In this week’s Denver Catholic Register (February 1), Colorado’s bishops urge Catholics across the state to demand an end to the unequal treatment of sexual abuse violations under Colorado law. “For the sake of justice and common sense – and for the sake of their own children – Catholics need to demand from Colorado lawmakers an end to our state’s legal inequities in dealing with childhood sexual abuse,” they write.
"On a matter as ugly and grave as the sexual abuse of minors, exactly the same civil and criminal penalties, financial damages, time frames for litigation and statutes of limitations should apply against both public and private institutions and their agents," the statement said issued Monday said.
It was signed by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs and Bishop Arthur Tafoya of Pueblo.
Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald and House Majority Leader Alice Madden introduced their measure Friday making it easier for victims to sue the church and other private groups by extending the statute of limitations in cases in which an institution or another person could be held "vicariously liable" for a perpetrator's acts.
The bill would not affect sex-abuse complaints against employees of public schools or government entities -- which is unfair, the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver argues.
More than two dozen lawsuits have been filed alleging sexual abuse by a priest whom the victims claim the the church knew had molested other children.
"We now have a lot of victims coming forward who have no way to seek any justice," said Fitz-Gerald, D-Coal Creek Canyon, who is Catholic. "I'm trying to give people who have been abused their day in court and let juries sort it out."
Hundreds of cases were filed against the Catholic church in California after lawmakers recently opened a one-year window suspending statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse lawsuits.
With some exceptions, child sex-abuse victims in Colorado must file by the time they're 24.
Under the proposal, some damage limits would be lifted and lawsuits could be filed even if the alleged abused has died.
Other bills in the House would abolish the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse in criminal cases and in some civil cases, including those involving any future incidents of abuse.