Here's one of the most cogent reasons why the New York State Legislature shouldn't open a "window" to extend the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases in the Catholic church, from Commonweal's lead editorial this week. And I emphasize the Catholic church. Now, it sometimes takes years for sexual abuse victims to be able to recognize, name and voice the crimes that were perpetrated on them, and so, in general, extending the statutes makes sense for sexual abuse cases. But if the statutes are extended for the church (or are designed to be extended that way) they should be extended for all institutions. Otherwise it's simply targeting one instititution.
Here's Commonweal: "[L]ike other window legislation, the proposed Markey bill exempts public institutions from such civil suits. But a recent Associated Press report revealed that between 2001 and 2005, 2,750 public-school teachers nationwide had their licenses revoked or restricted because of sexual misconduct with minors. Victims’ advocates know that it is nearly impossible to overturn laws protecting public institutions from civil suits. (Under state law, civil suits against such institutions must be filed within ninety days of the alleged abuse.) As a consequence, the Markey legislation appears to target the Catholic Church while depriving the largest group of victims, namely public-school students, of their day in court."
The New York State Catholic Conference notes this: "The most common location for sexual abuse is in the home. Outside the home, public schools are the most frequent place where children encounter abuse. A recent report by the Associated Press revealed that in New York State and across the country, the number of children abused by public school employees, such as teachers, overwhelms the number of children abused by Catholic priests. For example, there were 485 reports of abuse in New York State public schools in just the five year period between 2002 and 2006. That’s nearly 200 more cases than the total number of priests accused in New York since 1957, a period of more than 50 years. These statistics are meant to provide context often missing in the media and not to attempt to in any way minimize the crimes of clergy members who have so gravely abused the trust given to them."
Sexual abuse is a crime and perpetrators should be brought to justice--in all arenas, not just the Catholic church.
James Martin, SJ