the attention of federal investigators.
Let me be clear. To exclude institutions from the window is just another step toward denying victims the relief they desperately deserve.
And I, for one, will not stand for it.
This is not a true “window to justice.”
Our colleague and friend, the late state Rep. Mike O’Brien, in addressing the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference of Bishops, said, “Your eminences and your excellences … One word from you, and these bills will sail through the House, sail through the Senate and make their way to the governor’s desk. If you do not give that word to do the right thing, there is nothing either eminent or excellent about you.”
What the elected officials in this building seem not to realize is that there has been a sea of change in public opinion about abuse, with the #MeToo movement, the #TimesUp movement, and now the move to impanel grand juries across the country.
Don’t underestimate victims of childhood sexual abuse. They are on fire.
You only see strong victims out in front. But thousands stand behind them.
Victims have waited this long. We are not going away.
I’m asking the Senate to come back into session and vote on the version of S.B. 261 that overwhelmingly passed the House, 173-21.
There are no scheduled votes after Election Day. I’m asking constituents to call their senators before Nov. 6 and urge them to come back and get this done.
We will get the “window to justice” passed, as was intended by all of the grand jury recommendations over the past 14 years.