One of the reasons we’ve seen so many lawsuits filed against the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America over the past few years is because several states decided to temporarily open a window for child sex abuse cases that were previously prevented due to statutes of limitations. Lawmakers now know that some victims are unable to wrestle with what happened to them until much later in life; opening that window gave them a chance for restitution and closure.
In Colorado, there’s a bipartisan push to keep that window open for good.
As it stands, while you can always file criminal charges against an abuser, you only have six years after you turn 18 to file a civil lawsuit against your attacker. Senate Bill 21-073 would eliminate that restriction and others like it. It would mean victims could sue the Catholic Church or the Boy Scouts for any abuse they suffered no matter how old they are today.
This bill received a unanimous vote in the State Senate this week — which is unusual these days.
But guess who opposes the bill?
You’re right. The Catholic Church.
The Colorado Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s three dioceses — Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo — said it has supported unlimited time to seek criminal charges but not, as proposed in the bill, for civil statutes.
In a statement, the group said it supports “reasonable and fair extension of the civil statute of limitations; however, statutes of limitations must have a sensible time limit to ensure due process for all parties involved.”
Another measure, that would allow victims to sue organizations for abuse that occurred under their watch, is also opposed by the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts:
The Denver Area Council of Boy Scouts of America supports the bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for civil claims, Scout Executive and CEO Chuck Brasfeild wrote in a statement. But the group is concerned about the other bill — creating a new cause of action against an organization that either knew or should have known about the risks and concealed abuse — which, Brasfeild said, appears to be an unconstitutional overreach.
The Colorado Catholic Conference also opposes that measure, saying: “Passing a bill with constitutional and due process problems does not put victims first. It will only delay opportunities for survivors to receive compensation and not promote true restorative justice. The Catholic Church in Colorado is eager to ensure survivors of abuse receive the support they need for true healing.”
They’re scared. They’re not worried about the Constitution — since other states have passed similar bills. They’re worried that the lawsuits will never end. But if you’re running a sex abuse factory where the number of alleged victims keeps going up, then you deserve to be sued into oblivion. If the Catholic Church did what was needed to provide “true healing” for victims, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.
These bills still have a long way to go before passage, but lawmakers should at the very least ignore the whining from the people who harbored abusers for years. They’re not the voices anyone needs to be listening to. Listen to the victims who want the opportunity to seek justice. 12 other states and Guam have eliminated statutes of limitations already. There’s no legal issue. Colorado can do the same, if it can withstand the opposition from the den of sex abusers that is the Church.
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