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N.Y. Catholic Archbishop Opposes Bill Making It Easier for Abuse Victims to Sue

Cardinal Timothy Dolan
Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan is lobbying against a bill offering a one-year window for survivors to sue in decades-old cases.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the famously anti-LGBT Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, is arguing against pending state legislation that would offer a window for survivors of sexual abuse to sue over crimes that happened decades ago.

Dolan made an unannounced visit to the state capitol in Albany to urge lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo not to support a "lookback" provision in the Child Victims Act, which would give survivors a one-year period to bring suits over decades-old incidents of abuse.

"Lookback would be toxic for us,'' Dolan told reporters after meeting with politicians, the New York Daily News reports. He added, "The lookback we find to be very strangling because we unfortunately have precedent. When that happens the only organization targeted is the Catholic Church.'' The church and other organizations, such as the Boy Scouts of America, have warned of a flood of litigation during the lookback period. He said he is not opposed to other moves that would make it easier for abuse survivors to bring the perpetrators to justice, such as easing the statute of limitations.

Abuse survivors and their advocates quickly struck back at Dolan. "Is it a lookback or priest raping kids that is toxic? I'm just trying to figure out which causes more damage to society," Kat Sullivan, who was raped by a teacher at her private school in 1998, told the Daily News. "I think the words of a man who knowingly impedes a bill that would provide due process to citizens currently being excluded should be ignored because he represents an institution that not only violated children but actively worked to cover it up and suppress."

Marci Hamilton, head of Child USA, an organization that seeks to combat child abuse, told the paper Dolan helped eliminate a lookback provision in a Wisconsin bill when he was archbishop of Milwaukee. "This man is not a shepherd for child sex abuse victims," she said. "He is literally toxic to the welfare of the children of the state of New York." She added that states with lookback windows have not seen the flood of suits Dolan predicted.

Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, a sponsor of her chamber's version of the bill, said she would keep on pushing for a lookback provision. "That's the heart and soul of the bill," she told the Daily News. "People in institutions who committed these horrible acts of rape and sexual assault of young children need to be held to account." For Dolan to lobby against it is "reprehensible," she added.

Legislation with the lookback feature, supported by Cuomo, has passed the Assembly, which has a Democratic majority, but has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. Cuomo has included the Child Protection Act in his proposed state budget, The Buffalo News reports. The budget is due by the end of this month. Dolan and bishops from around the state visited the capitol as part of their annual lobbying campaign while the budget is under consideration, according to the Buffalo paper. They discussed abortion, education, immigration, and other issues in addition to the lookback proposal.

Their visit "came on the day that the Buffalo diocese released the names of 42 priests 'who were removed from ministry, were retired or left ministry after allegations of sexual abuse of a minor,'" the Daily News notes.

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