Catholics urge church to support New York legislation that allows child abuse victims to seek justice as adults

BY Edgar Sandoval, Megan Cerullo, Stephen Rex Brown (NY Daily News)
June 5, 2016

The Catholic Church’s powerbrokers should listen to their better angels!

That was the message from city parishioners in favor of changing a law that prevents many victims of child sex abuse from seeking justice. Current state law prohibits the victims from bringing criminal charges or civil claims against abusers after the victim’s 23rd birthday.

“It should definitely be extended. It’s a terrible thing, and I know people who have had encounters and I feel very sorry for them. I don’t think that’s what our religion should be,” said Annette Gould, who attends Masses at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Araceli Colato, who had just attended the Sunday service at the storied house of worship, agreed.

“It’s never too late for justice. People deserve a say, even if years have passed. I understand why the church wants to keep the law as is, but it’s not fair,” Colato, 27, said. “In most cases, victims become adults. But they can’t do anything about it.”

The comments from churchgoers came with only five days left on the legislative calendar in Albany.

The church opposes reform of the law, arguing that any new legislation should ensure the same rules apply to both private and public institutions in abuse cases.

“This really is an issue of justice. They should do something for the victims, and there is a lack of transparency in how the church is handling this,” said John Murphy, who attends lunchtime Mass daily at St. Patrick’s.

Advocates for reform are pressing for a lookback provision that would give victims the opportunity to revive cases previously barred by the statute of limitations. Such a window raises the financial stakes for the Catholic Church, which has already paid out more than $2 billion to abuse survivors and their families in the United States.

But concerns over the almighty dollar shouldn’t prevent the church from doing what’s right, said Robyn Ventura, who attends the Church of St. Saviour in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

“It’s kind of like a mercy plea” from the church, Ventura said, explaining its opposition to reform.

“The only reason is . . . money.”

The state Catholic Conference, headed by Timothy Cardinal Dolan, has spent $2.1 million between 2007 and 2015 lobbying against the decade-old reform effort, as well as other measures.

“I don’t think there should be a statute of limitations. It doesn’t make sense to me. Why after a certain amount of time it’s as if the incident never happened?” asked Andrei Alcruz, who attends St. Pat’s.

The legislation faces daunting prospects as the legislative deadline looms next week.

But Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Queens) remained hopeful a bill will get passed. Her aides expect to meet with reps from Gov. Cuomo and the state Senate this week to craft a bill.

“I really think we have a chance of getting this bill passed. At the end of the session a lot of things can happen, a lot of negotiations can go on,” she said.