EXCLUSIVE: Catholic Church open to discussing a Child Victims Act that includes a window to revive old cases
By KENNETH LOVETT
| ALBANY BUREAU CHIEF |
NOV 05, 2018 | 3:40 AM
Cardinals arrive attend a mass celebrated by the Pope at Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican on Nov. 3, 2018. (TIZIANA FABI / AFP/Getty Images)
ALBANY — The Catholic Church for the first time is saying it is open to looking at some type of provision that would allow child sex abuse victims who under current state law cannot seek justice to be able to do so.
Dennis Poust, a spokesman for the state Catholic Conference headed by Timothy Cardinal Dolan, made the comment as victims of child sex abuse and rape are waiting anxiously to see the outcome of the crucial state Senate elections on Tuesday.
Democrats have promised if they take control of the chamber to take up the Child Victims Act that would give those who were sexually abused as children more time to bring criminal and civil cases as adults.
"Whoever ends up controlling the (state) Senate, we would welcome discussions to resolve this issue in a way that is acceptable to survivors first, but also to religious and non-profit organizations who would be impacted," Poust told the Daily News Sunday.
While the Assembly Democrats passed the bill the past two years, the Republican-controlled Senate has regularly blocked the measure.
The Catholic Church, Orthodox Jewish Groups, the Boys Scouts of America and insurance companies have opposed the Child Victims Act, mainly over a provision that would grant a one-year window to revive old cases that are time-barred under current law.
Poust said "there are things we can look at with regards to retroactivity."
He said a reconciliation program by the Church already has allowed victims of pastor abuse to come forward and seek settlements even if by law the time frame had expired.
"There's potential for some kind of resolution on this," he said without going into detail.
The Church has been dealing with two major scandals in recent months — one stemming from an explosive grand jury report in Pennsylvania that found child sex abuse cases going back decades that involved more than 300 priests, including some that took place in New York.
Another has taken place in Buffalo, where the diocese has been dealing with a widespread priest abuse scandal of its own.
Pope Francis in August issued a letter denouncing child sex abuse and decades of church coverups.
Gary Greenberg, a child sex abuse survivor and an investor who created a political action committee to push for the Child Victims Act, teamed with other groups in recent months to hold 16 rallies for 23 Senate Democratic candidates and state attorney general candidate Letitia James, all of whom support the measure.
Greenberg is also funding automated calls and text messages in the districts of a number of Republicans, urging their constituents to vote against them for having helped block the bill.
Greenberg called Poust's statement "late in the game" and a "step forward," but also a likely acknowledgement that the Church doesn't want to be shut out of the conversation should the Democrats take over the Senate.
Kathryn Robb, a survivor and advocate, was skeptical about Poust's claim the Church is open to a provision to revive old cases.
Robb said in Massachusetts that the Church successfully pushed for a window that impacts only specific abusers, but not the institutions like the Church.