We stand by our vote for statute of limitations reform
As members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and as Catholics, we voted in favor of H.B. 1947. We stand by that vote.
And we are disappointed by Archbishop Charles Chaput and seven other Pennsylvania bishops' June 6th letter to all parishes – including our own – arguing for the protection of church assets and dollars over justice for the victims of child sexual abuse – and for attempting to cast our vote as an attack on the church.
Instead, we believe that church leaders should have the opposite reaction to the decades’ long record of ghastly sexual abuse of thousands of Pennsylvania children – as partially detailed in the three Philadelphia grand jury reports and the more recent 147-page Altoona-Johnstown grand jury report.
We agree with the introduction to the Altoona-Johnstown report that says: “This is not an indictment of the Catholic religion or the Catholic Church…This is a finding of fact and an effort at transparency – not to slander a religion but to expose the truth about the men who hijacked it for their own grotesque desires.”
House Bill 1947 would remove the statute of limitations for the crime of sexual abuse of children – and extend the statute of limitations for civil claims for sexual abuse of children from age 30 until that victim turns 50. We know that many victims will never come forward and many others do not come forward for decades. Reporting is a deeply personal choice.
In addition, H.B. 1947 would allow lawsuits against public institutions upon a showing of gross negligence.
Make no mistake – this is not perfect legislation. It is a compromise: a long overdue step in the right direction – the direction of justice for victims.
Our Catholic faith and teaching is centered on love. Love does not hide the truth; love does not allow the rape of children; love does not relocate perpetrators knowing they will harm others; love does not hide claims in church file cabinets and safes and watch as the clock runs out; love does not create a secret schedule of payments to victims based on the level of the crimes done to them.
And love does not continue to defeat the claims of those who were harmed as children.
Our Catholic faith teaches us that light wins over darkness – and that the sacrament of reconciliation requires contrition and penance before absolution. We will not pick and choose among those steps now.
Rep. Patrick Harkins, 1st Legislative District
Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, 3rd Legislative District
Rep. Mark Rozzi, 126th Legislative District
Rep. Madeleine Dean, 153rd Legislative District