Cardinal Dolan still opposes the one bill that would make a real difference
By Andrew Willis, Gary Greenberg and Melanie Blow
Timothy Cardinal Dolan says he is on the side of children and an ally of survivors fighting for the passage of the Omnibus Child Victims Act, which would finally fix New York’s shameful failure to let victims of sexual abuse pursue justice in state courts. He says he supports an even stricter bill — one introduced by Sen. Andrew Lanza and Assemblyman Michael Cusick.The cardinal is being economical with the truth.
The truth is that the Roman Catholic Church opposes legislation that ensures those who rape and molest our children will be held accountable. The bill the church is championing instead would ensure that New York’s sex offenders stay on our streets, protected by the laws.
An honest comparison of the two bills in question reveals that there is not one area where the bill the church supports is tougher than the Omnibus Child Victims Act.
Both bills apply to public and private institutions.
Both the Child Victims Act and the Lanza-Cusick bill eliminate criminal statutes of limitations for future sexual abuse against children.
The Child Victims Act eliminates civil statutes of limitations too, whereas the Lanza-Cusick bill extends them by five to 10 years. The problem here is that research shows it takes the average survivor 21 years to disclose their abuse.
Another vital difference: The Child Victims Act establishes a one-year window allowing survivors of past abuse previously denied justice to identify their perpetrators by bringing forward civil claims. The Lanza-Cusick bill has no such window.
The lack of such a window protects the priestly perverts that the Roman Catholic Church have moved from parish to parish to escape prosecution or publicity, as seen in the film “Spotlight.”
The Lanza-Cusick bill does make members of the clergy mandated reporters of crimes against children, but not if they are acting in their “professional character as spiritual advisor.” In other words, that provision doesn’t apply when they are doing their job!
In sum, Dolan seems more intent on protecting the Roman Catholic Church’s secrets than on safeguarding New York’s children. While in his previous job in Wisconsin, he moved nearly $57 million into the church’s cemetery fund to shield it from lawsuits by abuse victims; the courts made him put it back.
Here in New York, the Archdiocese spent more than $2 million of church money lobbying for priorities that included defeat of the strongest legislation protecting children from abuse. Then, Dolan was silent when Bill Donohue of the Catholic League accused victims of trying to “rape” the church.
Thursday’s announcement that Dolan is setting up a compensation fund to help victims, overseen by the church, adds up to just another distraction. The cardinal sees the writing on the wall; he knows the Child Victims Act may well pass this year.
Offering priest-abuse survivors the opportunity of a settlement outside the legal system, and only in return for sacrificing their rights to pursue claims, is a bad bargain.
Only the Child Victims Act provides survivors with justice under the law and New York’s children the protection they need.
The church’s continued resistance to passing sensible legislation to protect children prevents child abusers from being held truly responsible. The courts are the place to bring predators to justice, not the Roman Catholic Church or any religious authority.
Jesus said, “So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.” The head of the New York Archdiocese should ensure that they don’t. Isn’t that his job?