Upcoming Report On Abuse In Catholic Dioceses Renews Effort To Change Statute Of Limitations

May 25, 2018

A grand jury report on child sexual abuse in six Pennsylvania Roman Catholic dioceses is expected to be released in the coming weeks, after two years of investigation.

In anticipation, some state lawmakers are renewing a call to extend the statute of limitations for these cases.

Current Pennsylvania lase allows a victim of child sexual assault to sue their abuser until they turn 30 years old. Senate Bill 261, whose lead sponsor is Joseph Scarnati (R-Jefferson County), would raise that age to 50. 

State Representative Mark Rozzi (D-Berks County) is a vocal supporter of extending the statute of limitations. He said he was sexually assaulted by an Allentown priest when he was 13 years old, and did not go public with his story until he was 39. 

Rozzi said victims often need time to process what happened to them. 

"There's the embarassment, the guilt, the 'What did I do wrong here?' And you start believing that," he said. "When I was getting raped, I didn't even know what a statute of limitations was, I didn't even know there was a crime going on."

Similar amendments have failed in the past, but Rozzi thinks the upcoming report, combined with the #MeToo movement, create a perfect storm for change to happen.

"When you're encompassing six Roman Catholic dioceses, the amount of victims that have come forward, the amount of information we're going to learn, I think people will be shocked," he said.

Rozzi said he was disapointed to hear Pittsburgh Diocese Bishop David Zubik wants to see a copy of the report before it is released. Zubik also said the diocese will not challenge the report, a move that was applauded by Pennsyvlania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

On Friday, the Post-Gazette reported all six dioceses received advance copies of the report. The Pittsburgh Diocese declined to comment for this story.