Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh, in Aug. 14 remarks responding to the release of the grand jury report, backed changes to the statutes of limitations laws.
"Absolutely we would support the elimination of the criminal statute of limitations," he said, according to New Castle News. "That is an important piece that should move forward with legislators. We support any sort of penalties for people who fail to report child abuse to public authorities."
In states considering such bills, the local Catholic conference and other groups often voice concerns about whether abuse victims would have the equal ability to sue public institutions, which are often protected under a legal concept known as sovereign immunity, and whether a legal window for retroactive lawsuits will be allowed.
Others have argued that statutes of limitations are important, because claims from long ago cannot be investigated in-depth, or seriously defended against, meaning they are more likely to result in settlements, even when facts are limited.
In an April 7, 2017 message about a potential amendments to S.B. 261, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference said some amendments to the bill help "further equalize the opportunities for survivors of sexual abuse in public institutions to access recovery of damages through the civil courts."
It voiced concern about any amendment to allow retroactive changes to the statute of limitations.
"This proposal would, in effect, force the people who make up an organization like the Catholic Church today defend themselves against a crime that was committed in their parish, school, or charitable program years ago," the Catholic Conference said in 2017. "Last year, the Senate held hearings and determined that changing the law retroactively would be unconstitutional in Pennsylvania."
"Regardless, it is definitely unfair to individual Catholics today whose parishes and schools would be the targets of decades-old lawsuits."
Pennsylvania State Rep. Mark Rozzi, 47, is backing an amendment that would also allow a two-year window for past alleged victims of sex abuse to file civil lawsuits.
The legislator says he was raped by a priest at age 13. The priest, Rev. Edward Graff, is alleged to have raped "scores of children," the grand jury report says. The priest died in 2002 in a Texas jail while awaiting trial on charges he sexually abused a boy.
Rozzi told CNN that allowing the retroactive window "is the only avenue for these victims who are in the grand jury report" to get justice.
(Story continues below)
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In 2002, the Pennsylvania legislature voted to raise the age limit for reporting criminal sex abuse charges from 23 to 30, then raised it to age 50 in 2007.
Fourteen states are considering bills about statutes of limitations on sex abuse. About 41 states have eliminated statutes of limitations for criminal prosecution of sex abuse, Reuters reports.
Since July 2013, costs related to sex abuse cases have cost the Catholic Church in the U.S. nearly $600 million, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' May report said. A U.S. bishops' conference report in 2012 said that reporting dioceses and eparchies had paid $2.1 billion in abuse-related costs since 2004.
Hill said the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference encourages anyone who has been abused to "report the abuse and seek help immediately by calling the toll-free Pennsylvania ChildLine number at 800-932-0313 or their local law enforcement."