February 15, 2006

Church bill needs major overhaul

Rocky Mountain News

February 15, 2006
Perfect justice is not an option in the clash between the Catholic church in Colorado and a coalition of lawmakers, attorneys and alleged victims of sexual abuse. But Senate Bill 143, which dispenses with time-honored principles of law to target one institution for a possible torrent of lawsuits alleging incidents from decades ago, is likely to do far more harm than good.

Under current law, a person has six years to file civil charges in a sexual abuse case, unless the abuse occurred when the victim was a minor; then the accuser has until age 24 to come forward.

SB 143 would suspend the statute of limitations on sex abuse cases for two years. Within that window, anyone could sue a private entity or its employees, no matter how long ago the alleged offense took place - even if the perpetrator has died. And it would hold institutions liable to pay unlimited monetary damages.

Supporters say the bill would provide justice and closure. Perhaps for some. There's little doubt that church officials in some corners of this country took great pains to prevent public disclosure of horrific offenses; and it's possible there were similar abusers in Colorado who were not promptly removed from contact with minors. In Denver, lawsuits so far target two priests, one dead and the other long retired.

Posted by kshaw at February 15, 2006 07:35 AM