Victims of child sex abuse in the US state of New York say their fight for justice has been stalled by the political apparatus of the state’s Roman Catholic Church.
The church and other institutions are preventing state lawmakers from passing a bill that would relax one of the nation’s tightest laws of limitations on filing criminal charges against sexual abusers, The Associated Press reported Sunday.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo is a key supporter of the Child Victims Act, a retroactive bill that has languished in the state’s Legislature for over a decade.
"These survivors deserve justice, plain and simple," Cuomo said in a statement to The AP. "Giving victims the opportunity to advance their claims in court is the right thing to do, and I urge the Legislature to join me and pass this measure once and for all."
A similar law in California, passed in 2002, resulted in Catholic dioceses there paying $1.2 billion in legal settlements.
The New York Archdiocese says that eliminating the statute of limitations would cause catastrophic financial harm to any institution that works with children.
"Our only objection is with that retroactive window which comes without any caps on either time or dollars,” said Dennis Poust, a spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference. "Any organization that deals with children would be looking at potential catastrophic liability when you're looking at cases from the '50s and '60s."
Survivors of child molestation say that's no justification for denying thousands of victims an opportunity for justice.
Supporters lobbied for the bill at the New York State Capitol in Albany last week. They hope the law would be passed this year, making it easier for the victims of abuse to sue.
Reports of serial sex abuse by priests and systematic cover-ups by the Catholic leadership exploded in the US media in 2002.
Approximately 6,900 US Roman Catholic priests were accused of sexual abuse, with the number of young victims put at 16,900 between 1950 and 2011, according to data from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Similar patterns of abuse have since emerged at dioceses around the globe, undermining the church's moral authority and depleting its finances as it paid out billions of dollars in settlements.
In 2014, Pope Francis established a Vatican commission intended to establish best practices to root out abuse in parishes.
Some theologians have argued that the church's policy on celibacy fosters sexual dysfunction and abusive behavior among priests.