Media Statement from the Archdiocese of Hartford Regarding Jacob Doe V. the Hartford Roman Catholic Diocesan Corporaton

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford
June 26, 2015

The Archdiocese of Hartford remains firmly committed to both the spirit and letter of the U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People that was adopted and implemented in 2002 and to all of the policies, practices and educational programs arising out of the Charter that are designed to prevent childhood sexual abuse from occurring. In Pope Francis’ recent letter to bishops around the world, he urged them to reach out to victims of childhood sexual abuse by clergy and establish programs to assist victims who are in need of psychological and/or spiritual care as a result of such abuse. The Archdiocese of Hartford has had such a program in place since 2002 and has been reaching out to victims since then, including victims whose accused perpetrators are deceased. Sexual abuse of a minor is reprehensible conduct that cannot and will not be tolerated or condoned. The safety of our children and young people is the Archdiocese’s top priority.

The Jacob Doe case was not brought against the priest who was described as having committed the molestation. That priest died many years ago. Under our current policy and practice, any priest who has been credibly accused of sexual abuse involving a minor is removed from ministry. As Pope Francis has said, there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse minors.

The appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court involves a civil case against the Archdiocese of Hartford alone, and has to do with legal issues and matters of justice connected with such suits. The court’s decision addresses specific issues of law that apply generally in civil actions where one party sues another. It involves issues and questions of law and due process that do not apply to the Archdiocese of Hartford alone.

One of the legal issues on appeal concerned whether a statute of limitations, which is the legal time period within which a lawsuit can be brought, can be extended in such a way as to apply to claims that had already expired before the extension became effective. Although many states have rejected retroactive application of such statutes, the Connecticut Supreme Court chose to uphold the retroactive application. As a result, a legal claim that had expired under law many years ago was revived well after almost all of the people who may have known about the events in question had died and well after the treatment facility involved had destroyed pertinent records under its file retention program.

Another issue on appeal was whether justice requires that a jury be informed about how the particular subject matter of a lawsuit was understood at the time of the events in question where the subject matter involved issues, i.e. pedophilia and how to deal with someone having that diagnosis, with which the ordinary juror would not be familiar and where that understanding has changed since the time of the events in question. The court ruled that such historical context was not necessary or proper in this case.

The court’s decision will make it extremely difficult for a person or entity to defend itself against very old claims after people familiar with the claims are dead and pertinent records have been destroyed under a facility’s file retention program. A non-negligent defendant in that situation is at a great disadvantage and is vulnerable to an adverse jury verdict.








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