No Free Pass

The New York Assembly should not be giving a free pass to sexual predators of children - of any stripe, sexual orientation or religious affiliation. Neither should there be any statute of limitations where the sexual abuse of children is concerned.

A major epidemic is going on in our country, a pandemic if one considers it in its worldwide proportions and it is hard to believe, in light of such concerns, that we continue to have churchmen in the state of New York as elsewhere who actually oppose the removal of statutes of limitations regarding the sexual abuse of our children.

In the state of New York, it appears that leaders of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Jewish denominations are of the opinion that sexual predators and abusers should not be held accountable.

This should be unacceptable to all of us who are concerned with the trafficking of individuals for sexual exploitation, because, make no mistake about it, the sexual abuse of children in religious denominations, sects and cults are part and parcel of the wider e pidemic and pandemic of trafficking for sexual exploitation.

It is particularly disheartening in light of the fact that the Roman Catholic Church, the Holy See, was one of the earliest signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Is this an example of a "Do as I say, not as I do," mentality?

"Window" legislation, as it relates to civil statutes, is the single most important factor in holding sexual predators and their enabling individuals or institutions accountable.

New York's Markey/Duane bill is rather modest when compared to Delaware's 2007 Child Victims Law which went from an egregious two year statute of limitation to none going forward and includes a two year civil window for previously time barred cases of childhood sexual abuse - by anyone - and which remains open until July 10, 2009.

I was privilaged to testify before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees in support of Delaware's child abuse legislation.

So imperious are religious denominations' disregard of children in the state of New York, that the statute of limitations now protects known sexual abusers of children from criminal prosecution forever once short statutes of limitation expire.

I cannot comprehend the hubris that would occasion the type of behavior that has been so graphically delineated in a number of investigations in the U.S. including the 2002 Suffolk County, NY Grand Jury Report which detailed the clergy sex abuse of children in the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Yet churchmen still question the rightfulness of extending the statute of limitations.

Why, one wonders, are dioceses in the state of New York not distributing postcards for the members of the Catholic community to sign and send to their legislators in Albany to support the complete removal of statutes of limitations going forward in regard to the sexual abuse of children, criminally and civilly?

This is not a matter belonging to what the Catholic Church calls the "deposit of faith," and, leaving aside the matter of mortal sin for the moment, the sexual abuse of children is a matter of criminal behavior.

Can there be any question about the intrinsic evil of the sexual abuse of children or of the fact that such individuals are intrinsically disordered?

Certainly not!

Church officials who claim that their dioceses, parishes, churches or programs will go bankrupt have produced no data to support such inflammatory statements and in states like California and Delaware there has been not the slightest possibility of that happening.

In fact, in addition to settling a $ 660 million dollar lawsuit a few years ago, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, California built and paid for a new cathedral that any city in the world would be proud to showcase.

It is important to remember that window legislation is not "anti" any particular group; it is pro-child. It forces records, if they exist and have not been destroyed, to be made available in a court of justice and hopefully into the public venue as well.

Moreover, there should be no accommodation in law giving more protection to individuals who have been accused of the sexual abuse of children than to the victims themselves.

I think now is the time to make those who violate and abuse our children accountable in all states no matter when the abuse took place. Remove statutes of limitations going forward and include window legislation for past crimes.

It is unconscionable for religious denominations and their leadership to protect and enable sexual predators by refusing to support changes in the laws that would hold both the perpetrators and their enablers accountable.

In all good conscience, I strongly encourage all people of good will in the state of New York, including Catholics, to support criminal and civil laws that are as strong as possible in holding the sexual predators of our children and any individuals or institutions, who were complicit in their protection, accountable.

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