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./