(July 7, 2019) A new report released last month reveals that the Catholic Church has spent more than $10 million in just the past eight years in the northeastern U.S. to fight legislation seeking to help clergy sex abuse victims seek justice. The church spent more than $10.6 million to lobby against child sex abuse victims’ rights. The church’s clear intent was to stop state legislatures from changing laws which limit the time a sex abuse victim has to file a claim against an abusive priest or other elder. Sex abuse laws the church has lobbied against affect not only those abused by Catholic priests, but also others abused by trusted elders, such as the Boy Scouts of America.
Catholic Church Duplicity in Pennsylvania
While a Pennsylvania grand jury was preparing a report which showed that more than 1,000 children were abused by more than 300 priests, the Catholic church in Pennsylvania was busy spending $5,322,979 lobbying to keep victims out of the courtroom. Rather than fighting for victims’ rights, which the Pope and church leaders always claim to be doing, the church was busy lobbying to prohibit sex abuse victims from filing civil claims against their abusers and the church.
Catholic Church Duplicity in New York
According to CBS News’ Christina Capatides, in New York the Catholic Church spent $2,912,772 lobbying against the Child Victims Act. The church’s duplicity failed in that state when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Act into law, on February 14, 2019. The New York Child Victims Act gives survivors more time to seek justice against their abusers. It increases the age at which victims are able to sue from 23 to 55.
Four law firms jointly commissioned the report, which one attorney said was inspired by frustration:
“We’ve heard a lot about the church’s desire to be accountable and turn over a new leaf. But when we turn to the form where we can most help people and where we can get the most justice — the courts of justice — the church has been there blocking their efforts.”
Following The Money Trail
In Connecticut, the Catholic church spent more than $875,000 lobbying; in New Jersey more than $633,000; in Massachusetts more than $537,000; more than $134,000 and $124,000 in New Hampshire and Maine respectively.
The funneling of such a large chunk of money to the Church’s lobbying arm, the Catholic Conference Policy Group, runs directly counter to the Pope’s and other church leaders’ proclamations of a new era of transparency in the church. The sole intent of the church’s spending more than $10 million in eight years was to turn back reforms that would benefit sexual abuse victims. It gives the lie to church leaders’ public avowals to promote transparency and accept responsibility for failing to rein-in wayward priests.
Pope Francis’ Duplicity
Pope Francis proclaimed a year ago, in August 2018: , “The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.”
Sadly, the money trail clearly shows that the church categorically fails to put its money where the Pope’s mouth is. The church’s payouts for lobbying efforts to stifle victims’ rights far exceeds its efforts to come clean and help victims.
According to the report, “CHURCH INFLUENCING STATE: How the Catholic Church Spent Millions Against Survivors of Clergy Abuse,” the Catholic Church has not only continued to invest in lobbying against the interests of victims, but to actually increase its investments in stifling victims’ rights over the years.
Church Standing against Survivors
The money trail shows that not only has the church not worked to help victims seek justice for the crimes against them; the church has worked hard to delay or completely deny victims their rights.
The report data is based entirely on public filings in the states of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. It seems likely that at least some of the money used by the Catholic Church to help deny survivors justice came from Sunday collections from parishioners. One wonders if parishioners are aware how their money is being spent to deny the rights of child sex abuse victims.
No matter how you see it, that is money that could have gone to the victims themselves, or money that could have been used for more constructive purposes. Meanwhile, the statutes of limitations’ laws that the church has fought with more than $10 million also includes those victims who were sexually abused by elders aside from Catholic priests. So the church, with its $10 million lobbying investment, is also aiding and abetting sexual predators and abusers outside the church.
A Come to Jesus Moment
Many millions of us were raised Catholic, and we have learned, and we take, much goodness from our well-meaning priests, nuns, and other Catholic authorities. But even that goodness we have taken is at stake when the current church leaders continue to coddle abusers and do all they can to deny victims’ rights behind the scenes, while in front of God and everybody they claim to care and accept responsibility.
Canon Law Changes Needed
Current church Canon law codifies the “secret archives” which the Pope and other church leaders refuse to release. Those archives hold the names of thousands of predator priests and their victims. Canon law also allows priests like Richard Dorsch – who raped children in the 70s, 80s, and 90s (according to a woman whose brother committed suicide afterwards) – to continue to receive a stipend, a place to live, a car, health insurance, all the comforts which non-criminal citizens enjoy. Canon law needs changing to punish evil men like Richard Dorsch and others credibly named in the Pennsylvania grand jury report as sex abusers. If perverted priests knew they wouldn’t be coddled for the rest of their lives if they abused children and young adults in their charge, perhaps they wouldn’t be so cavalier in abusing those whom they are entrusted to protect and help.
CBS News reported that at the time it published the $10 million lobbying story last month, neither the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, nor the Archdiocese of New York had responded to the news agency’s request for comment.
Catholic Church spent $10.6 million to lobby against sex abuse victims
In a statement emailed to CBS News last month, the communications director for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, Al Gnoza, said the church had not reviewed the report. Mr. Gnoza said: “For more than a half century, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has lobbied on a myriad of issues that are important to people of the Catholic faith. We do not have a breakdown of costs, but our lobbying budget funds this broad effort.”
The Money Trail and Your State Representatives
Now it is time for a complete accounting of how much of that $10 million went to each state representative who has voted repeatedly against allowing sex abuse victims a chance to see their day in court. The Catholic Church is an extremely wealthy concern, and it must not be allowed to spend its money as corporations do, in order to drive legislation which benefits the corporation at the expense of the citizen.