Archbishop says justice not served by suing innocent, calls for revision of state bill

.- Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput is urging a joint House-Senate conference committee to broker a “fair” and “reasonable” version of Colorado’s House Bill 1090, which deals with civil liability in sexual abuse cases.

The joint committee headed to its conference May 1.

In his column, published in the Denver Catholic Register, the archbishop warned against suing current Catholic communities for the crimes of the past.

“The continuing effort of some lawmakers in the Colorado General Assembly to burden the Catholic community with retroactive civil liability for past sexual abuse cases is a textbook example of anger posing as ‘justice,’” wrote the archbishop.

“The people who pay for these damaging lawsuits are … average, innocent Catholic families who had nothing to do with the evil actions of some bad or mentally ill abusers 25, 35 or 45 years ago,” he wrote.

“No one disputes the need for tough laws against the sexual abuse of minors. And everyone — both inside and beyond the Church — agrees that helping past victims of childhood sexual abuse to heal is a serious and urgent need,” he said. “But suing the innocent today for sins and crimes in the past is not justice.”

Archbishop Chaput explained that the Catholic bishops of Colorado endorsed the earlier HB 1088, which abolished the criminal statute of limitations regarding future cases of sexual abuse with minors because it was revised according to the concerns of the community.

But HB 1090 is another matter, he said. While HB1090 “passed out of the House this spring with some modest improvements to its content,” said the archbishop, “some key senators then essentially rewrote HB 1090 with the worst punitive and prejudicial elements of Senate Bill 143, pushed it through the Senate by a one-vote margin, and sent it back to the House.”

The archbishop added that all institutions — both public and private, Catholic and secular — should face the same penalties, financial damages and reporting standards for the society-wide crime of sexual abuse of a minor.

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