Statute Change Cost Catholic Church Significantly

By Don Cannon
KDKA [Pennsylvania]
December 5, 2005

(KDKA) PITTSBURGH The Roman Catholic church in the United States has paid out more than $200 million to settle lawsuits for abuse by priests.

The figure could skyrocket if Pennsylvania and other states change the statute of limitations for filing those lawsuits.

Some lawmakers in harrisburg are considering a one-year window in which victims could file a lawsuit regardless of when the abuse occurred.

"It was embarrassment, ridicule, your own self-guilt," said Paul Dorsch, an alleged sex abouse victim.

"He would wake up from nightmares and couldn't sleep," said Lisa Dorsch, Paul's ex-wife. "He would break out in sweats."

Many victims opted for silence until several years ago when Dorsch, supported by his former classmates at Quigley Catholic High School, spoke out about allegedly being sexually abused by former Quigley headmaster, Jack Hoehl.

"He knew that marijuana was being smoked; he knew there was drinking going on," said Dennis McKeown, a former Quigley student. "But it was allowed because it allowed him to get to where he need to be, where he wanted to be."

Nearly five years after being reported, Dorsch's suit against the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese was dismissed by the State Supreme Court.

A proposal before the state legislature would drop the statute of limitations for priest sexual abuse lawsuits for one year. A similar law in california resulted in 800 new lawsuits against the church.

So far, the Diocese of Tucson Arizona, Portland Oregon and Spokane, Washington were forced to file bankruptcy because of priest sexual abuse suits.

The Boston Archdiocese settled with abuse victims for $85 million and Orange County, California paid $100 million to abuse victims.

Church officials in Pennsylvania say a one-year moratorium on the statute of limitations would bankrupt the church in the entire state.

"I don't believe that's true," said Alan Perer, the plaintiff's attorney. "For example, the diocese in Altoona, Blair county, waived the statute, settled all their cases and they're a much small diocese than the Pittsburgh diocese."

A spokesman for the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese says it can't comment on the matter yet because it's a state-wide issue and is being handled by the Diocese in Harrisburg.


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