Bishop to Call for Sex-Abuse Legislation

By April M. Washington and Jean Torkelson
Rocky Mountain News [Denver CO]
April 20, 2006

Thomas Gumbleton, the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit, is scheduled to be in Denver today to urge support for sex-abuse legislation pending in Colorado.

Earlier this year, Gumbleton became the first U.S. Catholic bishop to admit he was sexually abused by a priest 60 years ago, and said he favored tough laws even if they opened the floodgates for lawsuits to be filed against the Catholic Church.

He is a longtime church critic and activist for such causes as gay rights, and is founder of the peace organization, Pax Christi USA.

His visit was arranged through the office of Sen. Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Coal Creek Canyon. She and Rep. Gwyn Green, D-Golden, each authored controversial bills that would remove the statute of limitations so that adult victims of childhood sexual abuse could bring civil lawsuits against their predators, even if the incidents occurred many years ago.

Unexpected opposition from the Colorado Catholic Conference and the Archdiocese of Denver led Fitz-Gerald to lay over her own bill to concentrate on Green's remaining House Bill 1090.

"I'd like for a man of faith to tell his story so state lawmakers don't believe the position that the Denver Archdiocese has taken against the bill is the only Catholic position in the country," Fitz-Gerald said. "I'd like to point out that some Catholic leaders think it's a necessary thing to do.

"Bishop Gumbleton strongly believes the state needs to lift the window to get the names of perpetrators in the public forum so the abuse doesn't continue and to get some sense of justice for victims."

She said Gumbleton also maintains that openness is "the only way the Catholic Church can get beyond the scandal."

Fitz-Gerald said she hopes Gumbleton's visit and stance will persuade lawmakers to reject the idea that reopening older cases amounts to punishing the Catholic Church today for things that happened years ago.

"It will help individual Senate members who are concerned about voting against a religion, when what they would be voting for is the protection of children."


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