Keep the Faith, Change the Church.

Child Victims Act sunsets within week of bishops' abuse report

BOSTON, Mass., May 25, 2016 – Recent heightened public scrutiny of Catholic clergy sexual abuse has reinforced the urgency for the Church to address the scandal adequately, according to abuse victims’ advocate and Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful.

Within only a week, the “window” in the Minnesota Child Victims act expired, even as the U.S. Catholic bishops made their annual abuse report.

On May 24, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the three-year window created by the 2013 Minnesota Child Victims Act for reporting old claims of child sex abuse would expire May 25. During the three-year period, more than 500 claims were made against Minnesota Catholic clergy, according to the Star Tribune, which said, “In the three years since the law’s passage, the local church has witnessed an archbishop’s resignation, two bankruptcies and the public naming of more than 100 priests credibly accused of child sex abuse.”

The same day, the Associated Press reported that lawyers for abuse victims were accusing the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese of hiding more than $1 billion in assets “to avoid big payouts to abuse survivors as part of the church’s bankruptcy case.”

On May 20, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released its 2015 annual audit report on the implementation of its Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The report was not entirely complimentary of the Church’s efforts. The report showed a sharp increase in the number of new claims primarily from adults reporting past abuse. Francesco Cesareo, chairman of USCCB’s National Review Board, said the audit showed progress in creating safe environments for children but that very progress threatens complacency in implementing the charter’s guidelines.

As VOTF has pointed out before, the audit relies on self-reporting to assess compliance with those guidelines with little or no verification of the reported data.

Voice of the Faithful believes this focus on the scandal reinforces calls to action VOTF has made many times, including:

  1. everyone in the Church, lay and clergy alike, must be constantly vigilant in order to prevent abuse and its coverup and to report suspected cases promptly to civil authorities;
  2. the Church must stop blocking state statutes of limitation reforms that allow sufficient time for abused children to report the crimes;
  3. the Church must hold accountable not only the abusers, but also those who fail to report the crimes;
  4. the Church must provide abuse survivors and all those harmed by the scandal with resources necessary for healing.

Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

Contact: Nick Ingala, nickingala@votf.org, (781) 559-3360