Churchgoers in Minnesota may not have realized that their tithings would be used to help protect sex offenders, but the Minneapolis StarTribune reports that the Catholic church “spent heavily” to stop legal changes that would lengthen the time during which victims could file suits for childhood sex abuse.
According to the StarTribune, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was the primary lobbyist opposing the Child Victims Act, spending more than $800,000 over a period of seven years.
The bill, which removed the statute of limitations for child sex crimes, ultimately passed; despite the church’s lobbying attempts, the state Senate granted unanimous approval. It was enacted in May, and at least 18 suits have arisen since then.
Bill proponent Joel Juers, who claims he was a victim of sexual abuse while attending Shattuck-St. Mary's boarding school more than 30 years ago, spoke with Minnesota Public Radio News after the Senate voted.
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"From the beginning, there was one 'yes' vote, and zero 'nays,' and then two and then 15, and then 20, and then 30, and still zero 'nays,'" he said. "It was like the entire Senate was standing next to me saying, 'We understand your plight. We understand your story, and we stand behind you."
State Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, who authored the bill, explained his rationale, saying, "We need the courthouse to be open to them when they are able to come forward. Those legally responsible -- perpetrators and those that protect them -- can escape justice just because of the passage of time."
Latz also addressed the church’s lobbying efforts: “They want the public to believe they are very caring about something, but behind the scenes they are very actively opposing the kind of steps or remedies or legislation that would hold them accountable for their conduct.”