April 13, 2006

Church battling plans to ease abuse lawsuits

USA Today

By Richard Willing, USA TODAY
The Catholic Church is having early success in fighting proposals in state legislatures that would permit people claiming they were sexually abused as children to sue priests and other church officials long after the alleged offenses occurred.

Measures proposed in nine states would suspend statutes of limitation and allow lawsuits to be filed regardless of when an alleged offense took place. The proposals are patterned on a 2003 California law that allowed a one-year window for suits to be filed there without regard to the statute of limitations.

Since March, aggressive lobbying by the church helped to bottle up such a measure in a state Senate committee in Maryland, and to alter the language of an Ohio bill to rule out new lawsuits. A bill in Colorado's Legislature is being debated, but it's a long shot because of intense Catholic opposition, the bill's supporters say. The church is gearing up to fight proposals in Delaware, Hawaii, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Mark Chopko, counsel to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, says the bills unfairly target Catholics and could add millions of dollars to the $1.38 billion the U.S. church has paid since 1950 to settle claims and for other expenses related to sexual abuse of minors by priests.

Posted by kshaw at April 13, 2006 04:43 PM