The Chancellor for the Diocese of Bridgeport charged that the paper was “way off-key” in a recent editorial criticizing the Catholic Church's opposition to H.B. 5473, a bill which would eliminate the statute of limitations for sexual abuse of a minor.
On April 12, the Connecticut Post ran an editorial titled, “Wrong response to abuse bill” which stated that “it is inconceivable that Catholic officials would take a public stand on an issue involving child sex abuse that is not foresquare behind the rights of victims.”
The editorial further criticized the Connecticut bishops, saying their argument against the bill “is incorrect in its particulars” and also “shockingly tone-deaf.”
In a letter, Archbishop Henry Mansell of the Archdiocese of Hartford made a plea to parishioners in the state to fight the bill. The archbishop, along with other bishops in Connecticut, claimed that the legislation unfairly targets the Church since it excludes public institutions from lawsuits because they are protected under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, reported Jack Sheedy from the local diocesan paper, the Catholic Transcript. Currently, the statute of limitations in Connecticut is 30 years once the alleged victim is 18 years old.
“The problem here is the sense that, once again, the importance of the church is taking precedence over the rights of victims,” charged the Connecticut Post editorial. “The bishops' letter says the bill in question 'would undermine the mission of the Catholic Church in Connecticut.' This is alarmist and incorrect.”
Last Friday, the Chancellor for the Diocese of Bridgeport, Nancy B. Matthews, defended the Church, calling the editorial “way off-key on the facts of the legislation and in its pronouncements regarding the impact of Raised Bill 5473 on the mission of the Catholic Church in Connecticut.”
The first problem with the bill, said Matthews, is that “civil claims could be brought from well over a half a century ago” despite the fact that the “current statute of limitation for civil abuse claims in Connecticut is already the longest, continuous and retroactively applied statute in the United States.”
“Even more dissonant,” she added, “is the Post's taking the Catholic bishops to task for not singing the tune of plaintiffs' attorneys and others who would use events in Ireland and Germany to create sympathy in order to pass bad law in Connecticut.”
“And this, in spite of all the Church has done in Connecticut to reach out to victims, to root out abuse and to create safe environments for young people.”
Matthews further claimed that the “expert panel” testifying in favor of the new legislation at the Judiciary Committee hearing was comprised of plaintiff's attorneys, some of whom have lawsuits pending against the Catholic Diocese in Connecticut.