Pat Howard: Senate Again Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
October 21, 2018

The head honcho of the Pennsylvania Senate cast it as a matter of constitutional principle.

Until it wasn’t.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati had maintained that giving victims of predator Catholic priests a path to some semblance of justice — via a two-year window to sue in civil court outside the statute of limitations — doesn’t pass muster with the Pennsylvania constitution. That was the rationale in 2016 when he oversaw the death of that measure in the Senate, though it had passed overwhelmingly in the house.

It wasn’t the lobbying by the Catholic Church and the insurance industry. It was the constitution. And absent some revolt in the ranks, Scarnati’s judgment rules because he controls the flow of legislation to the Senate floor.

Scarnati’s holding action got tougher in August with the release of the grand jury report that documented the abuse of more than 1,000 children by 301 predator priests over decades and how it was systematically enabled and covered up by the church hierarchy. Now the push to give victims a long-denied day in open court became a moral imperative given voice by the grand jurors.

In addition to the horror stories it exposed, the grand jury delivered four recommendations for reform. They included a two-year window for abuse survivors to sue retroactively in civil court.

The House in September again passed the provision, this time by a 173-21 vote. All of the members of the Erie-area House delegation supported it.








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