Baltimore Examiner

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3/6/08 
Editorial: Help children; don’t hide crimes
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BALTIMORE (Map, News) - Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O’Brien told The Examiner he was “sorry” for the victims of sexual abuse by priests. “As a church we cannot say this is enough.”

We wonder then, because the church worked tirelessly to kill a brief window in the statute of limitations to allow abuse victims of all faiths to sue in civil court, what is enough? The archbishop said, “There is always an opportunity for justice in Maryland because we live in a state with no statute of limitations on felonies.” He’s right. So, has the Catholic Church shared with law enforcement — as all citizens are required to do — all knowledge of felonies? Or has it helped predators remain loose to destroy lives of even more victims? Forcing felons to leave the church does not make society safe. It just protects church wealth from lawsuits.

Victims of abuse past, present and future demand an answer to that question, as does the law of Maryland — and fundamental morality.

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3/3/2008

Commentary: Vicki Polin

Church hurts victims of all faiths

I was totally shocked at (Maryland Catholic Conference Director) Dick Dowling’s manipulation of words when he lied about Del. Eric Bromwell’s bill (offering a window in civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims.) As a member of the Child Victims Voice of Maryland Coalition, I will say that not one trial lawyer has been involved in our coalition or advocated for this bill.

Those who have been advocating for the bill are survivors of sex crimes committed against them as children, and also their family members and friends. We are all seeking justice against those who perpetrate sexual offenses against our children.

It’s both sad and sickening to say that this is just more evidence that Dowling’s deceitful words are part of a concerted fearmongering effort by the Maryland Catholic Conference to mislead parishioners. The sad part is that by doing this, he is taking away the civil rights of all those who were victimized as children, not just Catholic survivors. It’s important to keep in mind that just under 50 percent of all cases of child sexual abuse occur in the home and not the church, synagogue or mosque.

Dowling is an educated man who knows that raising the statute of limitations is a key deterrent to child sexual abuse. Sex offenders know full well that these archaic laws work in their favor because so many victims/survivors are not in the position to come forward until much later in their lives, usually in their late 40s, 50s or beyond. An example of this is the case of Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro. At the age of 64, Murray Levin finally came forward. This was 52 years after he was allegedly molested by his bar mitzvah teacher.

When California raised its statute of limitations, more than 300 new sexual predators were revealed, essentially ending their reign of terror and prey of children. Just as the archdiocese or many other religious organizations did for so many years, bad laws protect sex offenders and shield criminal offenses from justice.

We all need to remind Dowling that honesty and truth will always prevail.

Vicki Polin is the founder and executive director of the Awareness Center Inc.

(The International Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault, www.theawarenesscenter.org )

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3/3/2008

Commentary: Maureen Paul Turlish

Abuse victims must not give up hope

MARYLAND Examiner published 3/3/2008

BALTIMORE (Map, News) - There is a certain irony to the fact that a Baltimore cleric, the Rev. Michael Salerno, stands accused of possible sexual abuse that was alleged to have occurred 30 years ago, before Salerno was a priest but while he was a lay member of the Pallottines in New York. Not that when it occurred should influence his removal if the charges are credible.

opefully, there will be a full investigation and Salerno will receive the due process that every citizen in the United States is entitled to.

Sadly, the irony is that on the very same day, Del. Eric Bromwell withdrew House Bill 858, which he introduced.

That Bromwell was not able to withstand the attacks of the well-orchestrated and well-financed opposition, including the Maryland Catholic Conference’s high-priced lobbyists and the leadership of his own Calvert Hall, does not lessen the man’s integrity and concern for all victims of childhood sexual abuse in introducing legislation whose time has come.

The inflammatory rhetoric and untruths circulated by the institutional church certainly did not help either.

Justice and truth, however, are not concepts that can be trotted out when convenient.

Rest assured that the institutional church’s loud protestations of commitment to victims of sexual abuse in the present offer neither absolution nor justice for the crimes and the sins of the past.

Do not give up hope. This battle only is lost.

In Delaware, we were not successful when our landmark anti-child-abuse legislation was initially introduced. It took much planning, lobbying, advocacy and careful explaining that no denomination’s churches, schools or programs had been closed where this type of legislation was passed.

In fact, neither did any the five dioceses in the United States that declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy on the eve of going to trial in a transparent attempt to keep records and files from public scrutiny.

Real transparency and accountability appear to be as elusive now as they were when they were first promised by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops back in 2002.

Sister Turlish is a victim’s advocate, an educator and a member of the Delaware nonsectarian coalition Child Victims Voice. She is a board member of the Delaware Association of Children of Alcoholics.

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3/3/2008

Commentary: Frank Dingle

Catholic Conference, bishop fail victims

MARYLAND Examiner published 3/3/2008

Greater Baltimore Voice of the Faithful, a group of faithful Catholics, is saddened by the opportunity lost for justice and protection of all Maryland children by the withdrawal of HB858 which would have increased statutes of limitation for civil cases against child sex offenders.

The withdrawal followed intensive bullying tactics and backroom political maneuvering from the state’s Catholic leadership. As experienced during previous efforts to deny victims justice, the Maryland Catholic Conference and Archdiocese of Baltimore aggressively fought this bill. These efforts are indicative of their continued campaign to avoid responsibility for the actions of child predator priests. Their demands and orders to local parish leaders to speak out against the bill at every Sunday Mass and to urge parishioners to contact legislators is fearmongering at its worst.

Their talking points are inaccurate and misleading. Their fear tactics of bankruptcy are unfounded. Their claims of abuse victims seeking justice will cause the elimination of the good work of local churches is ridiculous. This fearmongering is absurd, is unsubstantiated and goes against the very teachings of our faith.

The tactics of Maryland Catholic Conference Director Dick Dowling, as well as the poor leadership on this issue from Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, remind VOTF members of the comments made by former Oklahoma Gov. (FBI agent, U.S. Attorney and Associate U.S. Attorney General) Frank Keating. In his 2003 resignation letter as head of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops National Review Board examining sex abuse by priests, he compared church leaders to the Mafia. “To resist grand jury subpoenas, to suppress the names of offending clerics, to deny, to obfuscate, to explain away; that is the model of a criminal organization, not my church.”

Bishop O’Brien continued to lose the trust of Catholics, and many believe he has taken liberties with the truth. While he and the leadership instruct priests to tell parishioners that the church’s charitable work will be eliminated if this bill passes, he knows over 85 percent of funding for Catholic Charity Social Services comes from taxpayers via government grants, while only 1 percent comes from parishes. This is yet another example of why 23 million Catholics may have walked away from a church whose leadership has become untrustworthy.

Archbishop O’Brien, the Maryland Catholic Conference’s Dowling and the archdiocese have yet again left Maryland children in harm’s way and continue to protect child rapists and abusers.

Frank Dingle is a member of the Greater Baltimore Voice of the Faithful.

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2/29/2008
Commentary: Marci A. Hamilton
Killing abuse suit bill puts children at risk

Under pressure from the Catholic Church, Maryland lawmakers shelved legislation to identify predators among us. With HB858, Maryland was part of a national movement to eliminate statutes of limitations for childhood sexual abuse. This bill offered the hope of a “window” to allow claims previously barred.

Our legal system favors predators over the protection of children. By the time victims are capable of coming forward, the law lets predators escape through the statute of limitations — again and again.

Those predators now live and work near — often with — our children, but we do not know who they are because we keep the courthouse locked against victims.

Perhaps even harder to understand, the Catholic Conference of Maryland killed this bill through lies and misrepresentations about its purposes and effects.

Churches recently distributed handouts to area Catholics making outrageous and dishonest claims. They argued the legislation “targets” the church, even though its terms plainly cover all private institutions. This claim must be challenged — clergy members attack about 5 percent of victims in this country. The rest are attacked by family, family acquaintances, teachers, coaches, scout leaders and others. Those are covered by the bill as well. So let’s get to the truth: The church’s lobbyists concocted a false accusation of “targeting” when really they are keeping the courthouse locked against millions of other victims.

The hierarchy also claims the bill targets it because so many claims have been brought against the church in other jurisdictions. But hasn’t it just made the case for the bill? Don’t the numbers prove the need for the bill? The public impact is extraordinary. Window legislation revealed predators we could not have known otherwise.

We have had two windows so far. In California 300 perpetrators were identified who were unknown before. Delaware’s window opened in July, but in both states records proved the hierarchy continues to harbor an unconscionable number of secrets, and helped to identify predators in other states.

The church also misled about who really pays settlements for covering up child abuse. So far, 50 percent of settlements have been paid by the insurance companies to whom the dioceses were paying premiums for years.

The other 50 percent has been paid by sale of land unrelated to ministry. Schools weren’t shut down and services were not curtailed. Instead, the church sold office buildings, mansions and empty lots. Indeed, one would hardly expect Catholic Charities to be affected by any settlement given that a minimum of 70 percent of funds for the major Catholic services provider comes from local, state and federal taxes.

Predictably, the church’s lobbyists complained the bill applies only to private institutions and not to public. The Constitution divides private and public, and states have always treated the two as separate.

Here is what the citizens of Maryland need to understand: If the conference really cared about children, it would introduce a bill to apply the same principles in HB858 to public entities. I support such reform. But its goal in talking about equal treatment is to kill the bill, not to aid all children.

Finally, church lobbyists argue that reopening the statutes of limitations is unfair, because evidence gets stale and witnesses die. Those deficiencies undermine the victims’ cases. It only removes the bar to a lawsuit. It does not alter the burden of proof.

Nor does the church take responsibility for the fact that the statute of limitations ran out because it did not call police when it knew priests committed crimes.

We are all complicit in the national silent epidemic of childhood sexual abuse by legally protecting predators and endangering children. Maryland leaders failed to make this state a safer place for our children.

While the men of the Catholic hierarchy and their lobbyists toast one another for eviscerating HB858, Maryland parents will never learn about 90 percent of the predators in their midst, and incest survivors can only wonder how propaganda could push their interests off the table.

Marci Hamilton is a visiting professor at Princeton University and the author of “Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect

Its Children” (Cambridge 2008). She can be reached at hamilton02@aol.com

 
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