Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub stood with other prosecutors, lawmakers, and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in a call for the legislature to move forward with reforms in the wake of a statewide grand jury that uncovered sexual abuse of children and cover-ups in the Catholic Church.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro advocated for the following reforms, as outlined by the grand jury that investigated the sexual abuse and cover-up by the Catholic Church:
- Eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for sexually abusing children. Currently, Pennsylvania law bars criminal prosecution once the victim hits age 50.
- Allow for a longer “civil window” so victims can sue for damages. Under the current law, child sex abuse victims have 12 years to sue from the time they turn 18.
- The grand jury recommended changing state law to clarify the duty to report abuse.
- Clarify that civil confidentiality agreements do not cover conversations with law enforcement. The grand jury, according to Shapiro’s office, used confidentiality agreements to silence victims from working with law enforcement.
“When the grand jury released its report, I challenged all Pennsylvania bishops to adopt and support each of these recommended reforms to Pennsylvania law,” Shapiro said. “Sadly, none of them have.”
Montgomery County State Rep. Todd Stephens, a Republican, was at the press conference and announced his support for legislation to overhaul mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse.
“We need to make sure our mandatory reporting law in place has the necessary teeth to protect victims and ensure law enforcement is notified of abuse allegations and can investigate whenever it is appropriate,” Stephens said.
Weintraub, a former special victims prosecutor, said reform to mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse rules in the wake of the grand jury report would tackle “repeated ignorance” and increase penalties for “intentional nonreporting.”
“I hate to think it is too late for some of these victims – these most vulnerable – who were victimized many years ago to get justice. That does not mean it occurred in vain … we need to seize this opportunity,” he stated.
The 884-page grand jury report released last month identified 301 predator priests and more than 1,000 victims of clergy sexual abuse within six Catholic dioceses in the state. The grand jury investigation also uncovered a decades-long cover-up by church officials.
“We have evidence that the Vatican had knowledge of the cover-up,” Shapiro said on NBC’s “Today” last month.
Catholic Church sexual abuse victim Mary McHale said those who don’t support reforms “stand with the pedophiles.”
Art Baselice was at the press conference to stand up for his late son, a victim of sexual abuse at the hand of a church official.