Opposition, Questions Slow Action on Child Sex-Abuse Bill

By Deborah Yetter
The Courier-Journal [Frankfort KY]
Downloaded February 7, 2003

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The Senate Judiciary Committee has delayed acting on a bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations on lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse after the measure ran into opposition and a number of questions.

The bill, discussed by the committee yesterday, also would require clergy to break the confidentiality of confession by another clergy member to report any admission of child sexual abuse.

The sponsor, Sen. R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, said afterward that he plans to rework Senate Bill 51 and bring it to the committee next week. Palmer believes he can iron out differences and get the bill passed.

''I think the discussion today was good,'' Palmer said of the bill, which was prompted by allegations of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests in Kentucky. ''We need to make some changes.''

Susan Archibald, president of Linkup, a Louisville-based group that represents victims of clergy abuse, said the bill is needed to extend the statute of limitations, which allows people to bring lawsuits of alleged childhood sexual abuse up to five years after they turn 18.

It may take years for some victims to come forward with claims, Archibald said. Church officials who may learn of abuse through confession may just cover it up, she said.

But the Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper, executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches, and Vincent Senior, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, spoke against lifting the confidentiality of confession.

And Phil Shepherd, a lawyer representing the city of Lexington, said there needs to be some limit on when people alleging they were sexually abused as children can bring lawsuits.


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