Battle for Child Sex Abuse Statute of Limitations Reform Heats Up in Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA -- The Catholic Church launches a PR campaign against pending bill HB 1947 in response to the increased momentum by child sex abuse victims and advocates to reform the statute of limitations. HB 1947 makes it possible for more child sex abuse victims to bring lawsuits against any Pennsylvania diocese which enabled and protected their predators.

According to the press release from Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse:

Archbishop Chaput, with the aid of his lawyers and a PR firm, has launched a no holds barred, multi-faceted, expensive communications campaign aimed at convincing Philadelphia Area Catholics that changing the laws pertaining to the sexual abuse of children is a wrong, unfair and will cause the archdioceses to go into bankruptcy, close many more schools and severely limit financial resources for their many ministries.

Chaput wants them to call their legislators and tell them not to support pending bill, HB 1947.

HB 1947:
removes the criminal SOL for child sex abuse
extends the maximum age to file a civil suit to 50

Next Sunday, June 5th, survivors of child sex abuse, along with legal scholars, advocates and others will join together for the Walk For A Window across Brooklyn Bridge.

The goals of child sex abuse statute of limitations window legislation include:

• Identify Hidden Child Predators
• Disclose Facts of Sex Abuse Epidemic to Public
• Arm Parents to Protect Children
• Shift Cost of Abuse from Victim to Those Who Caused It
• Create Justice for Victims Ready to Come Forward Who Have Been Damaged

'Walk For A Window' is a tri-state unity walk in support of child sex abuse survivors' access to justice. Specifically, the walk is in support of pending child sex abuse statute of limitations revival/window legislation in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

When support builds up for child sex abuse statute of limitations reform, so does the opposition. Please keep in mind, when reviewing their arguments, that statute of limitations reform only extends the time victims have to come forward. The case still has to be proven in a court of law with evidence, etc.


"The Catholic Church has learned hard lessons regarding child sexual abuse and has taken responsibility for the abuse that has occurred within its ranks.  The dioceses across Pennsylvania have implemented changes that offer assistance to abuse survivors and affirm that they are not at fault for the crime committed against them.

The Church has also taken great strides to protect children and provide financial assistance for survivors and their families, no matter how long ago the crime was committed, and for as long as necessary. Children and adults are trained to recognize and report signs of abuse to ensure that the children in our care are safe and secure. To date, Pennsylvania's dioceses have spent over $16.6 million to provide compassionate and supportive victim assistance to individuals and families.  

Despite that, state lawmakers are considering legislation that would retroactively nullify the statute of limitations for filing a civil lawsuit alleging childhood sexual abuse. It would force parishes, dioceses, schools, and charities to defend cases that are 20, 30, or 40 years old, long after the perpetrator and possible witnesses have died or clear evidence is gone. It could lead to the closure of parishes, schools, and ministries of today's Catholics, who are in no way responsible for abuse that occurred decades ago."

Child sex abuse advocates present the following in support of the impact and relative success of window legislation:

The Relative Success of SOL Window and Revival Statutes, State-by-State

California (2003) (1-year window revived civil SOLs, closed)
  • Population: 35.25 million
  • No. survivors who filed claims: Approximately 1,150
  • Unidentified predators identified: 300+
  • Entities sued: Family members, Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America, The Explorers (Los Angeles Police Department), The Salvation Army, The Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Monterey Bay Academy.
  • False claims: anecdotal reports of handful - none in media
Delaware (2007-09) (2-year window revived SOLs, closed)
  • Population: 935,000
  • Most active predator who had been previously undisclosed: Pediatrician Dr. Earl V. Bradley
  • No. survivors who filed claims under initial 2-year window: Approximately 175
  • No. survivors who filed claims under follow-up window for healthcare providers: Approximately 1,000 (claims solely against Pediatrician Dr. Earl V. Bradley)
  • Entities sued under initial 2-year window: Family members, Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, St. Elizabeth's Roman Catholic Church, Laurel School District, Archmere Academy, Inc., The Premonstratenian Fathers, Inc., The Norbertine Fathers of Delaware, Boy Scouts of America, Fairwinds Baptist Church, Salesianum School, The Capuchin Friars, The Brothers of the Holy Cross, St. Edmond's Academy, St. John the Beloved Church
  • Entities named under follow-up window: Beebe Medical Center (connected to Bradley), Medical Society of Delaware (connected to Bradley), Medical Society of Delaware Insurance Services (affiliate of Medical Society of Delaware, connected to Bradley)
  • False claims: None reported
Minnesota (2013-16) (3-year window, open)
  • Population: 5.5 million
  • No. survivors who filed claims: 44 plus 419+ notices of claim in RCC bankruptcy context
  • Unidentified predators identified: 69 Priests
  • Entities sued: Boy Scouts, Lutheran Church, YMCA, Children's Theatre Company, Dioceses of Crookston, Duluth, New Ulm, St. Cloud, and Winona, Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis,
  • False claims: None reported
Hawaii (2012-2016) (2-year window with 2-year extension revived civil SOLs)
  • Population: 1.42 million
  • No. survivors who filed claims: Approximately 125
  • Unidentified predators identified: Jay Ram (Big Island farmer who used California foster care system to import boys to abuse in 1980s/90s); Principal of Damien Memorial High School; several priests, e.g., Fr. Joseph Turk, Fr. Gerald Funcheon, Fr. George DeCosta, Fr. Joseph Henry
  • Entities sued: Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind, Damien Memorial School, Congregation of Christian Bros. of Hawaii, Diocese of Honolulu, Society of Priests of St. Silpice, St. Anthony Parish of Kailua, St. Philomena Parish of Honolulu, Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers
  • False claims: none reported
Massachusetts (2014) (revives civil SOL up to age 53 against perpetrator) (revives civil SOL with discovery +7 years against entities)
  • Population: 6.7 million
  • No. survivors who filed claims: Unknown
  • Unidentified predators identified:
  • Entities sued: Deerfield Academy, Harvard University, Fessenden School Archdiocese of Boston, Diocese of Fall River, Springfield, Worcester,
  • False claims: None reported
Connecticut (2010 to present) (revives expired claims to age 48)
  • Population: 3.6 million
  • No. survivors who filed claims: undetermined
  • Entities sued: Indian Mountain School, Inc., Hartford Roman Catholic Diocesan Corp.
  • False claims: None reported
Georgia (2015-17) (2-year window revives civil SOL against perpetrator (not entities), in effect 7/1/2015, currently open)
  • Population: 10.1 million
  • No. survivors who filed claims: 9
  • Unidentified predators identified: James S. Collins, current leading lobbyist and former Baptist Church and YMCA youth coordinator
  • Entities identified but not sued due to narrow scope of window: Pak Karate, Amateur Athletic Union, US Taekwondo Association, Toombs County Church, First Baptist Church of Vidalia, Boy Scouts of America
  • False claims: None reported

Utah - window and retroactive extension to age 53 against perps and aiders and abettors.