Catholic Church in Colorado scored a hard-fought victory yesterday as
the state House of Representatives rejected a bill which many call
“blatantly anti-Catholic” in its effort to create an open season on
lawsuits against the Church over sexual abuse cases in which the
perpetrator may have died decades ago.
House Bill 1090 has received a barrage of criticism, being called anti-Catholic and being accused of placing unjust burdens on the Church which do not exist on secular institutions like public schools.
The bill, sponsored by senate president Joan Fitz-Gerald, passed the state senate last week, but could not maintain its steam with sufficient votes in the House.
The Church in Colorado is maintaining its watchfulness however, as the Senate must now give a response to the actions of the House.
Fitz-Gerald had added a provision to temporarily lift the statutes of limitation, allowing alleged victims to bring forth charges dating back to 1971.
A major sticking point, say many Catholics, is that the bill is aimed only at religious and private institutions--like the Church--while leaving public entities all but immune.
At one point, Fitz-Gerald went so far as to try to amend the bill to include state institutions but ran into heavy opposition with insurance companies saying they would not cover municipal governments for lawsuits made on old claims.
In his regular column this week, Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote that “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.’”
HB 1090 was largely shaped using the template of a California law which has financially crippled the Church there. Thursday’s move effectively slows the tide of this model’s use against dioceses nationwide.
“The people who pay for these damaging lawsuits”, Archbishop Chaput wrote, “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.”
“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.”
According to the Denver Post, Timothy Dore, head of the Colorado Catholic Conference called the defeat a clear “victory for our position.”