January 04, 2006

Lawmakers seek to end limits on church liability

Boston Globe

By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff | January 4, 2006

Support is growing on Beacon Hill for legislation to lift charitable immunity protections for the Catholic Church and other nonprofit organizations in sexual abuse cases involving minors.

More than 60 lawmakers have signed onto a bill that, in civil cases involving such abuse, would eliminate the current $20,000 limit on liability for churches and other nonprofit organizations. That charitable immunity limit, supporters say, has discouraged sexual abuse victims from coming forward and has sharply limited payments in other cases.

Two other bills would restructure the complicated laws governing the statute of limitations in criminal and civil cases involving sex crimes against juveniles. Current laws lay out various limitations based on the number of years that elapse after a sexual crime is allegedly committed.

The House is also slated this month to take up a fourth bill, sponsored by Senator Marian Walsh, a West Roxbury Democrat, that would force the Archdiocese of Boston and other religious organizations to file public financial disclosure reports with the attorney general's office. In November, the Senate approved the measure, which is strongly opposed by several religious and nonprofit organizations. Governor Mitt Romney has expressed his support.

Posted by kshaw at January 4, 2006 07:47 AM