A new report finds the Catholic Church has spent more than $10 million in recent years to try to prevent victims of clergy sexual abuse from suing, including more than $8 million in New York and Pennsylvania.
According to the report, commissioned by several law firms, the Catholic Church spent $10.6 million lobbying in eight northeastern states from 2011 to 2018, most of which went toward stymying legislation that would extend the statute of limitations for sex abuse victims.
The report found that nearly $3 million was spent fighting New York’s recently passed Child Victims Act, which gives all adults who were sexually abused as children a one-year window to bring forth claims.
The bill, signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in February, going forward allows adults until the age of 55 to pursue legal action against their childhood abusers. The previous age limit was 23.
Some victims who recently had their claims rejected by the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo may pursue civil action under the Child Victims Act. The Buffalo Diocese, which has publicly identified approximately 80 priests credibly accused of child sex abuse since March 2018, announced last week it has paid out more than $17 million to 106 victims but rejected another 135 claims.
More than $5 million was spent in Pennsylvania against several bills still in the state’s Legislature. Currently, child sex abuse victims in Pennsylvania have until the age of 50 to pursue criminal charges against their abusers and until the age of 30 to pursue a civil suit.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office grand jury report last year identified 301 abusive priests in six dioceses who were alleged to have abused more than 1,000 children.
The Catholic Church spending report, titled “Church Influencing State: How the Catholic Church Spent Millions Against Survivors of Clergy Abuse,” was commissioned by Seeger Weiss LLP, Williams Cedar LLC, Abraham Watkins and the Simpson Tuegel Law Firm, which represent survivors of clergy sex abuse nationwide. The firms obtained the data through public filings.