“Every nonprofit organization is at risk,” says Robert J. O’Hara, Jr., executive director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, “Nothing in the proposed Pennsylvania legislation would send any perpetrators to jail. Rather, it will put individual parishes and neighborhood Catholic schools in the firing line for lawsuits that are nearly impossible to defend against.”
O’Hara acknowledged that the Church has learned hard lessons regarding child sexual abuse. In recent years, the prevalence of adult misconduct with children has been revealed in nearly every institution and organization that serves children. He added that the Church has responded accordingly with compassionate assistance, including financial support, for survivors and comprehensive education and training to identify and prevent abuse.
“No other institution has done more in recent years to help survivors of abuse and put in place policies to prevent abuse from happening in the first place,” O’Hara said. “And yet, there are some legislators who continue to aim devastating legislation, like this current proposal, directly at the Church.”
As proposed, this “window” legislation would open up a period of time for lawsuits against private and nonprofit organizations, no matter when the offense occurred. It would not apply to public schools or government agencies. Public entities would still be able to claim sovereign immunity from lawsuits, even though the vast majority of Pennsylvania students — 83 percent — attend public school. Survivors abused in public schools, juvenile detention facilities, or county foster care programs could not bring suits under the legislation.
June 2, 2016
by Archdiocese of Philadelphia
On Tuesday, April 12, 2016 the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted to allow civil lawsuits to be filed retroactively for cases against non-profits in which survivors of sexual abuse are now between 30 and 50 years old. This provision only applies to private or non-public organizations like the Catholic Church. It treats government institutions such as public schools and juvenile facilities in a different manner and it fails to treat all victims of child sexual abuse in an equitable fashion.
Please pray for Pennsylvania.