According to CNN, Pennsylvania lawmakers might pass a bill to lift the statute of limitations for sex crimes in light of the recent grand jury report accusing over 300 Catholic priests in the state of child sexual abuse.
A new bill, SB261, has been introduced before the state House that would raise the lawsuit ceiling for victims of childhood sexual abuse to age 50. The state’s current law only allows victims to file lawsuits up until age 30.
While many victims mentioned in the report still exceed both age limits, raising the age to 50 for civil lawsuits would significantly enhance the case.
According to House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R), a vote on the bill is expected to take place sometime in the fall.
“The actions revealed through the grand jury report are heinous and shameful,” Reed said. “With the timeliness of this report and its findings, the statute of limitations bill is primed for discussion in the House.”
The grand jury report released on Tuesday revealed that over 300 priests, from six different dioceses in the state of Pennsylvania, have been accused of sexually abusing over 1,000 children since 1947. The report also takes care to note that “no piece of legislation can predict the point at which a victim of child sex abuse will find the strength to come forward.”
While the passing of this bill would allow victims of child sexual abuse to file a civil lawsuit up to age 50, victims 51 or older will still be legally unable to seek criminal charges against their abusers.
Additionally, the report recommends “a two-year civil lawsuit window to allow child victims whose statutes of limitations have expired to sue.” Representative Mark Rozzi, who was a victim of child sexual abuse by a priest when he was in eighth grade, previously proposed a similar measure extending the civil lawsuit window. Rozzi’s abuser, the now deceased Rev. Edward Graff, was among the 300 priests included in the grand jury report.
Rozzi noted that the two-year civil lawsuit window “is the only avenue for these victims who are in the grand jury report” to get the justice they deserve.
While Pennsylvania’s Catholic dioceses have declined to comment on both the bill and the grand jury report, Amy Hill from the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference told CNN Wednesday that she and her colleagues are outraged, but added that the “time to discuss legislation will come later.”
“Our focus now,” Hill continued, “is on improving ways that survivors and their families can recover as they continue through a difficult healing process.”