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Caruso said Catholic Church leaders in Virginia don’t plan to point to a specific year as an appropriate civil statute of limitations. However, he noted that about 30 states have a civil statute of limitations of two to five years for child sex abuse cases.
“There’s only six states that have a statute of limitations of 25 years or greater, and of the remainder, the majority of those fall in the seven to 10 years range,” Caruso said. “Rather than pointing to a specific number, I think that this survey of what other states do in this area really kind of presents a reasonable context.”
Caruso said that the Richmond and Arlington dioceses have implemented mandatory background checks for employees and volunteers. There’s also been “safe environment” training, and there’s a requirement to report abuse to law enforcement.
Del. David Albo, R-Fairfax County, filed the House bill to extend the civil statute of limitations to 25 years. However, he said that Caruso presented a compelling case for a smaller window.
“They’re probably right,” Albo said. “If it was 25 years it creates a problem, because what if you discovered it when you were 40? And then you have 25 more years? You’d be trialing a case 55 years after the event happened. And witnesses pass away. People forget [things].”
This is not an easy issue to sort out. On one hand, there’s your traditional anti-Catholicism running amok that just wants to stick it to the Catholic Church. On the other hand, this is not an isolated problem.
According to the 2004 study “the most accurate data available at this time” indicates that “nearly 9.6 percent of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometime during their school career.”
“Educator sexual misconduct is woefully under-studied,” writes the researcher. “We have scant data on incidence and even less on descriptions of predators and targets. There are many questions that call for answers.”
In an article published on Monday, renowned Catholic commentator George Weigel referred to the Shakeshaft study, and observed that “The sexual and physical abuse of children and young people is a global plague” in which Catholic priests constitute only a small minority of perpetrators.
So where does the line get drawn? And is the problem one of pedophilia or pederasty? Rather than treating the symptoms of the problem in a legal fashion, how do we find a way to fix the problem at its source? We can’t remove children from the classroom or priests/pastors from congregations.
It is appreciative to see that Virginia’s legislators and members of the faith community are dealing with the problem without rushing the job and creating worse monsters. As the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus put it, this is an issue of fidelity, fidelity, fidelity all the way through.