Sister Maureen Teaches Us About Windows Legislation

I received via email, on 8.12.2008, the following Letter to the Editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer by Sister Maureen Paul Turlish.

The letter addresses the Inquirer’s recent editorial, carried on this blog,  favoring a Pennsylvania window law that would allow sex abuse victims access to the civil justice system to seek redress of sex crimes committed against them when they were children.

The letter identifies a main reason why Catholic bishops, through their well-funded legislative lobbying arms, are so adamantly opposed to window laws: files and records of possible predators will have to be produced in discovery (a formal investigation — governed by court rules — that is conducted before trial). In other words, the identities of perpetrator priests and those credibly accused, who are, in many cases, shielded and protected by their bishops and religious superiors and who are a clear and present danger to today’s children, will be brought to light in litigation.

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One reason Church officials are still staunchly opposed to Harrisburg lawmakers removing statutes of limitation regarding the sexual abuse of children is because in such civil litigation files and records of possible predators will have to be produced in discovery.

From Boston, Massachusetts to Los Angeles, California hundreds of thousands of dollars, probably millions, has been spend since 2002 in attempts to avoid this and it is unlikely that the case is any different in Pennsylvania where the institutional church has been relentless in its pposition to the type of legislation that was passed in Delaware with the Child Victims Law, especially its accompanying two year civil window.

The accused Rev. Dennis Killion is an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales based in Childs, Maryland. He is not a diocesan priest belonging to either the Philadelphia Archdiocese or the Diocese of Wilmington and it seems unlikely that a connection can be made between any archdiocesan enablers in Philadelphia and Killion. Any possible connection with the Diocese of Wilmington may or may not be so clear-cut.

Like “Witness to the Sorrow,” the carefully orchestrated event of September 15, 2006, the victims and one parent who spoke were all speaking of sexual abuse committed by priests belonging to religious communities like the Oblates and not priests belonging to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Removing statutes of limitation is the single, most effective way of holding all sexual predators and any possible enablers accountable for their despicable acts.[emphasis added]

No institution, be it the Church of the Latter Day Saints, the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, an Enron or a Goldman Sachs can or should be allowed to police itself without being accountable to the larger society.

Religious institutions should be in the forefront, leading the parade instead of being among the most vicious opponents of new child abuse legislation aimed at protecting all children.

Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
Victims’ Advocate

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