Gaining headway: Colorado Catholic Bishops endorse revised sexual abuse bill, continue to fight another

In a victory for the Catholic faithful of Colorado--and, as they would point out; the state’s young people--Colorado’s Catholic bishops have spoken out in favor of a newly amended state House Bill which no longer punishes the Church, as the bishops say it currently had.

All three of Colorado’s bishops, including Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput, Pueblo’s Bishop Arthur Tafoya and Colorado Springs’ Bishop Michael Sheridan have publicly endorsed a revised version of House Bill 1088, which was originally among a group of three bills seeming to unfairly target the Catholic Church‘s role in the ongoing sexual abuse scandal.

Two others however; House Bill 1090, and what is seen as a severely flawed Senate Bill 143, are still in the center of what the Church sees as a battle for justice.

"We're grateful to [Colorado state] Representative Marshall and Senator Sandoval for listening to the concerns of the community, and revising HB 1088 to make it viable," said Timothy Dore, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference.

That bill, as revised, eliminates the criminal statute of limitations for incidents of sexual abuse against a minor which occurred or occur after July 1, 2006. It now covers all perpetrators equally and is not retroactive. In addition, civil statutes of limitation will remain in place.
Dore said that although the bishops continue to support statutes of limitations as an important element of the justice system, as amended, the Marshall-Sandoval bill is acceptable public policy.

Echoing the bishops, he also pointed out however, that Senate Bill 143 “is bad law and bad public policy.”

He said that “it was heavily influenced by plaintiffs’ attorneys seeking to retroactively change the law to gain advantage in lawsuits they already filed. Its core concept is so deeply flawed that it probably can’t be fixed to qualify as useful to the common good."

Colorado's three bishops have stressed that, on a matter as grave as the sexual abuse of minors, "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.”

Unfortunately, the bill, in its current form, only targets private and religious institutions--the majority of which, in Colorado, are Catholic--and does nothing to protect against sexual abuse in public schools and institutions.

In a letter to all parishioners of the Archdiocese, Archbishop Chaput wrote last month that “some Colorado legislators seem determined to be harsh when it comes to Catholic and other private institutions, and much softer when it comes to their own public institutions, including public schools. And it will be families, including Catholic families, who suffer.”

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