Another PA Rep speaks up for survivors
I was nothing short of shocked when a dear friend of mine sent me a picture of the St. Rose of Lima church bulletin on Saturday. It read, “State Representative Nick Miccarelli voted in favor of House Bill 1947 which states that private institutions can be sued as far as 40 years ago for millions of dollars, while public institutions may not be sued for any crimes committed in the past.” This statement, printed in the church bulletin is patently untrue. The simplicity of this statement leaves out much, but most glaringly, it leaves out the true goal of the bill. I did vote in favor of HB1947 because as I reviewed the legislation, forefront in my mind was justice for the victims, not sympathy for the predators that committed heinous crimes against children or any public or private institution that allowed sexual abuse to continue unaddressed. HB1947 will allow those who have been molested as children to have their day in court.
There is no one, and I mean no one, with any understanding of the law who would claim, “public institutions may not be sued for any crimes committed in the past.” Google “Jerry Sandusky Penn State Lawsuit” if you need to see evidence that public institutions can be sued. What this bill did, was to expand the statute of limitations for claims of child molestation. Put simply, it allows those people who are raped as children, more time to face those who raped them. I was one of 180 Members of the House of Representatives who believe this bill will help victims. We also believe that this bill would let child predators across Pennsylvania know that they will not be free from punishment if they simply run out the clock.
At first, I was shocked that my own parish would print something so misleading without so much as a phone call to me. I myself sat in the pews of Saint Rose two days before the bulletin was brought to my attention by my friend. Lastly, many of my constituents have my cell phone number, and my office number is a 10-second google search away. I would have gladly made myself available to discuss this legislation with Father Canavan, a man I have immense respect for, or anyone else from Saint Rose or any other organization that had concerns regarding the intent of this legislation.
It wasn’t until today that I realized the lies about this bill are being preached at more places than Saint Rose. When I arrived in Harrisburg, I saw Rep. Tom Murt of Montgomery County. Tom is a fellow Iraq War Veteran and possibly the kindest and most mild-mannered person I’ve met since being elected. By the way, Tom goes to a Catholic Church every single day. For the first time in almost 8 years, I saw Tom Murt visibly upset. He told me how his parish, sold the same falsehoods to their parishioners as did Saint Rose with him sitting right in the pews.
Not long after, I saw Rep. Martina White of Philadelphia on the House Floor. Martina had planned to attend several church events. After her vote on behalf of victims, the church disinvited her.
At least a dozen House Members, Republican and Democrat, Catholic and Protestant, related stories of their local Priests spewing these falsehoods from the altar. One of my fellow House Members was told by a clergyman that his support of this legislation was a betrayal of his Catholic faith. Another informed me that he had been personally threatened by a high ranking clergyman in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. It became abundantly clear to me that not all of these Priests on their own could have conjured up the mistruths about our efforts to protect victims of child rape. These lies, distortions, bully tactics and downright threats must have come from a coordinated effort by some higher level of the Church.
Does the hierarchy believe that 180 members of the House are out to get the Catholic Church?
Maybe they think that our goal is to attack the Church and to let government entities get off scot-free?
It is incomprehensible that they could believe either of these thoughts to be our true intentions. It is my belief, and I’d venture to say the belief of most if not all of my colleagues, that any institution, public, or private, which engages in a coordinated cover up of child rape, should be held accountable. Perhaps the language of this legislation is not clear enough, and I will certainly advocate to my colleagues that sit in the State Senate to ensure that the final language makes it very clear that we will not tolerate or give quarter to any organization, public or private that has sided with the predator over the victim.
A close friend and a constituent of my district had two pre-teen sons who were molested by a local public school teacher, Edgar Fredrichs, right here in Delaware County in the 1970s. In this case, justice was not swift. The parents notified the local school of the allegations, and no action was taken. The school principal and superintendent thought it best if the ordeal was handled quietly and off the books.
Later Edgar Fredrichs would take a job as the principal of a school in West Virginia, a position he secured in part thanks to a glowing recommendation he received from the school he left after being accused of inappropriate conduct towards children. Again, he took young boys, all elementary school age, camping to violate them and avoid being found out. It wasn’t until he killed a child in 1997, that he was finally brought to justice. A civil suit was brought naming the school district, a ‘public institution’ (such as one which my parish bulletin claims “may not be sued for any crimes committed in the past”) as a defendant. A victim nearly 30 years later, was able to ensure that local public school district was rightly held accountable for their failure to do the right thing when they had the chance. Wrong is wrong, and while justice may not always be as swift as we wish it to be, we must give the victims of child abuse the chance to right the wrongs perpetuated against them. That is why I support this legislation.
To explain why it is necessary that we give child rapists no safe harbor, I could recount heinous crimes that have been perpetrated and covered up in years past by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, but one need only read the grand jury reports presented over the last few years.
To explain why this legislation is still necessary today, one need only read the articles about abuse and cover up in the Diocese of Altoona, not from years ago, but from 2016.
To explain to the citizens of my district that I bear no ill will toward the Church I belong to, is something that I never thought I would have to do.
Frankly, I would much rather be chastised from the altar, than to be damned for not allowing justice to be done.