A scathing grand jury report documenting child sex abuse by more than 300 Roman Catholic priests impacting more than 1,000 children has reignited calls for changing Pennsylvania law to give victims more time to seek justice.
Only two priests identified in the grand jury report have been criminally charged due to the investigation.
The vast majority of the victims affected by the crimes documented in the 800-plus page report stand to get no further sense of justice aside from having their abusers revealed to the public.
In most cases, the predator priests and the church leaders who covered up for them won’t face criminal prosecution or civil lawsuits because the state’s statute of limitations has expired.
Church leaders continue to balk at efforts to get state law changed to make it easier for victims of old child sex crimes to seek justice though.
The grand jury recommended eliminating the statute of limitations entirely and called for the creation of a window of time to allow victims of old child sex crimes to sue even if the statute of limitations in their cases has already expired.
These type of civil lawsuit windows have been put in place in six states – California, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Minnesota, and Michigan, according to an analysis by Child USA. Unlike the other states which offered relief to any victims of childhood sex abuse, the Michigan window was limited to a 90-day period for victims of disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar.
Michael Dolce, a Florida attorney who led efforts to reform that state’s statute of limitations law in 2010 said the problem sounds familiar.
Dolce said the Florida changes came after a grassroots campaign by abuse survivors. Their campaign spurred sufficient media coverage to generate the pressure to get lawmakers to act, despite insurance industry lobbying and opposition from the Catholic Church, he said.
“We won because we were right,” Dolce said.
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