Bishop Accountability
  Statute of limitations to be lifted Jan. 1

By Arthur Jones
National Catholic Reporter
December 13, 2002

As a harbinger of woe for bishops in other states, California bishops Dec. 8 advised Catholic Mass-goers their church will face the New Year coping with a fresh raft of sex scandal lawsuits -- estimates are 200-plus cases statewide.

The suits, many dating back decades, are possible because the California state legislature in June passed a bill, known as SB 1779, that lifts for 12 months the statute of limitations on suits against the employers of known sexual molesters. The bill takes effect Jan. 1.

There are reports that the Texas legislature may consider similar legislation. New Jersey has lifted its statute of limitations on sexual molestation cases.

In a preemptive strike on the publicity front, the California bishops from the state’s 12 dioceses wrote a collective letter to be read in Catholic parishes the second Sunday of Advent stating, “The Catholic church has been falsely portrayed as a large corporation with ‘deep pockets.’ In reality, the vast majority of our assets -- parishes, schools, charities -- are not devoted to the accumulation of wealth but to education, worship and sacraments: to the poor and other works of charity.”

A letter circulating in Los Angeles Catholic circles that says Cardinal Roger Mahony told a recent meeting of deanery priests the archdiocese might have to file for bankruptcy next year is wrong, stated the Los Angeles archdiocese media relations office. The spokesperson said the archdiocese “is not contemplating bankruptcy. The archdiocese of Los Angeles believes it is adequately insured against lawsuits filed as a result of SB 1779.”

In a further Los Angeles development, Mahony was at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo Dec. 1 discussing with faculty the pending closure of the seminary’s undergraduate college and the possible shifting of the graduate level seminary program closer to Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

-- Arthur Jones

National Catholic Reporter, December 13, 2002


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