Cathedral Rallies Planned
Supporters Favor Extending Statute of Limitations

By Bronislaus B. Kush
Worcester Telegram & Gazette [Massachusetts]
July 12, 2006

Demonstrations are planned this weekend at the four Roman Catholic cathedrals in Massachusetts by supporters of a bill that would extend the statute of limitations from 15 years to 25 years for criminal cases involving the sexual abuse of children.

The state Legislature's Joint Committee of the Judiciary earlier this month favorably reported out the legislation and Statehouse observers believe the bill will be voted up or down before July 31, the day lawmakers recess for the summer.

Supporters of the legislation are expected to pass out leaflets and other informational materials Sunday morning at St. Paul's Cathedral in Worcester, Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston, St. Michael's Cathedral in Springfield and St. Mary's Cathedral in Fall River.

The cathedrals serve as "seats" of the four Catholic dioceses in Massachusetts.

"We're pleased that the bishops are supporting this bill and it's good that they have apologized for the abuses caused by their priests," said Daniel Dick, a spokesman for the Worcester chapter of Voice of the Faithful, one of two groups sponsoring Sunday's events. "But a lot more has to be done."

Though the legislation covers all criminal cases of child sexual abuse, some lawmakers said much of the push for the bill comes from advocates of youngsters abused by clergymen.

"The bishops are offering up their voices of support for the extension of limitations," said Raymond L. Delisle, spokesman for the Worcester Diocese.

State Rep. James B. Leary, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, said there was an effort to do away with the statute of limitations entirely.

"But it was decided that 25 years strikes a balance," said Mr. Leary, a Democrat from Worcester.

Mr. Leary said there is a lot of support for the bill from individuals who feel that it takes some time for abused victims to deal with the trauma.

He said there is also an effort to extend the statute of limitations in civil cases involving child sexual abuse. That extension might still be offered through an amendment to the bill, Mr. Leary said.

Mr. Dick said he hopes lawmakers continue legislative efforts that result in a "zero tolerance" for individuals who sexually abuse both children and adults.

Besides the bill that would extend the statute of limitations, Mr. Leary is also hoping the Legislature will approve a bill he filed that involves adults charged with soliciting sex for a fee from a minor.

Currently, individuals charged in such incidents face a maximum one year in state prison and a $500 fine.

Mr. Leary wants the jail sentence increased to 10 years.

He said he sought to change the sentencing because of a case in Worcester in which a man, who was convicted of sex crimes outside of Massachusetts, was arrested in a police sting after he tried to arrange to have sex with a minor.

Sunday's demonstration in Worcester will begin at 9:30 a.m., 45 minutes before the scheduled 10:15 a.m. Mass, and organizers promised the event will be peaceful.

This weekend's events also are sponsored by the Coalition to Reform Sex Abuse Laws in Massachusetts.


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