Giving Voice to Victims of Priest Sex Abuse

The Star-Ledger
June 15, 2012

State Sen. Joseph Vitale is the sponsor of a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sex abuse to bring civil lawsuits against their attackers.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee advanced a bill on Thursday that would remove the statute of limitations for victims of long-ago child sex abuse to sue their attackers and the institutions that allowed it.

It’s a measure that is actively opposed by the Catholic church – which testified against the bill.

Pat Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s bishops, warned of the lawsuits that would be triggered: “It would be a windfall for lawyers … and will not help a single child.”

Convenient stance for the church, which has spent some $2.5 billion on legal fees, settlements and prevention programs since the scandal began to erupt a decade ago, according to a New York Times report this week. The same article revealed the church is fighting similar legislation around the U.S.

In New Jersey, lawmakers have dropped another piece of legislation that has the backing of the church and its bishops. Why? That bill eliminated the statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases, but only those in the future. Past victims? They would be out of luck – and the church and its leadership would be off the hook for costly legal fees and settlements.

What’s the right call? Should victims of past sex abuse have an unlimited amount of time to file legal action? Should the church and other institutions be granted a time limit that lets them move past old crimes?








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