Catholic church calls for time limits in Pennsylvania sexual abuse cases

[JURIST] Roman Catholic Church officials have announced their opposition to a proposal that would let sexual abuse victims file lawsuits decades after the alleged abuse occurred. Pennsylvania has a strict statute of limitations [JURIST report; text] which has prevented most clergy sexual abuse cases [JURIST news archive] from coming to court, but some lawmakers are following the recommendation of the Philadelphia District Attorney's office in a September report [JURIST report] and are calling for a one-year window in which victims can file lawsuits, regardless of when the abuse occurred. Church officials complain that it would be a financial burden as well as unfair to revive allegations from decades ago, especially in light of the fact that some of the priests identified in the DA's report are deceased. Some politicians are seeking a compromise that would leave the statute of limitations untouched but pressure state dioceses to put millions of dollars into a victim-compensation fund. Other dioceses have suffered financially after lawsuits related to sexual abuse within the Church, with dioceses in Portland and Washington having both filed for bankruptcy protection. The Boston Archdiocese settled [JURIST report] with 552 victims for $85 million in 2003 while in California, the Orange County Diocese agreed to pay $100 million to 87 plaintiffs. Pennsylvania's idea for dropping the statute of limitations for a year to allow old abuse allegations was modeled after California's one-year window, which commenced in 2003. Some 800 lawsuits involving the church were filed [JURIST report] in California during that time. The US government has argued that the Pope should be immune from clergy abuse suits [JURIST report] and in October, a Kentucky court ruled that the Vatican has immunity [JURIST report] in a civil lawsuit. AP has more.

 

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