Re­port: Church spent mil­lions to stop statute of lim­i­ta­tions ex­pan­sion

The News-Times - - FROM THE FRONT PAGE - By Han­nah Dellinger

HARTFORD — The Catholic Church this year lob­bied state leg­is­la­tors against a pro­vi­sion in pro­posed leg­is­la­tion that would have cre­ated a 27-month open win­dow for fil­ing civil sex abuse law­suits for cases that pre­date the cur­rent statute of lim­i­ta­tions.

The win­dow, in­cluded in an early it­er­a­tion of the pro­posed Act Com­bat­ing Sex­ual As­sault and Sex­ual Ha­rass­ment, did not make the fi­nal draft of the bill.

The Connecticu­t Catholic Pub­lic Af­fairs Con­fer­ence — the lob­by­ing arm of the church in the state — has spent more than $875,000 in lob­by­ing ef­forts in Connecticu­t since 2013, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased this week by a group of law firms that says it rep­re­sents 300 clergy sex abuse vic­tims.

“We started look­ing at what was be­hind some of the fail­ures of statute of lim­i­ta­tions leg­is­la­tion in states like Penn­syl­va­nia,” said Michelle Simp­son Tuegel, an at­tor­ney with Seeger Weiss, a firm based in Texas. “We started to no­tice a pat­tern of spend­ing (on lob­by­ing by the church) where there was pend­ing leg­is­la­tion and a revival win­dow was taken out.”

The data col­lected for the re­port came from pub­lic fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sure doc­u­ments filed with state ethics com­mis­sions. In Connecticu­t, lob­by­ing dis­clo­sures don’t break down how much money was spent on each is­sue by the group.

The $875,000 fig­ure calculated in the re­port was not all spent on lob­by­ing a sin­gle is­sue by the church, said Christo­pher Healy, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Connecticu­t Catholic Con­fer­ence, but on a num­ber of is­sues.

Simp­son Tuegel, said the pub­lic dis­clo­sures don’t show what is­sues the money was spent on specif­i­cally. But, she said: “Some of the proof is in the re­sults. These re­sults don’t hap­pen with­out any spend­ing.”

When asked if the church lob­bied against the 27-month look-back win­dow this ses­sion, Healy con­firmed it did.

“We thought that it was un­fair and not needed,” he said. “The rea­son is due process. Peo­ple’s mem­o­ries fade, wit­nesses are no longer avail­able and in­for­ma­tion is lost.”

North­east­ern states that have con­sid­ered ex­pand­ing statutes of lim­i­ta­tions, in­clud­ing Connecticu­t, Maine, Mas­sachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Penn­syl­va­nia and Rhode Is­land, have been the fo­cus of the church’s lob­by­ing, the re­port in­di­cates. The church has spent more than $10.6 mil­lion lob­by­ing in those states since 2011, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

The Connecticu­t Con­fer­ence ranks third in spend­ing of the eight states in­cluded in the re­port. It rep­re­sents the Arch­dio­cese of Hartford, the dio­ce­ses of Bridge­port and Nor­wich, and the Ukrainian Catholic Dio­cese of Stam­ford, ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

There are three open child sex abuse law­suits cur­rently filed against the Arch­dio­cese of Hartford, ac­cord­ing to court records. It has paid $50.6 mil­lion to set­tle sex abuse claims against its priests in the past. The Bridge­port Dio­cese has paid out more than $52 mil­lion in sex abuse set­tle­ments.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.