Catholic Church wants redemption, not restitution, for churches involved with child sex molestersby Dara Kam | April 21st, 2010
The Catholic Church is ramping up efforts to water down a measure backed by victims of childhood sexual abuse that would do away with the statute of limitations on sex crimes on children between the ages of 12 and 16.
The Florida Catholic Conference wants Senate President Jeff Atwater to help modify the bill now that it’s ready to hit the Senate floor despite the conference’s lobbying to limit the number of years a victim has to press charges against a molester.
The Catholic conference is okay with doing away with the current statute of limitations for individuals who commit the crimes but wants a time limit on criminal or civil charges against institutions like churches involved in the abuse.
The reason? Money.
“The open-ended nature of these proposals creates tremendous uncertainty for any organization’s potential liability for alleged acts of negligence,” Florida Catholic Conference executive director Mike McCarron wrote in a letterto Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, yesterday.
“We fully support the added protection for children that will come from these bills. It is also our hope that an amendment will be adopted to reasonably limit what we believe is inequitable institutional liability for private employers.”
The House is expected to pass its version of the bill (SB 870, HB 525) tomorrow.
The church has fought off efforts to do away with the time restrictions for the past six years. Lawmakers have seven working days left before the session ends to pass the bill this year.
McCarron said he’s tried to amend the bill to exclude institutions or to set a time limit of up to 30 years.
Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI promised today that the Roman Catholic Church would take official action on a growing scandal over sexual abuse by priests.
In an unusual move, Benedict spoke openly about his meeting with abuse victims during a trip to Malta and said he promised them the church would take action.
“I shared their suffering and emotionally prayed with them,” the pope said during his weekly audience at The Vatican, describing his visit on Sunday with eight Maltese men who claim to have been molested by priests as youths.
The church will investigate the allegations, bring justice to those responsible for the abuse and “implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future,” the Vatican said in a statement.
Last week, the Vatican issued guidelines instructing bishops to report abuse cases to civil authorities where required by local laws.
Lobbyist Ron Book, whose daughter Lauren Book-Lim was molested by their nanny, has made ending the statute of limitations his top priority.
“The time for compromise is long past,” Book said.
He said he tried to negotiate with the Catholic Conference two months ago to no avail and that he was told to “basically, I’ll paraphrase, pound sand.”
“It’s time for an up or down vote,” Book said.
The change in the law would only apply to future cases and is necessary because studies show many victims were abused as children do not come forward for decades, Lauren Book-Lim said.
She was molested by her nanny for five years beginning when she was age 12.
Book-Lim, now age 25, is the head of a non-profit organization that raises awareness about and provides support for victims of sexual abuse, recently completed a 500-mile walk across the state to raise awareness
“There’s no statute of limitations on how long people suffer. Why should there be on the amount of time until they can go and get their abuser? So they’ll abuse 20, 30, 50 children until they get caught? Not acceptable. Not appropriate. It’s time that we change that,” Book-Lim said.