Commenting on the legacy of coverup and abuse emerging out of the mess in Philadelphia, The New York Times calls for a suspension of the statue of limitations for sex abuse claims.
These are not the first accusations against the Philadelphia Archdiocese. A blistering grand-jury report in 2005 exposed the abuse of hundreds of children by more than 60 archdiocesan priests, lamenting that the church’s cover-up had succeeded since the statute of limitations made it impossible to prosecute the predators.
The recent grand jury said it had no doubt that the scale of the crimes and the extent of the official cover-up went far beyond the cases of sodomy and rape it documented in horrifying detail. It cited continued institutional weaknesses that allowed such crimes to go undetected or unpunished — an obsession with secrecy, a concern for abusers over victims, the inherent conflict in having “victim assistance coordinators” who are supposed to help stricken families but who are church employees with divided loyalties.
The grand jury has implored the current leader of the archdiocese, Cardinal Justin Rigali, to fully cooperate with its investigation and institute reforms, beginning with opening its files on abuse accusations, swiftly removing credibly accused priests from ministry and financing truly independent investigations.
It also urged Pennsylvania to suspend for two years the civil statute of limitations on sexual abuse claims.
States across the country should do the same. There will be no justice or healing until all victims’ voices are heard and the church finally shows true accountability.