The Catholic Church was delivered a bombshell after a shocking report detailing the deepest levels of sexual abuse of Catholic priests in Pennsylvania. The report outlined that since 1947, within 6 dioceses, there were more than 300 “predator priests” and over 1,000 reported victims, many of who are not within the statute of limitations to file criminal charges. Pennsylvania lawmakers are preparing to vote on whether to either eliminate the statute of limitations and make the window for filing lawsuits longer.
As it currently stands, a victim of child abuse has 18 years to file charges against their abuser. If that time has expired, the law states that the victim can file civil charges against their abuses until they are 30 years old and they can file criminal charges until they are 50 years old. The new bill, SB 261, that is being presented to the state House would remove the time limit completely and raise the civil lawsuit age to 50.
The grand jury that released report recommended removing the statute of limitations stating that “no piece of legislation can predict the point at which a victim of child sex abuse will find the strength to come forward.” However, this new bill does not help the current victims of sex abuse who have aged out. It will not apply retroactively so to speak. But there are lawmakers who are fighting for those who have been wronged such as state Representative Mark Rozzi who wants to amend the bill to include a 2-year window for anyone who has been a victim to file charges regardless of how long ago the abuse happened.
This isn’t the first time a bill like this has been proposed in the State Senate but they have failed to reach votes. Due to the current controversy House Majority Leader Dave Reed expects this to get to the voting stages this fall. The bill has been passed in the Senate unanimously.