I have been reading lots of court documents over the last many months and years and writing many stories about sexual abuse lawsuits filed against former Catholic clergy in Western Alaska. Most of those stories have been about courts dismissing these lawsuits because the statute of limitations has passed.
So my ears perked up when I heard about Hollis French's idea to waive the statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases for one year.
It's an intriguing idea but one that generates numerous questions:
- If the legislature waives the statute of limitations on this issue, won't there be pressure do the same with other sorts of topics? I can't think of any of the top of my head, though.
- How does this affect lawsuits against clergy and the Catholic Church hierarchy?
- Will courts be overwhelmed by the number of cases that would be filed during this window?
- Will this generate a number of spurious lawsuits?
- Are civil penalties really the best way to address this issue? Criminal penalties are out but the Catholic Church hierarchy has repeatedly stated if all the suits were successful, it would be bankrupt and not able to help a single person. It repeatedly commits itself (in word) to helping all abuse victims and says it can't do that if it has to pay out huge penalties.
Only one committee of reference... clearly, it's got friends in high places.