March 05, 2006

Church in Colorado seeks fair treatment under law

COLORADO
Our Sunday Visitor

By Mary DeTurris Poust

3/5/2006

Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., of Denver is leading a fight against efforts by legislators and trial attorneys to roll back the civil statute of limitations for sex-abuse cases in Colorado. In an email interview with Our Sunday Visitor, he spoke about his decision to vigorously fight what he sees as an unfair attack on the Church.

OSV: What motivated you to take such a strong and public stance on the issue of statute of limitations?

Archbishop Chaput: Statutes of limitations exist for very good reasons that have nothing to do with any Church. Memories fade. People die. Evidence gets old or lost. In general, changing statutes of limitation or making them too long is a bad idea, and most law enforcement professionals know that.

Of course, certain crimes are so terrible, like murder, that no statute of limitation is warranted. Some people argue that the sexual abuse of minors is such a crime. Catholics donít necessarily oppose that approach. Many Catholics are parents. They very rightly sympathize with victims and want to protect their own children. But the Catholic community does insist that all such laws, reporting timeframes and penalties apply equally to everyone and every institution, with no hidden escape clauses.

Unfortunately, most state laws donít treat public and private entities equally when it comes to claims arising from the sexual abuse of children. In almost every state, public officials use a combination of governmental immunity, very brief reporting timeframes and very low financial damage caps to make it difficult for anyone to sue public institutions Ė including public schools.

Posted by kshaw at March 5, 2006 08:53 AM