BOSTON, Mass., Aug. 10, 2021 – Former Roman Catholic cardinal Theodore McCarrick had already become the poster child for the now two-decade-old Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal when he was charged July 28 in Massachusetts for three counts of indecent assault and battery. The 91-year-old former prelate is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 3.
McCarrick’s charges show like nothing before how the states must repeal statutes of limitations to provide justice for clergy abuse survivors. McCarrick had eluded prosecution for decades, despite multiple allegations of abuse. He was finally defrocked in 2019 and is now criminally charged with abusing a 16-year-old boy in 1974 in Massachusetts. The statute of limitations clock had stopped when he left the state, demonstrating how important the details of the statutes are. He is the most senior member of the Catholic clergy in modern times to have been defrocked and criminally charged due to allegations of sexual abuse.
Many states, but not all, have undertaken SOL reform in recent years, spurred on especially by the 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report and the Vatican’s McCarrick report on his activities prior to his recent charges. Here is an SOL reform rundown as of 2020, according to the ChildUSA 2020 SOL Tracker, where much additional information about SOLs is located (statutes can be complex and confusing):
- SOL reform laws were passed and went into effect in these eight states in 2020: Florida, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.
- SOL reform laws were introduced in these 30 states and the federal government in 2020: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming
The tide may be turning regarding the number of states having passed or considering SOL reform, but VOTF and like-minded Catholics have always found getting such legislation passed challenging. Even though SOL reform does not target the Church and helps all survivors of sexual abuse, the Church and other large organizations continually attempt to limit their exposure to lawsuits from abuse survivors.
Perhaps greater transparency and a more pastoral approach toward clergy abuse victims by the Church may have curtailed the scope of the present scandal and spared many ruined lives, but the circumstances today leave survivors with few avenues for justice except civil courts so that progress toward additional reform of all statutes of limitations cannot proceed quickly enough. Forty-two states, the federal government and Washington, D.C., may have eliminated criminal SOLs, but reforming remaining criminal and much civil SOL legislation requires diligent effort.
Voice of the Faithful Statement, Aug. 10, 2021, Contact: Nick Ingala, email@example.com, 781-559-3360 — Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful’s® mission is to provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the Faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church. VOTF’s goals are to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, to support priests of integrity, and to shape structural change within the Catholic Church. More information is at www.votf.org.