March 16, 2005

Fight pledged on clergy abuse lawsuits ruling

The Morning Call

By Dan Sheehan
and Kathleen Parrish Of The Morning Call

Lawyers for alleged clergy abuse victims in the Catholic Diocese of Allentown and elsewhere have vowed to pursue lawsuits despite a Pennsylvania Superior Court ruling that says the statute of limitations trumps victims' rights to sue church leadership.

Observers say plaintiffs might not be able to overcome the Monday ruling that rejected a novel legal strategy to overcome the statute. The ruling sets a legal precedent and might lead to the dismissal of suits in Lehigh County and elsewhere in Pennsylvania.

Eighteen plaintiffs from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia essentially had argued that the clock on the statute of limitations should be reset to 2002, when the Catholic Church acknowledged child abuse by some members of the clergy and the hierarchy's failure to prevent it.

Until that acknowledgment, victims of the long-ago abuse had no way of knowing how complicit church leaders had been, the lawyers argued. So, despite the statute of limitations, they should be able to pursue suits against the leaders today.

In the archdiocese case, the abuses allegedly occurred from the late 1950s to the '80s. The victims filed their suits in the first half of 2004.

Posted by kshaw at March 16, 2005 06:32 AM