Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests ( 314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com )
Connecticut’s top Catholic official has lost his bid to overturn a crucial state child safety law. Shame on him for trying.
Ex-Hartford Archbishop Henry Mansell and current Hartford Archbishop Leonard Blair asked Connecticut’s Supreme Court to gut a measure that gives victims of child molesters more time to expose and deter those who commit or conceal child sex crimes.
Supreme Court officials rebuffed his move. We are grateful. And we hope that hundreds more adults who were sexually violated as children in Connecticut will step forward, seek justice, and expose and prevent child sex crimes and cover ups.
This ruling is part of an encouraging pattern by judges in the US to make it easier for victims to use the courts to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded by exposing and punishing wrongdoers whose misdeeds hurt kids or enable others to hurt kids. It’s tragic that Hartford Catholic officials want to make it much harder for victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to protect children, inside and outside of the church.
The case before the Supreme Court centered on Fr. Ivan Ferguson and on a widely-praised 13 year old state law that gives victims more time to expose those who commit and conceal child sex crimes through civil litigation.
In 2002, Connecticut lawmakers extended the statute of limitations, letting child sex abuse victims to take legal action against their predators and employers who shield them until they turn 48 years of age. (Since 2002, lawmakers have extended it even further.)
Archbishop Leonard Blair – and his predecessor Archbishop Henry Mansell – claim that the statute was unconstitutional, based on the ‘due process’ clause of the state constitution.
Blair’s boss, Pope Francis, has said the church should ‘make reparations” to victims and “All bishops must (exercise) the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors.’” But like most nice-sounding papal pronouncements about clergy sex crimes and cover ups, these sentiments are routinely ignored and contradicted by bishops like Blair.
In 2012, a jury found Hartford Archdiocese officials negligent and reckless in handling abuse reports against Fr. Ferguson and awarded a victim a $1.3 million judgment (which includes $300,000 in punitive damages). Fr. Ferguson admitted his crimes. But Blair also wants to overturn this verdict.
Fr. Ferguson has been accused before. In 1993, three men filed civil abuse and cover up lawsuits charging that they were molested by Fr. Ferguson in the1970s and that archdiocesan staff could and should have prevented the crimes.
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