Church Battles Efforts to Ease Sex Abuse Suits

I have to admit it does sound pretty bad hearing that the Catholic Church thinks that a Statute of Limitation would make sense.
Although it is true that memories can become fuzzie it doesn’t mean that real cases should be forgotten when victims had to go through a lotin their lives.
Could in the same way a Mortal sin have a statute of limitation before God?

P.S.: Can some moderator change this to Catholic News? Thank you!

How do you defend against a charge when many of the people are dead? And if it were such a good idea why not open this up for ALL sexual abuse cases? The total sex abuse charges against the Catholic Church are dwarfed by the massive annual number of sexual abuse cases in public schools. For some reason legislators don’t want to deal with that problem.

The case isn’t about the victims being dead… the case is about time affecting memories and proofs.
I never said that te statute of limitation didn’t make sense. It makes sense in case of robery or other minor cases but it doesn’t make sense for sexual assault, or rape, or child molestation. And I didn’t mean it only for the church… I meant it for all cases.
The Court also wasn’t thinking about making it for old cases. If it makes it so it will only happen for molestations that might occur after the decision is made (From now on).

From your source:

In New York, the Catholic bishops said they would support a modest increase in the age of victims in criminal or civil cases, to 28. But their lobbying, along with that of ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders, has so far halted proposals that would allow a one-year window for civil suits for abuses from the past. The bishops say *the provision unfairly targets the church because public schools, the site of much abuse, and municipalities have fought successfully ***to be exempted.

Why let the biggest source of abusers off the hook?

from your link:

Joan Fitz-Gerald, former president of the Colorado Senate, who proposed the window legislation, was an active Catholic who said she was stunned to find in church one Sunday in 2006 that the archdiocese had asked priests to raise the issue during a Mass and distribute lobbying postcards.

You know, it might seem peripheral, but there are some very clear rules about being a tax-exempt church in the US and if this continues, some Dioceses could be very much in danger of losing their status as churches.

It think it would be cheaper and certainly more charitable to simply hire mediators and settle privately with victims in closed hearings before the courts. The job of the court is to protect the rights of the parties. The Church needs to render up to Cesar.

I’m hoping you are not mitigating the gravity of any offenses within the Church by rationalizing that secular institutions are not being held accountable!

Did I say I was?

Actually I was wondering why this “concern” was directed only at the relatively small number of victims of the Catholic Church while ignoring the massive number of victims of the state.

I don’t think you understand what separation of Church and State means.

Statutes of limitation exist for a reason. As mentioned before, memories fade, witnesses die or are unavailable, even the subject of a lawsuit my be dead, but a plaintiff can still seek money from diocese.

Indeed, where money is available, unfounded cases are often brought simply because they can be; and even though proof of wrongdoing may not exist, dioceses have often simply settled unfounded cases just to get them out of the way. That does no justice to the accused who may be innocent yet tossed under the bus as the least costly course.

I often make mistakes, that’s why I was requesting clarification!

I should have known better. I couldn’t imagine anyone actually implying that “If they got away with it, we should be able to get away with it too!”

Anyone even remotely contending such a thing is clearly not living the gospel, and my even thinking that of you warrants an apology!

Interesting story - and I hope it’s read from the right aspect, rather than simply being another “Evil Catholics Trying to Hide Things” or some ilk:

No matter how heinous the crime, there has to be a statute of limitations out of respect for the capability and rules of evidence. No court would entertain charges brought against a deceased respondent (the person accused of something), though in clerical abuse cases the charges have been brought against overseers personally or the diocese for hiding evidence or allowing the abuse to happen. Likewise, a number of cases are dismissed by grand jury for precisely the reason that reliable evidence cannot be obtained so that the trial is not likely to be fair to either party.

There’s also the matter of being able to mount a reasonable defense. If the plaintiff is the only one with evidence, a verdict is likely to result in a mistrial.

No, though that’s a thoughtful way to frame it. God has perfect knowledge of our sins (and if they are sins rather than grave but unintentional doings, we ought to have that knowledge as well), while jurisprudence requires evidence. It’s the loss of evidence - whether physical or eyewitness, that gives rise to statutes of limitations. Consider that where there is no statute of limitations on murder, a successful murder case normally needs a body (and the plea of habeas corpus - the defense objection that there isn’t sufficient evidence to warrant the charge - derives from this, literally meaning “do you have a body?”), so that if a body is found 50 years after the fact, there is evidence of the crime and with today’s
technology some forensic analysis may be possible.

What is difficult in sexual crimes is that the evidence usually goes away very quickly. While working as a journalist I was disheartened to learn that 90% of rape cases in our county never went to trial, partly because the Prosecutor was reluctant to take any charges that were filed more than 48 hours after the rape. The quality of evidence degraded rapidly after that point, making the Prosecutor’s task nigh impossible.

I’ve noticed that as well. Nor do the media pay nearly as much attention - the Greater LA Unified School District abuse scandal is a case in point, one which is ongoing and currently involves more than 600 teachers from more than 1,000 schools statewide, with the most recent court filing 5/31/12. But the media coverage on LAUSD is over TEACHER PERFORMANCE evaluations. Yet coverage of child abuse by Catholic priests dwarfs coverage of Catholic protests against the HHS mandate. If there is evidence of Satan at work in the press, you need look no further than the fact that not one major news agency covered the HHS protests in more than 140 cities nationwide.

Lord Jesus Christ, lead your angelic host into battle for we, your faithful purchased with Your Blood, are besieged!

This is not at all peripheral but very much central. On the one hand, I wouldn’t mind losing the tax-exempt status. It’d free the tongues of any priest and bishop who fears saying something too political or too offensive in the ears of the ACLU, and would be followed by a storm of derision against all that is evil in our country. Finally we’d see heretical leaders excommunicated publicly.

On the other hand, losing tax-exempt could open the floodgates to the seizure of Church property and records, and subject us to persecution and subjugation under the mantra of serving some legal end. Perhaps it is time again for martyrs.

I agree that mediators would make more sense but it takes two parties agreeing to go to the mediators - and if the respondent feels that hte plaintiff’s charges are unsubstantiated, then going to court is the better result, while a mediator will only agree to a settlement figure.

You’re quite wrong.

Provide evidence this has ever happened, please.

We are talking about legalities, not moral theory.

We are talking about crimes, not sins.

The former have to have some consistent framework to base them on. The latter involve being held accountable regardless of others.

What you are saying is true with regards to how we should view our own actions, but when outside entities get involved to dole out punishment via laws, this is of course extremely relevant. For the law to make sense, why are public schools exempt? Why would the Church endorse a provision that essentially targets only them?

So far you haven’t given any indication otherwise.

I’ve heard anecdotal evidence of fraudulent cases being brought seeking money, but I couldn’t give you a newspaper account of it - by their nature these cases are treated very privately by all parties, and when personal accounts surface it is almost without exception by the plaintiff or from court documents when a case has actually gone to trial.

Put it another way - it is nearly impossible to believe that no fraudulent cases have been brought. Corporations get sued all the time for small amounts, with the dishonest hoping to make a quick buck from a company that would rather settle for less than attorneys fees or avoid bad PR.

I can give two examples from my own experience - a casino I had worked at (in HR) had a policy of settling out of court any claim under $2,000, with the provision that the plaintiff agree to remain at all times 1000 feet from the casino property. I also had worked at a captive finance company, serving automotive dealers. Suits were frequently brought for everything from drunk driving to not wearing seatbelts to allegations of mechanical defects (sometimes reasonable, sometimes bizarre). One lawsuit was filed by the mother of a 19-year-old who was in permanent vegetative state after being ejected from his car, which was going 105 mph when it flipped. He was drunk and hadn’t worn his seatbelt. The lawsuit contended that he hadn’t been adequately warned to:

  1. Drive under the speed limit
  2. Wear a seatbelt
  3. Not drink and drive

by the defendants, including:

  • The manufacturer
  • The dealer
  • The company that financed his car (his credit union)
  • The company that financed the dealer’s floorplan (my company)
  • The city in which he lived
  • His high school driver’s ed program

It is a ridiculous case, but a real one, and these things do happen. Dishonest people chase money wherever money may be.

Before I start reporting your rude and argumentative posts to me that have no substance whatsoever, I will give you a chance to post something reasonable. This is the post you responded to:

Originally Posted by Julia Mae
It think it would be cheaper and certainly more charitable to simply hire mediators and settle privately with victims in closed hearings before the courts. The job of the court is to protect the rights of the parties. The Church needs to render up to Cesar.

So, if you think this post indicates some issue with separation of Church and State then say clearly what it is. Otherwise you are just being rude to be rude.

I have had accused priest clients take polygraph examinations performed by very experienced former law enforcement experts, including from L.A.P.D., the Sheriff Department, and F.B.I. In many cases the examinations showed my clients’ denial of wrongdoing was ‘truthful,’ and in those cases I offered in writing to the accuser to undergo a similar polygraph examination at my expense. In every case the accuser refused to have his veracity tested by that investigative tool, which is routinely used by intelligence agencies."

“I am aware of several plaintiffs who testified that they realized that they had been abused only after learning that some other person - sometimes a relative - had received a financial settlement from the Archdiocese or another Catholic institution.”

“In my investigation of many cases, I have seen the stories of some accusers change significantly over time, sometimes altering years, locations, and what activity was alleged - in every case, the changes seemed to have enabled or enhanced claims against my clients, or drastically increased alleged damages.”

“I am aware that false memories can also be planted or created by various psychological processes, including by therapists who might be characterized as ‘sexual victim advocates,’ if not outright charlatans.”

“Most of the approximately seven hundred psychiatric ‘Certificates of Merit’ filed in these Clergy Cases, as required by [California] Code of Civil Procedure § 340.1, were signed by the same therapist.” (!) (Note: A “Certificate of Merit” from “a licensed mental health practitioner” is required in California before filing an abuse lawsuit.)

Steier signed and submitted the declaration “under penalty of perjury” November 30, 2010. Los Angeles County Superior Court officially filed it at 11 a.m. on December 15, 2010. (Images of Steier’s declaration: pages 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10.)

Steier also took aim at the outspoken advocacy group SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests):

They maintain an interactive Internet website with a user ‘Forum’ and ‘Message Board,’ among other features, where people can share detailed information between alleged victims pertaining to identity of specific alleged perpetrators, their alleged ‘modus operandi,’ and other details of alleged molestation. In effect, a person who wanted to make a false claim of sexual abuse by a priest could go to that website and find a ‘blueprint’ of factual allegations to make that would coincide with allegations made by other people. Law enforcement also uses the S.N.A.P. website to attempt to locate new victims and allegations against Catholic priests.

Read more:

and this:

That fact was almost totally unappreciated when Steinfels wrote it in 2002, and it is rarely appreciated even today. What it means, however, is that as contemporary instances of abuse have been drying up, plaintiffs’ attorneys have had to find ways to proceed with decades-old claims, including by persuading courts to approve theories like repression of memory or going to legislatures to retroactively suspend their statutes of limitations.

The older the case, the more difficult it is to verify or disprove — which is why we have statutes of limitations in the first place. “Higgins was born in 1890 and died in 1967,” the lead attorney involved in the case told me. “And so I find myself defending a case where both the alleged wrongful conduct and the priest’s death occurred before I was even born.”

Yet cases of such vintage are by no means unusual. Nearly a third of abuse complaints made nationally last year involved incidents at least 40 years old.

The cost and risk of defending cases in a hostile public environment can sometimes propel the church into settlement offers to accusers with seemingly little credibility. Denver offered a settlement to a woman who accused another deceased monsignor of sexual abuse in the 1970s even though her life history — including long-standing mental illness, serious drug problems and a childhood marred by parental neglect or worse — was not one to give confidence in her reliability.

Incredibly, she rejected the offer and chose to pursue a lawsuit. When church lawyers then identified numerous falsehoods or inconsistencies in her claims of repressed memory, she turned around and sued her original attorney.

Read more: Our selective curiosity on sex scandals - The Denver Post
Read The Denver Post’s Terms of Use of its content:

We know of a famous one.

But what you said was an accusation against the Church that **they had paid false claims off. ** You stated it as fact. Now, if you were just saying you thought maybe that could possibly have happened, then please clarify. But the Church is no Casino or other enterprise and doesn’t pay off false claims that I know of.

These articles do not show evidence of false claims. This statement: “Denver offered a settlement to a woman who accused another deceased monsignor of sexual abuse in the 1970s even though her life history — including long-standing mental illness, serious drug problems and a childhood marred by parental neglect or worse — was not one to give confidence in her reliability.” is especially preposterous. What effect do you think that sexual abuse has? If a murderer kills someone, will you say - this person is dead so they are not fit to give confidence in their reliability. Nor, when a person who is sexually abused suffers from psychological problems, those problems should be fairly suspected to result from the abuse!

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