Leaders of Clergy Abuse Victims Group Take Appeal to Detroit
SNAP Co-Founders Ask Cardinal for Help on Lawsuits in Past Cases
By Patricia Montemurri
Detroit Free Press
February 20, 2006
The co-founders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) went to the Archdiocese of Detroit headquarters Monday afternoon to protest the Catholic Church's opposition to changing Michigan laws to give victims of priest sexual abuse more time to sue for damages.
David Clohessy of St. Louis, Mo., and Barbara Blaine of Chicago took their protest to the archdiocese's chancery office on Washington Blvd. in downtown Detroit.
In a letter the two slid under the chancery door, SNAP asked Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida to endorse or stay neutral on possible legislation that would give victims of sex crimes more time to bring lawsuits seeking monetary damages for long-ago abuse.
Currently, Michigan law contains a statute of limitations on bringing lawsuits seeking damages for past abuse. In most cases, the state law requires a victim to file a civil lawsuit within two to three years of the abuse. If the abuse happened when the person was a child, the victim has up until one year past an 18th birthday to file a lawsuit.
SNAP's cause was given heightened visibility in January, when now-retired Detroit Auxiliary BishopThomas Gumbleton broke with the Catholic hierarchy and urged officeholders to pass laws to give victims more time to sue. Gumbleton said he himself had been inappropriately touched by a priest when he was a teenager. Gumbleton lobbied Ohio legislators, who are considering such legislation, in January.
Archdiocese officials say the Catholic Church opposes altering the statute of limitations because the passage of time means some of the accused are dead or infirm and can't defend themselves. They say the church locally has reached out to victims, cooperated with law enforcement in removing predatory priests and trained thousands of employees and volunteers on identifying abuse and maintaining safe environments.
Legislation in Michigan to alter the statute of limitations has gone nowhere, although a new effort is underway in the legislature. Several lawsuits brought by victims have been shot down by the Michigan Court of Appeals, which ruled the lawsuits were filed too late.
Contact PATRICIA MONTEMURRI at 313-223-4538 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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