February 16, 2005

Lawmakers stump for changes to state's sex abuse laws

Telegram & Gazette

AP Legal Affairs Writer

BOSTON— A bipartisan group of lawmakers began a public push on Wednesday for the elimination of the statute of limitations on sex crimes, an issue that limited prosecutions of abusive priests in the Boston Archdiocese's clergy sex abuse scandal.

Backers of the legislation gathered at a Statehouse news conference one day after defrocked priest Paul Shanley was sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison for raping a boy.

Shanley was one of the few Catholic priests implicated in the scandal who faced criminal charges because the current 15-year statute of limitations in rape cases prevented prosecutors from going after most others.

State Rep. Ron Mariano, D-Quincy, lead sponsor of the bill, said many victims of sexual abuse take years to come to grips with what happened to them. By then, it's too late to prosecute their abusers.

"We need to allow victims to deal with their victimization and come forward at a time that's appropriate for them," Mariano said.

An investigation by Attorney General Thomas Reilly found in 2003 that at least 1,000 children were likely victimized by more than 235 priests and church workers from 1940 to 2000.

But since the scandal first erupted in Boston in 2002, only about a dozen priests have been prosecuted in Massachusetts criminal courts. More than 550 people who claimed they were sexually abused by priests settled civil lawsuits against the archdiocese.

Posted by kshaw at February 16, 2005 05:03 PM