Catholics Have Mixed Reactions on Sex Abuse Bill

By Laura Rivera
March 16, 2009,0,7567750.story

In three prominent parishes of the Diocese of Rockville Centre yesterday, a child sex-abuse victims bill pending in Albany drew mixed reactions from Catholics attending Sunday Mass.

At St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre, the seat of the diocese, Sal Abiuso of Rosedale said he welcomes the passage of the bill because he believes it would help those who were victimized as children.

"It's going to stay in their mind as long as they live," said Abiuso, who served as an usher at a morning Mass. "They should be allowed to go to court."

The bill, sponsored by Assemb. Margaret M. Markey (D-Maspeth), would extend the statute of limitations on future cases from five years to 10 years after the accuser turns 18.

It would also suspend the statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases for one year, allowing past victims to file civil lawsuits against alleged attackers and institutions where they worked.

Markey has sponsored the bill in three prior legislative sessions, where it has passed in the Democratic-led Assembly and stalled in the then-Republican-controlled Senate. Some supporters say it now has a good chance of passing because Democrats have gained a majority in the Senate.

Diocese of Rockville Centre spokesman Sean Dolan said the suspension of the statute of limitations was "fundamentally unfair" because "it's impossible to defend against claims that took place 50, 60, 70 years ago."

The bill may be voted out of committee in the Assembly as early as Tuesday.

"I just want the bill to come out so that people have an opportunity ... to present their case in a court of law," said Tim Echausse, Long Island director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. "The secrets have to come out."

He was among more than a dozen SNAP and Voice of the Faithful members distributing fliers to parishioners outside St. Kilian parish in Farmingdale yesterday. The fliers called on the diocese to disclose the names of all clergy who have been transferred or retired due to "credible allegations" of abuse.

"I'd like to see it put to bed, in a sense," said Angel Curcio of Farmingdale, a parishioner at St. Kilian. "But I don't want to see any suits. This can be done in another manner."

Curcio said the Vatican should adjudicate child sex abuse claims where the statute of limitations have expired, instead of making these clergy subject to lawsuits.

Richard Graziano of Brightwaters, who attended parochial school, voiced ambivalence about the need to confront wrongdoing and the possible effects of costly litigation on church-funded charities.

"We can't hide from it," he said. "People have been badly hurt, but the consequences are severe. Charities are already short [on funding]."


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