The following letter by Archbishop Charles Chaput, or a similar letter signed by archdiocesan pastors, was read or made available in all 219 parishes of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia during Masses last weekend, June 4-5.
In addition to the letter in English and Spanish, a document explaining HB 1947, a bill that would retroactively lift the statutes of limitation in Pennsylvania for civil lawsuits in cases of child sexual abuse, was also provided to parishioners in English and Spanish to help them understand the issue more fully.
Also provided was a document in English and Spanish detailing steps the Philadelphia Archdiocese has taken to meet the needs of victims of clergy sexual abuse and to prevent future abuse of any child.
A bill is currently pending in our state senate, HB 1947, that poses serious dangers for all of our local parishes and for the ministries, charities and schools of our archdiocesan Church. With this letter, I urge you to write or telephone your local state senator and members of the state Senate Judiciary Committee to vote against HB 1947, and especially to oppose any retroactivity provision in the civil statute of limitation covering sexual abuse.
All of us are rightly angered by the crime of sexual abuse. Over the past decade the Church has worked very hard to support survivors in their healing, to protect our children and to root this crime out of Church life. But HB 1947 and bills like it are destructive legislation being advanced as a good solution. The problem with HB 1947 is its prejudicial content. It covers both public and religious institutions — but in drastically different and unjust ways. The bill fails to support all survivors of abuse equally, and it’s a clear attack on the Church, her parishes and her people.
HB 1947 is retroactive for private and religious entities, but not retroactive for public institutions. It places very low caps on damages for sexual abuse in public schools in the future. And it makes it hard for abuse victims to sue public institutions going forward. Meanwhile, private and religious entities face unlimited liability for exactly the same evil actions, and not just going forward, but also in the past.
This is not justice. In fact, HB 1947 actually excludes most victims. And it also targets innocent Catholic parishes and families, like your own, who will bear the financial burden of crimes committed by bad individuals in the past, along with the heavy penalties that always result from these bad bills.
This is not just an archdiocesan problem. In other states where similar legislation passed, local parishes have been sued, resulting in parish and school closures and charity work being crippled. The effect of bills like HB 1947 is to erase the sacrifices of generations of faithful Catholics who have done nothing wrong.
The Church in Pennsylvania accepts its responsibility for the survivors of clergy sex abuse. It’s committed to helping them heal for however long that takes. But HB 1947 and bills like it are not an answer. This kind of legislation is unjust and deeply misleading. It benefits too few victims, and it ends up punishing Catholic parishes and families who are innocent of any wrongdoing.
This is a serious and time-sensitive matter. Please take a few minutes to review the important information materials available at the exits after Mass. Senate hearings begin on or around June 13. Please act now to contact your senator, and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and urge them to oppose HB 1947 and any effort to impose civil statute retroactivity.
You can do that quickly and easily by visiting www.pacatholic.org. That’s the website for our state Catholic Conference, and you’ll see a prominent link on the homepage about this vital matter. Thank you and God bless you.
Sincerely yours in Jesus Christ,
Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Philadelphia
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Jerry Sandusky is in jail. Penn State has had to account for their failings. This is a weak argument. Saying it is “unfair” to the Church is stalling and a disservice to children. I hope priests are fingerprinted as public school employees are required to be and that, going forward, I pray their supervisors don’t move them instead of reporting them as is required by law. I still recall Dr Bruce Ritter getting sent to India after the mess at Covenant house.
All Catholic Clergy should engage in a decade long period of penance, those guilty and those not guilty, to beg for forgiveness. What they have done to our church is beyond reprehensible. If I had young children, I would not take them to a Catholic Church.
1) Why should anyone do penance and ask for forgiveness for something they did not do? Should Democrats today apologize for the pro-slavery stance of their party in the 19th century?
2) While Mr. Mancuso won’t take his children, if he had any, to a Catholic Church, I’m guessing he would happily roll the dice and enroll them in public schools, which have had their own problems with sex abuse and which state legislators are eager to protect.
HB 1947 violates the Pennsylvania state constitution and as such it is destined for the paper shredder . It will force parishes to pay out enormous monetary settlements which will close schools and financially ruin catholic charities which help the poor , the homeless , the disabled , and our military veterans . I am very grateful to the Pa senators and congress persons who have the moral courage to vote against HB 1947.
Bob, You would sacrifice the safety of kids because you are worried about bankrupting Catholic Charities? Get real.
You say it isn’t fair and it signals out the church compared to school teachers. Well the education institutions didn’t look the other way like the church when the morbid activity happens. How about an eye for an eye?
Sure, public institutions did a great job- just look at Penn State! They handled that Sandusky matter so well. The truth is many institutions failed, but singling out churches only serves those that hate religion & the financial interests of their lawyer allies. Justice isn’t served by cries like an eye for an eye- just for all not different rules for different defendants.