THANK YOU – The Child Victims Act becomes law!

From Call to Action – Metro NY

This Thursday, Feb. 14, Governor Cuomo will sign the NY Child Victims Act into law, and once he does, New York State will be sending a message to predators of children that NY will not be so friendly to them in the future.   It took 12 years of advocacy for this bill to become a law.   It’s not perfect, but it is a step towards justice that was long withheld from victims of child abuse.   It will hold accountable predators and institutions that cover up for them or enable them. Call To Action Metro NY advocated for this bill since 2012.   At times we were the largest contingent of people coming to Lobby Day in the spring.   We wrote position papers and countered the arguments that the Conference of Catholic Bishops promoted among legislators to stall this bill.   It wasn’t always comfortable for us to be in such tension with the Catholic hierarchy, but as lay Catholics, we felt an obligation to speak out against the sin of the sexual abuse of children and the institutional cover-up of it.   We also came to view the issue of sexual abuse of children as a moral issue for the whole society. We write this to thank all who contributed to our efforts.   We are particularly grateful to the few courageous priests and nuns who advocated for the bill and spoke about what they had witnessed or experienced or simply felt was the just and right thing to do.   In particular we would like to thank canon lawyer Fr. Tom Doyle for helping to educate us on the issue; Bishop Gumbleton, of Detroit, who early on stood with victims and several years ago shared having been a victim himself; and more locally, Fr. Ron Lemmert, who spoke up about the pastor’s abuse of young boys in his Peekskill parish, his communication to the hierarchy going unheeded, and the subsequent suicide of many of the victims.    One important thing we have learned in this whole process is that child sexual abuse takes a heavy toll. We are all indebted to SNAP and founder Barbara Blaine, who died last year, for supporting survivors and finding pathways to have this issue break open into the public view in spite of the fact that it would be painful for the church.   It was felt from the beginning that the problem would not be solved by keeping it quiet.   Thanks to Anne Barrett Doyle, who created the data base Bishop Accountability, a valuable tool for documenting the extent of the abuse in our church. We applaud the victims/survivors who had the courage to come forward and speak their truth.   Many were not abused by anyone in the church, yet they, like us, had to face the fact that the Catholic Church, through the NY State Catholic Conference, spent thousands of dollars to lobby against this bill. For many victims, getting involved in advocacy was a healing process that allowed them to go from being a victim to being a survivor.   Special mention goes to Bridie Farrell, Asher Lovy, Shaun Dougherty, Mary Ellen O’Loughlin, Brian Toale, Harold Siering, Tim Walsh, Melanie Blow, Steve Jimenez, Catherine Robb, Richard Toellner, Gary Greenburg and Connie Altamirano.   There were many others; these are the survivors we got to know most. Their voices mattered. The latter two worked hard to pass this bill even though neither of them will get any benefit from it. We are thankful to Law Professor Marci Hamilton who, as a national expert on child sexual abuse, gave countless press interviews and testimony at hearings that helped shine the spotlight on this issue and the bill. Thanks as well to Safe Horizon and other agencies that deal with victims for the expert testimony they could provide.   And to Jessica Schafroth for marshalling the troops for Lobby Days in the last several years. And of course thanks goes to those who carried this bill in the NY legislature, starting with Senator Tom Duane and Assembly-member Marge Markey and then Senator Hoylman and Assembly-member Linda Rosenthal who together carried the bill over the finish line with the support of many co-sponsors.   Thank you for your steadfastness, for believing survivors, and for wanting to protect New York’s kids. On Thursday, we will all thank Governor Cuomo for his support of this bill, for talking personally with survivors and coming to understand the importance of improving protective measures against child sex abuse. Including the bill in his budget was a major step forward, and we are grateful for the attention he gave to this issue. Last, we want to thank those of you who came forward to help advocate for this bill, for going up to Albany, for going to district visits with legislators, for participating in rallies or making phone calls.   CTA Upstate New York joined us in this effort, and at times, together with Voice of the Faithful, we were the “Catholic Coalition of Conscience”.   We exemplified the laity stepping out of the pews to advocate for a more just church and a more just society. We were but one piece of the advocacy puzzle, but an important Catholic voice for justice.

Thank you all for your support,

Art McGrath and Nancy Lorence, Call To Action Metro NY

A Summary of what will this bill do

It extends the statutes of limitation for felony crimes of sexual abuse of a child to age 28.

It extends the statutes of limitation for civil cases to age 55.

It creates a one-year period during which the statutes of limitation for civil cases will be lifted and survivors will be able to bring their cases currently barred by the short statutes of limitation to civil court.   This one-year period will start six months from the day the bill is signed by Governor Cuomo on Thursday.

The bill also holds accountable institutions and organizations, both public and private, responsible for enabling or covering up crimes of sexual abuse of children. This applies to the one-year period as well. This law will affect the institutions and organizations that acted irresponsibly in the past.   And yes, that may be painful. Yet, we considered it important to have the one-year  “window” to identify perpetrators who may still be in contact with children and to provide some sense of justice to survivors who had been shut out of court by New York’s unrealistic statutes of limitation for this type of crime.   We also consider it a form of reparation for a harm inflicted over too many years on innocent children.

Now more than ever, pass this bill

By Arthur McGrath Sep 01, 2018 | 5:00 AM (Originally published in the New York Daily News)

[Art McGrath is leader of the NYC –Metro Chapter of Call to Action]

Timothy Cardinal Dolan met with state Senate President John Flanagan in the days before the vote on the governor’s budget. (Matthew Eisman / Getty Images)

The Bible tells us that when Jesus, considered by the Romans to be a criminal, was arrested in the days before his crucifixion, St. Peter was confronted by different local people about his suspected affiliation with the man. Each time Peter was confronted, he denied any association or even knowing Jesus. It has become well known that Catholic bishops across the United States have for decades failed to report to the police the suspected or known crimes of sexual abuse of children by priests. This failure to report the criminal activity generally denied justice to the child sex crime victims. Let us call this the First Denial of Jesus. The Second Denial of Jesus: decades of covering up crimes and shuffling known predator priests. We hope most of these activities have been reduced over the last decade or so by various reforms put in place by the Catholic Church. The lesser-known Third Denial of Jesus is the aggressive and ongoing opposition in many states by Catholic bishops to reforming statutes of limitation. In New York, if someone who was sexually abused as a child walks into a police station on or after their 23rd birthday, they are told that with the exception of some cases of rape, they have no access to the state’s criminal or civil justice systems. The state’s Catholic bishops have been actively blocking the state Legislature from fixing this problem, on the ground that they oppose simultaneously opening a “look-back window” of one year to permit access to justice in the civil court system for past offenses. The opening of such a window in California resulted in the identification of over 300 previously unknown sexual predators. We got close. This year, and many times over recent years, the Assembly passed the Child Victims Act, including the look-back window, and this year Gov. Cuomo supported it with his own version in the budget bill. Timothy Cardinal Dolan met with state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan in the days before the vote on the governor’s budget to be sure it would not pass. After the meetings with Flanagan, Dolan characterized the look-back window as “toxic for us” and “very strangling.” But this is not about the health of the Church; it’s about basic justice and decency. Pope Francis’ recent letter regarding the Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sex abuse indicates, “no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient.” Yet despite the Pope’s call for repair of the damage done, the state’s Catholic conference continues to spend large amounts of money to block the passage of the Child Victims Act. Let’s do a little math. Pennsylvania has a population of about 14 million; New York State has a population of about 20 million. The Pennsylvania grand jury found that at least 1,000 children were sexually abused by over 300 priests in the decades that they investigated. One can only imagine the size of the problem in New York. If we never change the law, we will likely never find out the truth, and terrible past crimes will remain forever buried. Perpetrators and those who covered up their crimes will continue to escape accountability. I urge New Yorkers to let Flanagan and Dolan know that it is the Third Denial that is toxic and strangling for the survivors, the church and this state.

Art McGrath is a psychotherapist specializing in adults with childhood trauma./

Child Victims Act needs to be OK’d in New York  Published 2:43 pm EDT, Saturday, August 25, 2018 Albany Times Union

It is no surprise that Pennsylvania Catholic bishops led the fight to quash the grand jury investigation of the sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children by priests over several decades. The bishops, their lobbyists and Republican legislators also have fought legislative proposals to change the civil and criminal statutes of limitations in Pennsylvania mirroring exactly the opposition proponents of a Child Victims Act have faced in New York This year the bishops failed to block the grand jury report and a veritable catalog of horrors was revealed. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro bluntly declared that the bishops “protected their institutions at all costs. As the grand jury found, the church showed a complete disdain for victims”. As a member of Call to Action, a lay Catholic organization, we are ashamed of the behavior of those who abused children and those who permitted this abuse. We are committed to seeing New York pass a Child Victims Act that extends the statute of limitations, adds a look-back period for persons abused in the past and holds accountable the abusers, those who failed to stop the abuse and those who covered up the abuse. To be clear the New York CVA covers sexual abuse cases that are church-related but also cases that are committed by persons associated with both public and private institutions as well as family members and friends. The Vatican has also reacted calling the Pennsylvania case “reprehensible.” Most importantly, the Vatican said there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur. Sounds like a vote for the CVA in New York.

Robert K. Corliss /Schenectady/ /Call to Action-Upstate/

Coalition renews effort to pass Child Victim’s Act in NYS

[The following is a press release from the coalition supporting passage of the Child Victim’s Act in NYS. Catholic Bishops in NYS and Pennsylvania have been the strongest lobbyists against this bill and a similar one in PA.  The Schenectady Gazette calls for passage of the CVA as does the NY Daily News. ; ] *The pope asks 1.2 billion Catholics to stand with survivors of CSA and help ensure justice. Will Senate Republicans heed his call? * *ASSEMBLYMEMBER LINDA B. ROSENTHAL, STATE SENATOR BRAD HOYLMAN, SURVIVORS AND ADVOCATES RENEW CALLS TO PASS CHILD VICTIMS ACT IN LIGHT OF SHOCKING REVELATIONS IN PA GRAND JURY REPORT* ** */In Letter to Catholics Worldwide the Pope says the Lord Stands with Survivors of Childhood Sexual Assault, But New York State Senate Republicans Do Not/* /New York, NY/ – Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan) and State Senator Brad Hoylman (D/WF-Manhattan), sponsors of New York State’s Child Victims Act (A.5885-A/S.6575 ), along with survivors and advocates of childhood sexual assault, issued the following statement after Pope Francis released an unprecedented letter to 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide  acknowledging the pain suffered by survivors of sexual assault at the hands of priests and taking responsibility for the vast cover-up that allowed the abuse to continue for years unabated. The letter comes on the heels of shocking revelations contained in a Pennsylvania grand jury report  detailing the sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children and individuals by more than 300 priests over 70 years. In the letter, Pope Francis expresses support for judicial remedies such as the Child Victims Act: “May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, */supporting all judicial measures that may be necessary.”/* *//* *Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal said, *“According to Pope Francis, the Lord stands with survivors of sexual assault. And yet, the State Senate Republicans have deliberately chosen to stand with abusers instead. Though the Pope calls for ‘accountability’ for anyone who perpetrated or covered up a sex crime against a child, the Senate Republicans have blocked the Child Victims Act for years, preferring instead to side with the likes of the Catholic League, which calls ‘fake news’ on the stories of survivors and blows homophobic dog whistles.” *State Senator Brad Hoylman said,*“There can be no question about it. Pope Francis unequivocally stated yesterday that ‘no effort must be spared’ to prevent child sexual abuse from ‘being covered up and perpetuated.’ I hope the Senate Republicans take the Pope’s words to heart and join Senate Democrats in supporting the Child Victims Act, the legislation that will finally help uncover the extent of child sexual abuse in New York and give survivors their day in court.” The Pope’s letter, perhaps the first time a sitting Pope has addressed all Catholics in writing on sexual assault, reflects the breadth of the sexual assault crisis, and promises that ‘no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such [abuses] from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.’ The Pennsylvania grand jury report details a vast cover-up by church officials in that state to shuffle offending priests around to avoid discovery or prosecution. Of the priests accused in the report, 27 served in Catholic organizations or committed acts of abuse in New York State.  Among others things, the PA report recommended the state reform its statute of limitations to allow survivors of sexual assault to bring civil claims against their abusers. Though Church officials have for years denied knowledge of sexual abuse by priests, a recent investigation by the New York Times reveals that the highest officials in the Vatican, up to and even including previous Popes, may have been made aware of inappropriate criminal sexual behavior, yet took no action to stop it. “The Pennsylvania grand jury report is proof of concept for the need of the Child Victims Act in New York. The grand jury identified sexual abuse involving more than 300 priests and at least one thousand child victims. But because of a systematic cover-up over the course of 70 years, almost every instance of abuse they found was too old to be prosecuted. We can address this problem here in New York by passing the Child Victims Act, which would lift the statute of limitations for crimes of child sexual abuse and give adult survivors one year to bring civil lawsuits against their abusers and the institutions that may have harbored them,” *said State Senator Brad Hoylman.* “In the Church and in society at large, sexual abuse persists, in large part, because of a culture of secrecy that shames victims and protects predators. The Pennsylvania grand jury report makes clear that no institution can be trusted to police itself when it comes to sex abuse, and that we need to shine the brightest light we have to protect our children, who are the most important and vulnerable. That light is the Child Victims Act, which the Assembly has passed numerous times. The State Senate must pass the CVA now to ensure that any child who suffered ‘wounds that would never go away’ as a result of the ‘culture of death’ have an opportunity for justice and healing,” *said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal.*” *Dr. Kevin Braney, survivor of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Syracuse, “*The facts speak for themselves: 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 boys are sexual abuse victims.  The sexual abuse of children by persons in a position of trust is a societal problem not limited to the Catholic Church. However, the PA Grand Jury report provides stinging clarity to the extent institutional power was used to perpetuate, enable, and ultimately fund the rape and torture of thousands of Catholic children.  Church leaders must face a commensurate response from law enforcement and society. Political leaders must give our judicial system the power to ensure that no more children are harmed and victims can find justice.” “As a prepubescent boy while attending grammar school at Nativity School in the Buffalo Diocese, I was groomed and ultimately raped by the Monsignor Sylvester Holbel. During this time the culture of the school allowed at least 2 priests to abuse multiple children.  After years of abuse I went to a nun and a family member for help.  I was told I was a liar that a priest would never do such a thing and was immediately silenced by those in a position to protect me. These experiences have had a profound impact on my entire being and led to years of suicidal ideation, depression, substance abuse and an inability to build a productive meaningful life for myself,” *said Tom Travers, survivor of rape by a priest in the Buffalo Diocese, lives in Buffalo, NY.* “I was abused at a Catholic HS for a whole school year by a faculty member and when I contacted the school principal, school board president, head of the order that ran the school and the diocese that oversaw the school, they all ignored me,” *said Brian Toale, survivor of CSA*. “How can any individual who purports to be called to the service of God and people abuse children and then do everything possible to cover up the crime? It is time for Albany to put a spotlight on this issue so we can finally find some justice,” *said Cecelia Springer, abused as a child by a nun in her Catholic school.* “In light of the recommendations of the Pennsylvania grand jury that Pennsylvania change its statute of limitations laws regarding child sexual abuse, it behooves the Senate of New York State to enact similar reforms to guarantee victims their day in court,” *said Robert M. Hoatson, PhD, Road to Recovery, Inc.* The Child Victims Act would extend New York’s statute of limitation for child sexual assault and create a one-year lookback window within which survivors would be able to initiate claims against their abusers in cases where the statute of limitations has expired. New York’s existing statute of limitations, considered among the most restrictive in the nation, gives survivors only until the age of 23 at most to file a claim. The legislation, which has existed in one form or another for nearly 13 years, has passed the Assembly by wide margins in 2017 and 2018, but has stalled in the State Senate as a result of Republican opposition.  ###

Bishops Lobbying hard

From the Coalition (in support of the Child Victims Act):  Cardinal Dolan is fighting the look-back window by meeting with Gov. Cuomo and Senator Flanagan.  He offended survivors by saying that the CVA would be “strangling” and “toxic” to the church.  The whole child sex abuse crisis in this country is toxic and strangling to those who manage to survive it.  It is a justice issue and protection of children in NY State that we are talking about here..  and accountability of all responsible organizations, not just the Catholic Church.


Timothy Cardinal Dolan urges state pols to reject ‘toxic’ lookback window in child abuse cases

ALBANY — Timothy Cardinal Dolan urged Gov. Cuomo and state lawmakers Tuesday to reject any legislation that gives child abuse victims a window to revive old legal cases. Dolan, who made an unannounced trip to the state Capitol to lobby the governor and legislative leaders, said the idea of a “lookback would be toxic for us” because it would lead to a flurry of cases against the church.


What the Buffalo Catholic diocese’s abusive priest list doesn’t say

Victims say it leaves questions unanswered

Bishop Malone, meanwhile, is in Albany, where he is reported to be lobbying against the proposed Child Victims Act, which would extend the statute of limitations for sexual abuse victims.