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Archives Bishop Clarifies postion on victims act

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

January 23, 2019

Bishop Terry R. LaValley would like to set the record straight on his position on the Child Victims Act. “There is a lot of misunderstanding about where the New York State bishops stand on the various versions of the Child Victims Act,” said Bishop LaValley. “Over the last decade, the New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the bishops of New York, worked with politicians on both sides of the aisle to propose the elimination of the criminal statute of limitations for the sexual abuse of minors. Additionally, we bishops have supported raising the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits in cases involving the sexual abuse of a minor,” said Bishop LaValley.

“The widely reported notion that the Catholic Church has opposed all provisions contained in the various versions of the Child Victims Act is simply not accurate,” said Bishop LaValley. Recently Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote about the Child Victims Act in an op-ed piece in the Daily News. He noted that the New York bishops feel it is important to make the Child Victims Act focus on healing and helping survivors of child sexual abuse.

Elimination of the criminal statutes of limitations and the conditions precedent of notices of claim for civil claims against public entities are a big step in helping survivors, and the bishops have supported and continue to support these measures. The bishops have also supported requiring background checks and safe environment training as part of the Act. “We are doing these things in the Church already,” said Bishop LaValley.

It is true, there have been some provisions in the proposed legislation that the bishop’s have opposed. The first is the inclusion of a “window” that would revive claims that are currently barred by the statute of limitations. Opposition to the revival of claims has been based on the fact that after the passage of time it can be difficult or impossible for an institution that employed an accused abuser to get to the truth, and it is hard to achieve justice in such circumstances. “Litigation is not easy on the survivors or the accused, especially after the passage of decades,” said Bishop LaValley. “The eight dioceses of New York have all undertaken reconciliation and compensation programs to help victims heal.” State-wide, these programs have paid out more than $200 million dollars to more than 1,000 victims, with some cases going back 60 years. “The compensation programs have worked well,” said Bishop LaValley. “In our diocese we had 39 victims participate and all of them accepted the compensation offered. Many reported that the program brought them healing and peace. The programs were not adversarial like litigation is. It is a much better approach.”

The bishops also opposed the fact that most proposed versions of the Child Victims Act do not include all victims. This remains the case. “If the law is going to include a window to revive claims, it should revive all claims,” Bishop LaValley explained. The bishops point out that under Gov. Cuomo’s current proposal, lifting the statute of limitations will allow time barred claims to be brought against private organizations, but not against public or governmental organizations. “The proposed legislation we have seen in the past did not retroactively remove the requirement of a notice of claim. Under those circumstances, a victim abused by a teacher in a private school could bring a claim, but a student abused by a teacher in a public school could not,” said Bishop LaValley. “We have to ensure that any legislation provides equal justice for all victims.”

“Child sexual abuse is a terrible crime. The bishops of New York have taken great steps to eliminate this evil from the Church over the past 20 years, and we have seen documented success,” said Bishop LaValley. “We have reached out to victims to offer healing and compensation. We have shown great concern to victims. We will support any legislation that protects young people, gives them justice, and includes all victims.”

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