15 states have now enacted laws that allow victims of child sexual abuse to file lawsuits against their assailants even if the statute of limitations had expired.
The Associated Press says the courts overseeing those states have been flooded with victims seeking justice — over 5,000 lawsuits, by the AP’s count, in just three states — and the final bill for the Catholic Church, after it inevitably settles many of these cases, could be well over $4 billion.
With a “B.”
“It’s like a whole new beginning for me,” said 71-year-old Nancy Holling-Lonnecker of San Diego, who plans to take advantage of an upcoming three-year window for such suits in California. Her claim dates back to the 1950s, when she says a priest repeatedly raped her in a confession booth beginning when she was 7 years old.
“The survivors coming forward now have been holding on to this horrific experience all of their lives,” she said. “They bottled up those emotions all of these years because there was no place to take it.”
Now there is.
Couldn’t have happened to a worse organization.
Remember that many of these victims were afraid to speak out until relatively recently. It was only after the Church’s sex abuse problems were exposed, and after the Pennsylvania grand jury report came out last year, and after these laws were enacted to put power back into the hands of victims that a semblance of justice was even an option.
In California, New York, and New Jersey, the law now provides a small window where all child sex abuse cases can be brought forth regardless of when the alleged crimes occurred. In seven other states, the statute of limitations has simply been extended.
The new laws have also created new opportunities for attorneys hoping to represent the victims. Only a fraction of the cases are even taken up, but with more dioceses going public with lists of priests who were credibly accused of molesting kids, there’s no telling how far this goes.
If it leads more of those dioceses to go bankrupt, well, too damn bad. They have enough property and stashed artwork they can sell to cover the costs of the trauma they’ve inflicted upon victims. No one should feel bad for the Catholic Church for having to finally pay a penance for their actions.
It’s long past time for them to face justice.
(Image via Shutterstock)