The Catholic Church in Illinois, which includes the Archdiocese of Chicago, is challenging a new state law that grants more time for lawsuits to be filed over sexual abuse cases, stating that the new law bears “no rhyme or reason.”
The law was signed this summer, after the yearlong sex-abuse scandal in the U.S. Church, at the urging of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and others. These groups said abuse victims need more time to understand what had happened to them and decide whether to sue. The new law is currently at issue in three abuse lawsuits.
According to Catholic officials, quoted by the Chicago Sun-Times, there is no conflict between combating sexual abuse within the Church and making a legal argument.
''I think we're going to assert our right to defend our position in a court of law,'' said Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois.
The deadline for suing abusers had been two years after the victim turned 18 or two years after the victim realized that sexual abuse had caused injuries, such as psychological disorders.
The new statute of limitations is 10 years after the victim turns 18 or five years after the victim makes the connection between abuse and injuries.
In one lawsuit, a man is suing the Catholic Church's Springfield Diocese over abuse he suffered as a teenager in the 1980s by a priest who was later sent to prison. In two other lawsuits, teenagers are suing St. Laurence High School and the Chicago archdiocese over allegations of abuse by a school counselor in the 1990s.
The defendants maintain that applying the new statute of limitations to their cases would be unconstitutional. They also argue the new law, with its two-part statute of limitations and additional language on discovering the connection between abuse and injury, is unconstitutionally vague.
''There just doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason,'' Kevin Martin, an attorney for the Springfield diocese, said during a court hearing Tuesday.
The sponsors of the new law are Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) and Rep. James Brosnahan (D-Evergreen Park.)