Instead of fighting the Child Victims Act, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York, should embrace it as a means of releasing innumerable members of the church’s flock from the chains of the past.
The legislation and subsequent monetary restitution is another means by which the church could improve its image, stained by horrific acts by, yes, the minority of priests, but damaging all the same.
The church will survive – perhaps, even better. Right now, the cardinal and Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone are dealing with the fallout from the revelations of sexual abuse by priests in Western New York, some so long ago that predators have died or retired. But their victims, well into middle age themselves, are still hurting and that should be the church’s priority.
The Child Victims Act passed in the Assembly last year but not in the Senate, thanks to Majority Leader John J. Flanagan who failed to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. The Senate needs to correct this mistake. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has included the Child Victims Act provisions, including a look-back window, in his state budget plan.
The Catholic Church and others, including the Boy Scouts of America, are especially concerned with the bill’s provision for a one-year window in which anyone could bring a lawsuit, even if the statute of limitations had already expired.
Some of the abusers might be dead or retired for years or decades. But as victims groups contend, it has been done in other states and the windows created in those places have not opened the floodgates in their civil courts. There is little reason to believe that litigation would invite financial catastrophe.
A possible solution to the conflict is through the possibility of establishing financial caps on litigation awards for the look-back period. It’s a plausible approach, depending upon its structure.
Since the Boston church sexual abuse scandal that shocked the nation back in the early 2000s and the recent #MeToo movement, the public has demanded – and should receive – accountability from its institutions, especially one with the standing of the Catholic Church.
Malone should be credited for releasing a list of 42 names of priests facing allegations of sex abuse, including 27 new ones, but more transparency and accountability should be forthcoming.
Support by the church, along with overwhelming bipartisan legislative support for the Child Victims Act, is a good place to start.