Representative Steve Austria Went to Bat for Pedophile Protecting Church Officials

By Bridgette P. LaVictoire
Lez Get Real
September 30, 2010

Ohio Representative Steve Austria is a devout Roman Catholic who supports the right of the Government and the Church to tell women what they can and cannot do with their bodies, and opposes any and all attempts to broaden the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transpeople. As a member of the House of Representatives, he has voted against the Matthew Shepard Act as well as against the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. However, it was his vote to protect Catholic Bishops from lawsuits when he was an Ohio State Senator that is now coming back up in the wake of the breaking story of Wisconsin Senatorial candidate Ron Johnson.

The bill itself might seem like it was done to protect victims of child abuse, but the way that the bill was written means that it would be very easy for the Church and its bishops to avoid liability.

To begin with, the law states that it is a misdemeanor for someone to fail to report child abuse and does not specify how long a person has between disclosure of the child abuse, suspected or actual, and the need to disclose the abuse to the authorities. It would be easy for a bishop to claim that they had no knowledge or make some other excuse for why they did not report the abuse.

The bill also sets a twelve year statute of limitations from the time that the victim becomes an adult, which is eighteen, until they can no longer sue or file charges. That clock also goes into effect if a public children services agency, or a municipal or county police officer has been notified of the abuse. This statute of limitations was originally suppose to be twenty years, but Steve Austin got it dropped to twelve. This means that abuse victims have until they are thirty at the most before their time runs out. The majority of child sexual abuse cases that do not come to light fairly quickly usually come to light well after the person turns thirty.

What this means is that a child who is, say, raped at the age of eleven but unable to recall any of the details until they are, say, thirty-two is out of luck. They cannot get any restitution or justice. Last night on Countdown, Keith Olbermann discussed the case of Father John Feeney with one of his victims, Todd Merryfield. In the interview, Merryfield discussed how so many of the victims of Feeney have been unable to get justice for themselves because of the efforts of Ron Johnson, who is running against Senator Russ Feingold, to kill a bill that would have extended the statute of limitations for victims of clerical sexual abuse, even though that bill was not that much different from this one that Austria helped to craft and pass.

Had such a law been in place in Massachusetts when the allegations of molesting priest first surfaced there, there would not have been a dime paid out to any of the victims, due to the 12 year statute of limitations and, all that could have happen would have been that Cardinal Law…. who is presently hiding out in the Vatican anyway… would be the only church official libel for anything and that liability would have only been a misdemeanor charge.

The same law Ron Johnson is pushing in Wisconsin, passed the Ohio Legislature in 2006 with the help of Rep Steve Austria, and has, according to several victims we contacted in that state, since made it harder for many sexual abuse victims in Ohio to gain any justice later in life.

Rep. Austria has done a good job of helping to make sure that the Church was protected by helping to pass a law which allowed them to skirt past any liability for doing things like moving pedophile priests from parish to parish or other means by which they were allowed to hide from justice in order to protect the Catholic Church’s wealth and power.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.