Lobbyists winning war on sexual predators

(Note: In PA, while the resistance from the PA Catholic Conference and Archbishop Chaput has been fierce, there has been a bill, HB 1947, that was passed overwhelmingly by the PA House of Representatives. Hopefully, the Senate will have the courage to pass the bill as it stands. Or better yet, amend it to provide victims older than 50 years old an opportunity to find some measure of justice.)

6/1/16

Ken Tingley, Editor, The Post-Star,  Glens Falls, N.Y

Three months ago an investigating grand jury in Pennsylvania released a 147-page report that revealed that hundreds of children had been sexually abused over four decades by at least 50 priests or religious leaders in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

Three months ago.

If you thought this was an old story, you were wrong. It is living, breathing and continuing.

Laurie Goodstein, the national religion correspondent for The New York Times, wrote last month, “Nearly every time I wrote about child sexual abuse, more people with more allegations come out of the woodwork. I get phone calls and emails urging me to dig deeper, telling me I have seen only the tip of the iceberg.”

In Pennsylvania, the grand jury report found that district attorneys and judges colluded with two former bishops to cover up allegations against priests. One judge secured a job at the county courthouse for a priest accused by multiple families of molesting young boys.

The scandal was shocking enough that it led the Pennsylvania House to pass potential reforms for the first time on the statute of limitations for filing criminal charges on child abusers’ cases while also extending the statute of limitations to age 50.

Yet down in Albany — without the benefit of a fresh scandal — the Republican-controlled state Senate has taken a hard-line position against a similar law that would eliminate the statute of limitations against sex abusers and allow a one-year civil review of past crimes.

Just last week, the Republicans blocked a Democrat from introducing the Child Victims Act.

Apparently, the politicians fear it would be the end of local Catholic dioceses as opportunists seek an easy payday.

But according to Goodstein, it is not money that is the motivating factor for victims.

“I have met survivors who would prefer never to speak of it,” Goodstein wrote. “But many more find salvation in telling their stories. This is not simply catharsis. They want to be assured that their abusers are known to the world and can never hurt another child. They want to know if their abusers had other victims. They want other victims to know that they were not alone and that it was not their fault. They want to put their trauma to some use. Only then can they rest.”

Yet, the Republican senators — including Sen. Elizabeth Little and Sen. Kathy Marchione — refuse to give New York victims that opportunity.

That is wrong.

On Tuesday, the New York Daily News published a front-page story that the Catholic Conference, led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, has spent more than $2.1 million since 2007 with some of the “most well-connected and influential lobbying firms” to help block a bill that would make it easier for child sex abuse victims to seek justice, including Mark Behan Communications of Glens Falls.

That feels wrong, too.

Goodstein wrote that she tries to respond to each new complaint she gets.

“There are too many,” she writes, “and the bar for doing more articles on this is now very high. We do them only when it tells us something new.”

Sadly, the horror of sexual abuse has become yesterday’s news, and our legislators have still not done right by the victims.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the insurance industry are expected to lobby hard against adopting the statute of limitations bill that was passed in the Pennsylvania House.

I suspect they will prevail, just as they did in Albany.

Ken Tingley is the editor of The Post-Star and may be reached via email at tingley@poststar.com. You can read his blog “The Front Page” daily at www.poststar.com or his updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/kentingley.

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