.- Church officials around the U.S. capitol are opposing two bills that would extend the time allowed for victims of child sex abuse to file lawsuits against abusers and their employers. The bills seem to be part of a nationwide trend, which many experts say threatens undermine and scapegoat the Catholic Church for a larger and far more widespread problem.
According to the Washington Post, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington and Cardinal William Keeler of the Baltimore archdiocese have expressed opposition to the bills to House Judiciary Committee members directly and through intermediaries.
The archdioceses have hired prominent lobbying firm Schwartz & Metz to supplement the efforts of the Maryland Catholic Conference. They are calling and meeting with legislators and committee members about the bill, whose main sponsor is Del. Pauline Menes (D-Prince George's).
Under current Maryland law, lawsuits by childhood abuse victims can be filed until the victim is 25. The two bills would allow victims file until they are 42 and open a two-year window during which victims of any age could sue.
Supporters say the bills are needed because victims typically do not report the abuse until they are in their thirties or forties. Church officials however, argue it would be hard for defendants to present an adequate defense decades after an alleged incident.
Similar bills are currently being battled in dioceses across the U.S., including Denver, where a prominent campaign raised heated tempers over a bill that many called “blatantly anti-Catholic.”
Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput has argued that as important as justice for sexual abuse victims is, many of the proposed laws unfairly target the Catholic Church, leaving other known violators—like public schools, which are protected by federal statutes—all but untouched.
Federal law protects many public institutions from abuse cases from being brought more than 181 days after the alleged event.
With regard to the Colorado bills, Archbishop Chaput has said that some “legislators seem determined to be harsh when it comes to Catholic and other private institutions, and much softer when it comes to their own public institutions, including public schools. And it will be families, including Catholic families, who suffer.”