A Better Chance at Justice for Abuse Victims By LAWRENCE LESSIG April 26, 2010….I represented a victim of child sexual abuse in a case brought against a nonsectarian private school in New Jersey. The trial court in that case had held that a state statute immunizing charities against negligence also protected the school even if its employees acted “willfully, wantonly, recklessly, indifferently – even criminally.” I volunteered to help appeal that ruling of absolute immunity, and get it reversed. On the other side were lawyers for the insurance company that would have paid the bill if the school had been found liable. Their position was completely understandable: An insurance company has an obligation to its shareholders.
What was truly astonishing was the appearance of the New Jersey Catholic Conference in the case. As its Web site explains, the conference “represents the Catholic bishops of New Jersey on matters of public policy,” because “the Catholic Church calls for a different kind of political engagement: one shaped by the moral convictions of well-formed consciences and focused on the dignity of every human being, the pursuit of the common good and the protection of the weak and the vulnerable.”
Yet the “well-formed consciences” of the conference had not entered the case on behalf of the weak and the vulnerable. The Catholic Conference had filed a brief in support of the insurance company, to defend a rule that would have left institutions – like the church – immune from responsibility even if employees “criminally” protected an abuser. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled against the insurers in 2006.
But representatives of the Catholic Church have continued their work against the “weak and the vulnerable” here in New York. New York has one of the nation’s most restrictive statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse, requiring victims to sue within five years of turning 18, whether or not they have recognized the psychological harm caused to them by their abuse.
Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, a Queens Democrat, has introduced a bill to give victims another five years to seek compensation, plus a one-year window for victims blocked by the old limitations to now bring suit. That legislation has passed the Assembly three times, yet the Senate has refused to consider it. It has now been reintroduced into the Assembly. At the core of the opposition to this bill is heavy lobbying by the New York Catholic Conference; according to published reports, the conference has hired top-dollar lobbyists to kill the bill. At least one bishop is reported to have threatened to close schools and parishes in legislators’ districts if they vote for the bill. And as Marci Hamilton, a law professor at Cardozo University, has written, bishops “publicly rail against statute of limitation reform as though it were the equivalent of mandatory abortion.”
If the New York Catholic Conference stops this reform, it will achieve three things. First, it will protect its own wealth. Second, it will assure that potentially thousands of victims who have been abused by priests will have no opportunity for compensation. And third, it will help preserve a system of irresponsibility that makes it too easy to ignore child sexual abuse, because the costs of ignoring it are lower in New York than in most other states.
Church in Mexico relieves priest of duties years after woman alleges abuse By N.C. Aizenman Washington Post Staff Writer April 27, 2010 Roman Catholic Church officials in Mexico have temporarily relieved a priest of his parish duties pending further investigation of long-standing allegations that he sexually abused a girl in San Francisco during the 1960s and early 1970s, according to a press release issued Monday in Spanish by the Archdiocese of Yucatan. The priest, the Rev. Teodoro Baquedano Pech, 70, who has denied engaging in abuse, had been ministering in several rural hamlets near Yucatan’s state capital, Merida. A recent Washington Post article described how for 12 years Baquedano’s alleged victim, Sylvia Chavez, now 54, and top church officials in San Francisco repeatedly warned church leaders in Yucatan about the priest. In 2003 a top deputy of Emilio Carlos Berlie Belaunzarán, the archbishop of Yucatan, responded in a letter that “we have taken all precautions to restrict Father Baquedano’s access to children.” Baquedano was never removed from ministry, however.
Child sex `no breach of virtue’, some priests believe STEPHEN LUNN The Australian April 28, 2010 SOME priests didn’t see the molestation of boys as a breach of their celibacy vows, retired Catholic bishop Geoffrey Robinson says. The former auxiliary bishop of Sydney blames the absence of women from church life as a catalyst for the sexual abuse crisis enveloping the faith. In an interview with The Australian Women’s Weekly, Bishop Robinson says boys suffered more than girls at the hands of pedophile priests partly because they were more available to them, with nuns tending to play a greater role in the religious education of young girls. There was also a view among some offenders with whom he had worked that a priest’s celibacy vows weren’t broken if a boy was involved. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/child-sex-no-breach-of-virtue-some-priests-believe/story-e6frg6nf-1225859084751