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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Secular Sex Abuse

Great article in the New York Times about legislation which *finally* targets not only the Catholic Church, but any institution which has hidden abuse.

Should it be possible to sue the city of New York for sexual abuse by public school teachers that happened decades ago? How about doctors or hospital attendants? Police officers? Welfare workers? Playground attendants?

For nearly a year, the city has tiptoed around that question, but in the coming months, there may be no ducking it. Legislation in Albany would force public officials to answer for the crimes of earlier generations, just as Catholic bishops have.
What began as an effort by legislators to expand judicial accountability for sexual abuse by Catholic clergy has grown to cover people in every walk of life. One bill would temporarily suspend the statute of limitations, and allow people who say they were abused as children to file lawsuits up to age 58 — that is, 40 years after they turned 18.

In states which have debated changing the statue of limitations, is the object really to help the victims, or persecute the Catholic Church? If you are really concerned about victims, wouldn't you want to help all of them, and not just those who had abuse related to the Catholic Church?

Suddenly, lobbyists and advocates for school boards, counties and small towns spoke out.
“Statutes of limitation exist for a reason,” said Bob Lowry, the deputy director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents. “How can anyone go back 40 years and ascertain what happened? Witnesses, responsible authorities, even the perpetrator himself or herself, may have passed away.”

Suddenly, indeed.  So you say that you were abused by Father O'Malley back 40 years ago.  Well, he's been dead for 10 years, and the parish housekeeper died even longer ago.  Maybe Bob who was also an altar boy could be a witness, but no one has heard from him in years.  When the Catholic Church says that lifting the statute of limitations poses problems as to how to get a fair trail for both victim AND accused, are they just making excuses, or is this a valid point?  We need to remember that in our legal system you are innocent until proven guilty, and are entitled to a fair trial.

Currently in the state of New York, if you are a child who is abused by a teacher, you have only NINETY DAYS to file a report.  How fair is that?  Surely, we can come to a number which is fair for both public and religious institutions.  

And the New York State School Boards Association said the costs of old misdeeds would be borne by people who had nothing to do with them, and “provide no corresponding protection” to children. The bill ultimately was not voted on last year. It is back again, and no doubt will get fresh life from the continuing stream of revelations about high church officials who covered up abuse. 
No one denies that the victims deserve compensation.  But closing down schools and parishes hurts everyone, as well as denying the poor opportunities for aid which they might have otherwise received.

New York is certainly not the first state to consider such a bill.  Colorado debated this several years ago. 

But many opponents of the bill testified that because sovereign immunity protects public institutions, the bill unfairly targets Catholic and other nonpublic entities. L. Martin Nussbaum, an attorney with Rothberger, Johnson and Lyons Religious Institution Group, said many people believe "that Catholic institutions have a more severe [sexual abuse] problem than others. They do not."
Testifying on behalf of CCPAC, Mr. Nussbaum cited several well-documented cases involving public school teachers, juvenile detention facilities, foster care providers and correctional facilities employees.
"This data shows that there is a substantial, current problem of childhood sexual abuse in Connecticut governmental settings," he said. "It is a much larger, and much more current problem than the problem Catholic institutions largely resolved by 1992. The Catholic Conference can see no reason why the law of Connecticut should discriminate between childhood sexual abuse claimants based upon whether they were injured in a governmental setting or a Catholic setting," he said.



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18 comments:

Barbara C. said...

My pastor gave an interesting homily at the Vigil Mass tonight about how we should see these persecutions as a blessing...as just some of the hardships necessary to enter the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22)

He noted how amazing it was that We as a Church have been singled out in the media when so many other denominations and institutions with problems with abuse equal to or worse than ours have not. He talked about how the Church had grown after facing hardships and persecutions in the past and how this was just another opportunity for us to grow.

It was just an unexpected idea to think of these lies, misrepresentations, and such as a blessing instead of a curse and annoyance. Just thought I would pass it on.

And another spot on post, Kelly.

Elena said...

The silence is striking.


No opinion on this Madgebaby?

Jennie said...

I think two reasons that people are so critical of the Catholic Church for the scandals are:
1. The church is expected to live up to a higher standared than the rest of the world.
2. The Catholic church is looked at as a monolithic organization, not as a bunch of separate churches, and so when scandals come to light it is all blamed on the whole Catholic church and it's leadership. This is in contrast to other denominations, which are looked as as separate organizations; for instance, if a Baptist minister molests children and is caught, and then a year later a presbyterian minister does the same, it doesn't have the same effect, because they are not seen as related. There are probably just as many cases in all denominations, but they are not seen as one organization, for good or ill.

Dr MikeyMike said...

I think those are definitely factors that play into things, Jennie.

madgebaby said...

All child sex abuse is terrible and not to be excused or tolerated.

School teachers don't do it while representing God.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article7075618.ece

Dr MikeyMike said...

http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2010/04/an-open-letter-to-hans-kung

Elena said...

they do it representing authority though.



Dr. Mike- Hans Kung- great article. I thought he was dead!!

madgebaby said...

I know--you all think he is a heretic. That is such a handy label. Too bad burning at the stake has fallen out of fashion.

Dr MikeyMike said...

There it is - that penchant for melodrama that I was missing!

madgebaby said...

The history of deeming those at odds with the Roman Catholic hierarchy heretics is quite well documented, and my use of the term is hardly hyperbolic in this context.

What is really melodramatic is that First Things article. Kung must be really scary to draw that sort of vitriol.

Elena said...

...sigh... okay we get it.

No matter what, the Catholic Church is evil, vile, immoral worthy of all the hate and disgust we can muster and it will Never EVER matter what happens in other institutions or organizations, because even if it happened just one time in the Catholic Church, regardless of when or where, that's enough to condemn it as the bastard of the Whore of Babylon.

I think that probably sums up Madgebaby's perspective pretty well.

Dr MikeyMike said...

The history of deeming those at odds with the Roman Catholic hierarchy heretics is quite well documented, and my use of the term is hardly hyperbolic in this context.

Yes, you are right. There are no histories of the Anglican church persecuting Puritans, Methodists, Catholics, and other 'Dissenters'. Oh wait, I guess they didn't *ever* use the term 'heretic', so it doesn't count.

I think that probably sums up Madgebaby's perspective pretty well.

Well put, Elena.

madgebaby said...

All human organizations are prone to vilifying those who don't support the powerful elite. The more the layfolk protect the leadership from accountability and support the suppression of dissent, the more damage some corrupt members of the leadership can do.

I'm hardly alone in thinking that the level to which the Roman Catholic church has taken this historically is of a different caliber than many such organizations, but it does happen pretty much everywhere.

Dr MikeyMike said...

I'm hardly alone in thinking that the level to which the Roman Catholic church has taken this historically is of a different caliber than many such organizations

You are hardly alone, but you are hardly correct, either. The sad thing is that you refuse to be educated otherwise, finding solace in an 'evil, horrible' Catholic church rather than discovering otherwise.

Elena said...

I'm hardly alone


ah! a point of agreement.

The more the layfolk protect the leadership from accountability and support the suppression of dissent,

Please add to my previous rant...


No matter what, the Catholic Church is evil, vile, immoral worthy of all the hate and disgust we can muster and it will Never EVER matter what happens in other institutions or organizations, because even if it happened just one time in the Catholic Church, regardless of when or where, that's enough to condemn it as the bastard of the Whore of Babylon.

The regular church goers should be calling for the prosecution, persecution and execution of everyone from the pope on down. Then we could elevate the Godly men and women like Hans Kun who were unjustly labeled as heretics and dissidents so that we can be finally lead "out of her" and into the light of the Reformation!

can I get an Amen?

Dr MikeyMike said...

Preach it, Sister Reverend!

madgebaby said...

so, let me see if I can follow this logic:

criticism of the Roman Catholic church from the inside is heresy.

criticism from the outside is evidence of hatred of the Roman Catholic Church and all that entails.

Anyone who dares suggest a point of view that differs from Pope Benedict is Candy-esque in their one-sided and bitter vilification of all things Roman Catholic.

BTW it does crack me up that y'all think I'm melodramatic. Re read the comments you wrote today ;)

Among healthy, intellectually engaged adults, difference of opinion is a sign of strength. I think you may be reading Candy too much; her sort of black and white thinking is rubbing off and the persecution complex is growing.

Elena said...

Among healthy, intellectually engaged adults, difference of opinion is a sign of strength.

You might wish to print that out and tape it to your bathroom mirror.

I would just suggest a listen to my pastor's homily, which I linked to in another post. Other than that, we're done.