Maryland Child Victims Act gets legal challenge from Washington D.C. Church

WYPR - National Public Radio [Baltimore MD]

November 16, 2023

By Scott Maucione

The Archdiocese of Washington D.C. is using an arcane legal maneuver to challenge the constitutionality of the Maryland Child Victims Act.

The tactic uses a 2017 law that may have granted some immunity to churches for sexual abuse cases after victims turned 38.

If the court accepts the statute, it could cause issues for future lawsuits brought by survivors.

The Washington Archdiocese is facing a class action suit in Prince George’s County claiming that three boys were abused by clergy and employees.

The Child Victims Act went into effect October 1st and abolished the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse survivors to sue their alleged abusers.

Other organizations like the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services are also facing cases.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore was expected to see more than a thousand lawsuits, however, the organization filed for bankruptcy right before the law went into effect.

Victims and advocates for survivors say the limitations imposed by the bankruptcy proceedings completely defeat the purpose of the Child Victims Act.

“The church took away the child victim act, when they filed the bankruptcy, we worked for decades to get that law passed,” said Theresa Lancaster, an abuse survivor and lawyer. “The victims will have a limited time to file a proof of claim and bankruptcy court.”

The bankruptcy court is now in the process of deciding how long victims will have to come forward and file claims against the Church for compensation.

Scott Maucione – Scott is the Health Reporter for WYPR. @smaucionewypr