Earlier this month, Timothy Cardinal Dolan announced a program aimed at compensating victims of child sexual abuse. While this is obviously a good first step, it is one that has the potential to polarize advocates for stronger laws. In New York, lawmakers have been pushing for new laws that will make it easier for sex abuse victims to sue those that abused them.
While taking responsibility for abuse is an admirable action, many see it as a way for the archdiocese to lessen their liability for now and the future. Sen. Brad Hoylman (d-Manhattan), a prime sponsor of the Child Victims Act, called the program “a canny legal strategy to help reduce the archdiocese’s liability for decades of crimes and coverups.”
One point of contention with the program is that it also protects those who committed the abuse by keeping their names private. Such a program would also exclude non-church entities where systematic abuse has taken place.
“I think the archdiocese’s announcement emboldens our efforts because it lends credibility to the claims of thousands of survivors across the state of New York,” Hoylman said. “They need justice. They need a day in court.”
Senate Democrats said they will prioritize the passage of the Child Victims Act if they are successful in winning control of the chamber in November, and those candidates have also won the support of Gary Greenberg, and upstate investor that started a PAC to back candidates that support the Child Victims Act.
“Cardinal Dolan sees the writing on the wall — he knows the Child Victims Act will pass next year,” said Greenberg, who was sexually abused by a hospital worker in 1966. “This is an obvious attempt to circumvent justice by creating a committee of members that he selects who will offer priest abuse survivors the opportunity of a settlement outside the legal system, and only in return for sacrificing (victims’) rights.”
Greenberg said the Child Victims Act is key to giving survivors justice under the law and protecting kids today.
“The church’s continued resistance to passing sensible legislation to protect children prevents child abusers from being held responsible and provides them with the legal protection they need to continue to rape more children,” he said. “It’s disgusting. Cardinal Dolan should be ashamed of himself.”
Kathryn Robb, a child sex abuse survivor and advocate, called Dolan’s program “progress,” but said it won’t help the many victims who were abused but not by clergy.
“Therefore, (we) will still fight for (statute of limitation) reform so all victims can seek relief and justice,” Robb said. “And, let’s be honest, potential defendants don’t offer settlement programs unless they have a lot to lose and hide.”
She called the push for the Child Victims Act “a justice movement.”
“Make no mistake, we in the (statute of limitations) reform movement, will get there, because the strong leaders of New York, like Gov. Cuomo, and some others, care deeply about the children of New York, and believe fiercely in fairness, accountability and justice for all victims,” she said.