Lincoln Journal Star [Lincoln NE]
February 6, 2022
By Cathy and Jim Harrington
[Photo above: Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson discusses the findings of a statewide Catholic church sex abuse investigation on Thursday at a Nebraska Department of Justice office. The investigation identified 258 victims who made credible allegations of sexual abuse against 57 Catholic church officials in the state going back decades. Grant Schulte, Associated Press]
Two recent articles published in the Lincoln Journal Star have addressed the ongoing issue of sexual abuse of children: “Fix Child Sex Abuse Law” (Jan. 21) written by Kathryn Robb and “Victims Push to Expand Lawsuit Window” (Jan. 22).
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson’s report stated that 57 Catholic Church officials from all three of Nebraska’s dioceses allegedly abused 258 identified victims. Sadly, none of those victims can file lawsuits because their statute of limitations, both criminal and civil, has expired. Peterson stated that the state’s statute of limitations is an impediment to justice for the victims.
Here is some history to help readers understand the systemic problem of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church in Nebraska. In 2002, Lincoln was the only diocese in North America not to comply with The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. (This Charter’s mission was to put in place mandates to end the scandal.)
Fabian Bruskewitz, then-bishop of the Lincoln Diocese, refused to sign the charter and consistently refused to provide audit information as well as publicly list abusers in his diocese. As it turns out, 57 victims were identified in the report in the diocese during his tenure (1992-2012). Where was the transparency? Current apologies are inadequate.
Fast-forward to 2022. Sen. Rich Pahls is sponsoring LB833, which would eliminate the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits involving child sexual abuse against institutions and organizations. Across the country, there is a movement (17 states so far) to reform SOLs for child sexual assault by either extending or eliminating the limitations for future cases.
As Catholics, we know nothing can ever remove the pain, but LB833 will make organizations accountable for the irreparable harm they have caused.
Yet LB833 has drawn opposition from the Nebraska Catholic Conference. Its opposition is absolutely unfathomable considering its past negligence!