A new class action filed in Pennsylvania state court accuses 8 Catholic dioceses of dragging their heels in the wake of a grand jury report that found evidence of widespread childhood sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.
PA Lawsuit Demands Diocesan Records On Sexual Abuse
In court documents, two named plaintiffs, one a Catholic school kindergartner, say that by failing to disclose the identities of pedophile priests, the Catholic dioceses have created a “clear and present” public health risk.
Filed on Monday, September 17, 2018, the complaint seeks to force the Catholic authorities in Pennsylvania into a full disclosure of their records concerning child sexual abuse. It has been filed by a sex abuse survivor, who claims to have been abused by a priest between the ages of 10 and 12, along with a kindergarten student, represented by his mother.
Class Action Seeks Church Information On Predatory Priests
In their lawsuit, the named plaintiffs accuse eight Pennsylvania dioceses, seven bishops and one archbishop of “continu[ing] to protect, support and cover for predatory priests,” the York Daily Record reports. The complaint makes a number of demands, all in the name of public safety. The Allegheny Court of Common Pleas has been asked to require that the Church prove that it has met its legally-mandated requirement to report sexual abuse allegations.
Further, the plaintiffs seek to have the Church identify all known predatory priests to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. The lawsuit also demands an apology, asking the Church to publicly acknowledge its wrongdoing and admit that illegal activity has occurred. The class action argues that, by releasing all information pertaining to predatory priests, the Church can stand up and allow parents and caregivers to protect their children.
Pennsylvania Lawmakers Address Statute Of Limitations
The lawsuit comes as state lawmakers in Harrisburg discuss a measure that would allow survivors of childhood abuse a temporary “window of justice” in which to file personal injury lawsuits against their abusers and the Church. Despite identifying over 1,000 potential victims of abuse, most of the grand jury report’s allegations cannot be heard in court due to the statute of limitations, a state law that limits the amount of time survivors have to file suit.
Out of the 301 allegedly predatory priests listed by name in the Pennsylvania grand jury report, only 2 are facing new criminal charges to arise from the probe.
Retroactive “Window Of Justice” Could Allow Survivors More Time
In Harrisburg, state politicians are currently working toward the passage of a law that would pause the statute of limitations, allowing survivors who endured abuse even decades ago to come forward. Pennsylvania State Representative Mark Rozzi, who says he was raped by a priest at the age of 12, is spearheading a bill that would do away with the statute of limitations on sexual abuse crimes for both civil and criminal charges.
Included in Rozzi’s bill is a 2-year time window that would allow survivors to file suit retroactively. “People are finally outraged to the point that they can’t tolerate it anymore,” Rozzi told NBC News. “Victims are finally believed. My fellow legislators get it that it’s their turn to do the right thing now and pass a window. We’ve all had enough.”
Pennsylvania’s landmark investigation into Catholic Church sex abuse has spurred a movement across the nation, as district attorneys in at least 8 other states have opened their own investigations.
Vatican Struggles To Confront Sexual Abuse Crisis
The Pennsylvania grand jury report has sent shockwaves across the world. Pope Francis has been forced act, calling a meeting of the globe’s top bishops in the Vatican for February. According to America, a Jesuit publication, the February summit, the first of its kind, will address methods of preventing sexual abuse within the Church.
The meeting comes as revelations of sexual abuse have permeated the Catholic consciousness, with scandals emerging in Ireland, Australia, Chile, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Canada and the United States.
Resignation Of Washington Archbishop Opens Wounds
Just last week, Pope Francis met with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to discuss the Pennsylvania grand jury report’s findings, along with the case of former Archbishop of Washington Theodore McCarrick, who resigned his position on July 28 amid a rash of sexual misconduct allegations, including accusations that he had presided over a “gay subculture” while serving as the Archbishop of Newark. The Church has paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial settlements to current and former seminarians who accused McCarrick of abuse.
Amid these scandals, the Church was rocked on Sunday, August 26, 2018 by the publication of a letter, authored by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, that has called for Pope Francis’ immediate resignation. In his 7,000-word letter, Viganò, who served as the papal ambassador for the United States, accuses Francis, along with over 30 senior Vatican officials, of covering up the alleged abuse committed by former Archbishop McCarrick for decades.