We pray that the passage of the Child Victims Act brings some measure of healing to all survivors by offering them a path of recourse and reconciliation. The legislation now recognizes that child sexual abuse is an evil not just limited to one institution, but a tragic societal ill that must be addressed in every place where it exists.
Sadly, we in the Church know all too well the devastating toll of abuse on survivors, their families, and the extended community. Every Catholic diocese in New York has taken important steps to support survivors of child sexual abuse, including the implementation of reconciliation and compensation programs. We are proud that these pioneering programs have not only helped well more than a thousand survivors of clergy abuse in New York, but have also become a model for how to help survivors in other states and in other institutions. More
The proposed Child Victims Act creates two unequal classes of sexual abuse victims – those who would be granted another opportunity to sue and those who would be granted no such opportunity, according to a former judge of New York State’s top court.
The Child Victims Act (A5885-A/S6575) bill, sponsored by Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, would shield public schools and municipalities from lawsuits for past sexual abuse claims while holding private schools, religious organizations and charities accountable, according to a new analysis authored by Susan Phillips Read, former Associate Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.
[READ THE FULL ANALYSIS HERE.]
The bill proposes to extend both the prospective civil and criminal statutes of limitations for claims of child sexual abuse. It would also create a controversial one-year window to revive time-barred claims of abuse from decades past. Whether this retroactive window applies to public institutions was the question Judge Read was asked to address in her brief. “My answer is ‘No,’” she stated unequivocally. More
Following is a statement from the New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the Bishops of New York State in public policy matters:
The failure of a last-ditch hostile amendment to try to effect passage of the Abortion Expansion Act is a remarkable victory for unborn children, as well as vulnerable women and girls who so often face unrelenting societal and family pressure to abort. The result is, quite literally, the answer to prayer. More accurately, it is the answer to millions of prayers by men, women and children of every faith from every section of the state who believe in the inalienable right to life of the baby in the womb.
We are grateful to Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) for his steadfast opposition to this bill, and to the members of his Republican conference who were united with him in that position, as well as to the two pro-life Democrats who denied the abortion proponents a majority in the Senate. We are grateful, too, for those courageous and principled Republicans and Democrats in the Assembly who voted against abortion expansion despite it being a losing cause in that chamber. This victory is shared with them as well, and they should know that pro-life New Yorkers will remember their vote. More
by Kathleen M. Gallagher
The horrendous crimes that took place in a Cleveland house for the past ten years are so disturbing, they are difficult to comprehend: kidnappings, assaults, rapes, and God-knows-what-hasn’t come to light yet. Crimes against human life, all of them.
Now prosecutors in Ohio say they will file murder charges against the alleged perpetrator for purposefully terminating the pregnancies of his female captives against their will. One victim says she was pregnant at least five times over the years, and each time her abductor starved her and repeatedly punched her in the gut until she miscarried her baby.
These murder charges can be filed in Ohio because, since 1996, Ohio has had an “unborn victims of violence” law allowing infants, prior to their birth, to be classified as victims of assault or homicide. Tragically, New York State does not have such a law.
New York does, however, permit some criminal charges for violent attacks on unborn children such as those that occurred in Cleveland. The crime is called illegal “abortional act,” and it can bring a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.
Here’s the thing: the crime of “abortional act” and its consequences would be removed from New York’s laws if the “Reproductive Health Act’ is enacted. That’s right – if the abortion expansion proposal now under serious consideration in Albany is passed, there could be absolutely no criminal charges brought for such horrifying crimes. And New Yorkers can pretty much forget about ever making it a murder charge for someone to kill an unborn child, the way Ohio and 35 other states do. Nope, all criminal charges would be wiped off the books.
That’s not justice. That’s the opposite of justice, for both mothers and their children. Please, take action now.
By Kathleen M. Gallagher
New York State still lags behind in protecting women and unborn children from acts of violence by third-party perpetrators. Add North Carolina to the list of 36 states – yes, 36! – which have amended their laws to hold assailants accountable for crimes committed against pregnant women and unborn children.
The Church in New York State will never abandon those who have been abused, regardless of how long ago it occurred. We urge anyone who has suffered abuse by a member of the clergy or by anyone else in Church ministry to immediately report it to law enforcement, as well as to the victim assistance coordinator in your local diocese.
You can contact the appropriate Victim Assistance Coordinator at the links below to begin to get the help that you need:
The catastrophic clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, and the continuing revelations about its depth, has been the cause of unimaginable suffering for the many victim-survivors and their loved ones. It has also deeply impacted the lay faithful. Nothing can ever undo the damage that has been done, but the Church has indeed taken many positive steps and made great progress at reform.
Here in New York, the Bishops began the process of rebuilding trust after the initial revelations of 2002, and in recent years, every diocese has undertaken independent reconciliation and compensation programs to offer survivors a chance for both financial compensation and the beginnings of closure that comes with an acknowledgement of what they have suffered. It was this process, in fact, that led directly to the exposure of the abuse by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, and his removal from ministry and resignation from the College of Cardinals.
The Church in New York State will never abandon those who have been hurt. We urge anyone who has suffered abuse by a member of the clergy or by anyone else in Church ministry to immediately report it to law enforcement, as well as to the victim assistance coordinator in your local diocese:
The Catholic Bishops of New York State have released a pastoral statement urging compassion and acceptance for people suffering from mental illness. At the same time, the New York State Catholic Conference released a statement with specific policy recommendations related to people with mental illness.
The bishops’ statement, titled, ‘For I am Lonely and Afflicted’: Toward a Just Response to the Needs of Mentally Ill Persons, cites the example of Jesus in the Gospels in demonstrating how society should respond to such individuals, saying, “we must reject the twin temptations of stereotype and fear, which can cause us to see mentally ill people as something other than children of God, made in His image and likeness, deserving of our love and respect.” More
Downloadable PDF version HERE.
‘For I Am Lonely and Afflicted’
Toward a just response to the needs of people with mental illness
A Statement of the Catholic Bishops of New York State
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart;
and free me from my anguish.
(PS 25: 16-17)
Mental illness does not discriminate. Neither age, nor ethnicity, nor economic or social status exempts one from its effects. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in four adults, some 61.5 million people, experience some form of mental illness in a given year, and one in 17, or 13.6 million, live with a serious mental illness. About 20 percent of youth experience severe mental disorders in a given year. And for every mentally ill individual there is a family – parents, spouses, children, grandparents – who are directly impacted as well.
In our society, those with mental illness are often stigmatized, ostracized and alone. The suffering endured by mentally ill persons is a most difficult cross to bear, as is the sense of powerlessness felt by their families and loved ones. As the Psalmist called on God to deliver him from affliction and distress, so, too, does the person with mental illness cry out for healing. Our Judeo-Christian tradition calls us to be witnesses of God’s love and mercy and to be instruments of hope for these individuals. More
Five months after initially proposing it, and with less than three weeks left in the legislative session, Gov. Cuomo today will finally make public his abortion agenda.
Statements from the administration indicate the bill would significantly ease restrictions in state law on late-term (third-trimester) abortion, a policy completely out of step with the attitudes of most New Yorkers.
The Catholic Conference will offer a full analysis of this proposal shortly, but in the meantime, we put forward five questions New Yorkers need answered before any abortion legislation moves forward:
- Why is the abortion rate in New York State so much higher than the rest of the country?
- If the aim of the legislation truly is to codify federal law with regard to abortion, will there be a statewide version of the Hyde Amendment prohibiting taxpayer funding of abortion, a statewide ban on partial birth abortion or legal protection of unborn victims of violence, all of which exist in federal law? Or is the Governor being selective by only codifying the areas of federal law that would expand abortion?
- Why would abortion after 24 weeks ever be necessary to protect a woman’s health, when delivery or caesarian section are medically safer procedures at that stage?
- How do we know abortion is safe in New York when the state Health Department has offered no records of clinic inspections?
- What is our government doing to ensure that New York doesn’t have its own version of Philadelphia abortion butcher Kermit Gosnell practicing his trade here?
New Yorkers overwhelmingly believe there is sufficient access to abortion in the Empire State. And they overwhelmingly reject late-term abortion on demand, as this bill would allow. Elected officials should focus less on abortion expansion, and more on decreasing the alarming abortion rate and ensuring safety for women and children.
The Catholic Conference represents New York State’s Bishops in matters of public policy.