Bishop Accountability
  Archdiocese Joins Davenport in Challenging SB 1779

“The Tidings” web site
July 2, 2004

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has decided to join the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, in a San Diego federal court lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the California law which opened the door for hundreds of lawsuits from people who said they were sexually abused by clergy members.

The decision, announced this week, stems from a parishioner's claim that he was abused by an Iowa priest during a trip to California more than 30 years ago. California Senate Bill 1779, which passed in July 2002, opened a one-year window for victims to file sexual abuse lawsuits that would have otherwise passed the state's statute of limitations. The Davenport counterclaim seeks to declare the law "unconstitutional and void."

Following is a statement from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, issued this week:

Diocese of Davenport Diversity Case

As has been reported, the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, has removed a lawsuit filed against it involving the sexual abuse of a minor to the U.S. District Court in San Diego from California State Court. The lawsuit is one of hundreds filed against the Catholic Church resulting from the passage of a California law (Senate Bill 1779) that lifted the statute of limitations for filing of previously time-barred claims of sexual abuse.

The Diocese of Davenport has taken this action because the parties involved in the lawsuit are from different States, and the U.S. Constitution gives citizens from different (or "diverse") States the right to have their case heard in a Federal Court. A diversity removal is a routine legal proceeding.

The Diocese of Davenport has included in its defenses a challenge to the constitutionality of the California law that eliminated the statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases filed during the 2003 calendar year. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has also questioned the fairness and constitutionality of the act and believes that the challenge by Davenport is well taken. In order to insure that the constitutional arguments are fully presented in the Federal Court, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles plans to file a motion to intervene in the Davenport case.

The Archdiocese's support for the legal action by the Davenport Diocese does not diminish the main goals of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles:

---To make certain the Church is safe for everyone, especially for children and youth;

---To reach out to victims of clergy sexual abuse, and their families, with spiritual and pastoral care and counseling;

---To reach compensation settlements with victims of clergy sexual abuse in proportion to the injury which they have sustained;

---To continue forward with mediation and settlement efforts in the California Superior Courts until all cases are resolved.

SB 1779 was drafted by personal injury attorneys who stood to reap enormous financial benefit from its enactment. SB 1779 unfairly targeted the Catholic Church, making it subject to hundreds of decades-old abuse claims, some dating back as far as the 1930s. By allowing decades-old claims for which witnesses and evidence no longer exist, it effectively presumed the guilt of the Catholic Church, usurping the role of the judiciary in violation of several provisions of the United States Constitution.

In the Davenport case, "John Doe v. Diocese of Davenport, et al," the person bringing the lawsuit currently lives in Colorado. He alleges that more than 30 years ago the priest involved, Father James Janssen, abused him when he lived in Iowa, and, on at least one other occasion, during a trip to California. Father Janssen was incardinated in the Diocese of Davenport in 1948. He has been suspended from functioning as a priest, and the Diocese has petitioned the Vatican to laicize him.


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