Matthew Gambino, Clergy receive update on sex abuse bill’s status, victim support info, Catholic Philly

Archbishop Charles Chaput issued a letter July 14 updating the faithful of the Philadelphia Archdiocese on the status of a bill that proposes to lift the statutes of limitation on civil lawsuits of child sexual abuse in Pennsylvania.

The letter in English and Spanish was dated for this weekend, July 16-17, and sent to all priests and deacons in the archdiocese via email along with several supporting documents showing the long-term effects of child sexual abuse for adult survivors and numerous resources to which abuse victims in Philadelphia, its four suburban counties and statewide may turn for help.

Another document (in English and Spanish) in the package detailed the church’s assistance to victims of clergy sexual abuse, both in implemented policies and financial assistance of some $18 million over recent years.

Also included was information to help the clergymen offer pastoral care to survivors of child sexual abuse in their parish.

The archbishop’s letter describes House Bill 1947’s “potential to devastate our parishes, schools, and charitable ministries” because of civil lawsuits that could be filed against private institutions such as Catholic parishes and dioceses in the state if the bill were to become law. The House bill was approved in April.

The Senate approved an amended version of the bill last month that “stripped retroactive provisions of the bill pertaining to the civil statute of limitations covering sexual abuse” because the Senate Judiciary Committee had determined such provisions were unconstitutional, according to the letter.

The Senate bill will be considered in the House of Representatives, which “we expect will take place in the fall,” the archbishop wrote.

He invited parishioners and clergy to “join in praying for all of our elected officials who work hard to serve our communities each day.”

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the bishops of Pennsylvania, this week also provided its own detailed update on the status of HB 1947.