The Catholic church is fighting legislative proposals to loosen statutes of limitations, which impose deadlines on when victims of sexual abuse can bring civil suits or prosecutors can press charges, reports the New York Times. These time limits, set state by state, have held down the number of criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits against all kinds of people accused of child abuse — not just clergy members, but also teachers, youth counselors and family members accused of incest.
Victims and their advocates in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York are pushing legislators to lengthen the limits or abolish them altogether, and to open temporary “windows” during which victims can file lawsuits no matter how long after the alleged abuse occurred. The Catholic Church has successfully beaten back such proposals in many states, arguing that it is difficult to get reliable evidence when decades have passed and that the changes seem more aimed at bankrupting the church than easing the pain of victims. In Colorado and New York, the church hired high-priced lobbying and public relations firms to supplement its own efforts.