“DA’s Message to Senate: This is Only Way to Identify and Remove Sexual Predators, Many of Whom Are Still in Positions with Access to Children”
| 6/22/16 | MEDIA ADVISORY – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE |
A group of current and former Philadelphia district attorneys – many of whom investigated the decades-long sex abuse scandal that identified 63 sexual perpetrators within the Philadelphia Archdiocese — today called on the Pennsylvania Senate to pass HB 1947.
The group said that the bill offers the only means possible to remove known sexual predators, many of whom could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired. Two Grand Juries in Philadelphia – one convened in 2005, a second in 2011 – found that priests identified in the first Grand Jury Report as sexual predators were still in ministry with access to children years later.
H.B. 1947 would remove the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution for child sex abuse; extend the maximum age to file a civil suit to 50; and make it possible for more victims to bring lawsuits against any Pennsylvania diocese that has enabled and protected its predators.
“Absent legal proceedings which H.B. 1947 would permit, countless predators will remain hidden in Pennsylvania,” the group said. “This is the only way to identify and remove known predators from positions where they have access to children.”
The group of District Attorneys – led by Lynne Abraham, Mariana Sorensen, Hilary Connor, Kathleen McDonnell and others – released the following statement today:
“As current and former prosecutors, we support HB 1947, not only because it would finally allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to receive justice, but also because we know this reform is critical for removing known predators from positions where they continue to have access to unsuspecting children.
“In Philadelphia, 63 priests who had abused children were named in our 2005 Grand Jury Report. Of those, a few had voluntarily left ministry and gone on to other jobs, some teaching children. Some, who had confessed their crimes, were quietly let go with no warning to the public or future employers. A few had died. The rest were still in ministry, their crimes concealed, with access to parish children. The statute of limitations had run on all of their known crimes. So we were powerless to bring them to justice.
“Without a grand jury investigation, their crimes would never have been exposed, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia would not have been forced to remove them from ministry.
“Even more troubling, those 63 were only a fraction of the priests who had been accused of sexually assaulting children in the Philadelphia area since 1967. The District Attorney’s office did not name priests if the Archdiocese records did not name victims or provide sufficient information to assess an accused abuser’s guilt. The Archdiocese had files on 171 priests or deacons who had been accused of sexual abuse of children. The magnitude of the Philadelphia cover-up was not far behind that of Boston’s, where 250 abusers since 1940 were identified.
“It was our hope that Church officials, both in Philadelphia and elsewhere, would be shamed into removing all of the credibly accused priests that bishops knew remained in ministry. But we learned through a second grand jury investigation that they did not. More than two dozen accused priests remained in ministry in Philadelphia in 2011. And we learned, again, from a grand jury investigating the Diocese of Altoona, that known predators were allowed to remain in parishes and schools there until the Attorney General’s Office began its legal proceedings.
“We know from experience that, absent legal proceedings, countless abusers will remain hidden, many of them protected by the institutions they work for. Prosecutors are powerless to prosecute sexual predators whose crimes fall outside of the criminal statute of limitations, even if they are reported to law enforcement. And because sexually abused children typically don’t report their abuse until they are adults, it will be many years before active abusers are brought to justice.
“We, therefore, strongly support the retroactive application of an amended civil statute of limitations. Civil actions are the only way that many active sexual predators will be revealed and removed from positions where they can still prey on children.”
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CONTACT: Amanda Mueller