The Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee took action on House Bill 1947 today, June 28. With an 8-4 vote the committee amended the bill to strip the provision that would retroactively nullify the civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse cases from decades ago. The committee cited conflicts with Pennsylvania’s state constitution as the reason for the change.
The committee maintained the provision that will prospectively eliminate the criminal statute of limitations. The amendment also prospectively allows abuse survivors to sue either public or private entities under an equal standard of proof until they reach age 50, and allows survivors to sue in certain cases beyond age 50.
The amended bill passed out of the committee unanimously and is expected to be considered on the Senate floor this week. The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference will review the details of the amended bill to determine what impact it may have.
In a statement, the PCC reiterated that no matter the final resolution of the legislation, the Catholic Church will keep its sincere commitment to the emotional and spiritual well-being of individuals who have been impacted by the crime of childhood sexual abuse, no matter how long ago the crime was committed.
No institution is more acutely aware of the harm, pain and anger caused by child sexual abuse than the Roman Catholic Church. The church has repeatedly acknowledged its past mistakes and its role in the ongoing suffering experienced by survivors and their loved ones.
For more than a decade, the Catholic community has consistently enforced strict safe environment policies and offered assistance to survivors and their families. While recognizing and respecting that every individual must take his or her own personal journey to heal, the church is committed to offering assistance.
All survivors of abuse are offered assistance no matter how long ago the crime occurred.
Each diocese has trained and deployed professional victim assistance staff to provide a response that is compassionate, supportive, and sensitive to the needs of survivors.
Every diocese has an office for victim/survivor assistance, which provides a range of support, including:
— Counseling and other forms of therapy for survivors and their families;
— Addressing barriers to participation in therapy, such as child care and transportation;
— Vocational assistance;
— Resources about child sexual abuse support services in the community;
— Financial assistance for medication;
— Referrals and payments for outpatient therapy and related psychiatric services;
— Assessment and case management assistance for social services resources;
— Pastoral support and counseling;
— Facilitation of meetings with the archbishop or bishop.
To date, Pennsylvania’s dioceses have spent more than $16.6 million on victim/survivor assistance services to provide compassionate support to individuals and families. Tens of millions more has been negotiated in financial settlements with survivors who sought that resolution.
We will continue to offer support and assistance as long as it is needed. Read more about the church’s support for childhood sexual abuse survivors.
Send a message to your state senator about House Bill 1947.
Amy Hill is communications director for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the public affairs agency of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.