Gov. Wolf Demands Amendments of State Law to Give Justice to Sexual Abuse Victims by Priests

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Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf
Image source: Flickr

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf demanded that the Pennsylvania legislature amend state law to allow victims to file lawsuits over sexual abuse that happened to them decades ago.

In a statement, the governor reaffirmed his support for proposals in the grand jury’s report on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and called on state lawmakers to take action.

“The horrifying abuse endured by an unimaginable number of victims demands swift and substantial action,” Wolf said. “Let’s be clear: Many victims were coerced and suppressed from coming forward by an institution they felt obligated to respect.”

The grand jury’s recommendations included:

  • Eliminating the criminal statute of limitations for sexually abusing children.
  • Creating a “civil window” so older victims can sue for damages.
  • Clarifying penalties for a continuing failure to report child abuse.
  • Specifying that civil confidentiality agreements do not cover communications with law enforcement.

Currently, state law only allows victims of sexual abuse to file criminal charges until age 50, and pursue civil lawsuits until age 30.

“The reforms laid out in the grand jury report would deliver what victims deserve,” Wolf said.

Last month, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro released the grand jury report, which described horrifying child sexual assaults and rapes by predator priests.

In the report, the grand jury identified 301 predator priests who sexually abused over 1,000 children during their ministry.

Wolf Opposes ‘Limited Victims Fund Outside the Judicial System’

Furthermore, Wolf rejected the idea of a church-established fund for child sexual abuse victims.

Last week, Pennsylvania Senate President pro Tempore Joe Scarnati suggested the idea of a fund. In addition, State Sen. Jay Costa said he had a private discussion with church leaders, and they proposed setting up a $250 million fund.

“In my view, a limited victims fund outside the judicial system would not [give victims justice],” Wolf said. “The church, as a moral authority with a long and important record of social justice, should agree. We cannot shortchange these victims and we must set an example for the country — and the world — that Pennsylvania stands with victims.”