Reflections on Albany Legislation

A Word from Bishop Paul R. Sanchez

As noted in the June 4 issue of our diocesan newspaper, The Tablet, “lawmakers in Albany are currently debating a bill that would, among other things, eliminate the statute of limitations for one year allowing alleged victims to sue the Church under a rubric of vicarious liability for crimes they claim happened 50, 60, and 70 years ago. The law would apply to the Catholic Church and other private institutions but all public schools and establishments, where abuse of minors is more prevalent, would be exempt” (from Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio’s column, Albany Bill Is Short Sighted, The Tablet, June 4, 2016).

You may remember that I addressed this issue in my response to a column written by Margaret Markey in the Ridgewood Times (see Bishop Sanchez Responds to Editorial by Assemblywoman Markey, from October 22, 2015).  I encourage you to read Bishop DiMarzio’s Tablet column as well as Deacon Philip Franco’s Up Front and Personal column in the same June 4 issue. Deacon Franco frames the issue as one of justice. He writes: “The law being proposed in Albany and pushed so vehemently by the Daily News is one which is not just.” I bring your attention particularly to the fact that Deacon Franco writes from a unique perspective. He is a survivor of sexual abuse by a priest. Deacon Franco goes on to speak about healing.

Listen to his words: “My family and I have endured the mess of lawyers and the terrible tragedy of coming forward and dealing with the endless scars of abuse. Lawyers do not bring healing. Christ brings healing. Counseling brings healing … the Church providing help to victims cannot do so if such an unjust law is passed.”

Deacon Franco makes the point in that last sentence that the Catholic Church in Brooklyn and Queens continues to provide counseling for victims of sexual abuse. That healing service would potentially be threatened if the Albany bill were passed.

These issues encourage me to bring to your attention also the thoughts of Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea, a psychologist and author, as found in her article Trauma can bring about growth in the National Catholic Reporter (June 3–16, 2016). Ms. Frawley-O’Dea offers helpful insights on healing for victim-survivors that go beyond the rhetoric that so often fills our secular press.

I encourage us all to pray for true justice for all victims without targeting one group of victims. I also pray that, through educating ourselves on this painful issue in our society, we may become people who are more able to bring true healing and growth into the lives of those who have suffered the trauma of sexual abuse.