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Philly Inquirer Editorial Favors Pennsylvania Window Law





An editorial from the Philadelphia Inquirer, 8.11.2008.

 

Brought to my attention by Kathy Green, my Tucson friend, Philadelphia Eagles fan, Philly native, and all around good person.

 

Thanks, Kathy.


I have added yellow highlighting to emphasize parts of the editorial.

 

* * *

 

Editorial: Clergy Sex-Abuse Cases

 

Showing the way

 

Cardinal Justin Rigali and other Roman Catholic officials last week unwittingly provided a textbook example of the need for Pennsylvania to enact a law giving child sex-abuse victims their day in court.

So why are church officials still so staunchly opposed to Harrisburg lawmakers taking this important step?

 

Cardinal Rigali did the right thing last Monday by blocking the transfer to Bucks County of a long-time Philadelphia-area priest who was accused in a lawsuit of abusing four boys at a Delaware high school.

 

The Rev. Dennis Killion was headed for St. Bede the Venerable Parish in Holland, but was placed on administrative leave and assigned to a Maryland retirement facility by his order, the Oblates of St. Frances de Sales.

 

That likely wouldn’t have happened but for the fact that Delaware – under a 2007 law – permits long-ago abuse victims to bring such civil claims. Because the old statutes on these crimes ran out years ago, Delaware officials joined California in opening a two-year window for such claims. The window closes next July.

 

Meanwhile, similar legislation sits bottled up in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. It’s opposed by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, with its influential and well-funded lobbying effort in the capital.

 

In the Pennsylvania House, judiciary committee chairman Thomas R. Caltagirone (D., Berks) not only has vowed to kill the measure, but also made the outrageous claim that victims’ sole aim is to pocket hefty monetary awards.

 

Whatever compensation might be appropriately due to victims of sex abuse, there’s a broad societal benefit to a Delaware-style initiative: That is, victims’ lawsuits are the best and perhaps only way to uncover sexual predators and the church leaders and other authorities who covered up for them.

In Killion’s case, it’s troubling but all-too-typical that church officials waited until the priest’s accusers went public to halt his parochial assignments. That only makes the case stronger for Delaware’s law.

With the release of correspondence backing their claim, the four men accusing Killion contend that the Oblates were aware of the claims a decade ago and failed to act. Over those years, the priest served at several Catholic high schools, including Father Judge High School for Boys in the Northeast.

 

Archdiocese officials insist they knew nothing of the allegations until last week. That’s all well and good. But it’s long past time for church officials and their supporters in Harrisburg to drop specious claims that the lawsuit window will lead to parish closings, much less bankrupt the archdiocese.

 

In its scathing 2005 report, a Philadelphia grand jury identified 63 Philadelphia-area priests who abused hundreds of children over decades. Even worse, it accused top church officials of shielding the abusers.

 

For all that the archdiocese has done by way of reaching out to victims since then, its continued opposition to opening a window for lawsuits perpetuates the perception that the coverup continues.

The fallout prompted by the Delaware law demonstrated the need for Catholic leaders in Pennsylvania to support a similar window here.

 




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