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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (ChurchMilitant.com) - California just became the sixth state to drop its statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse.
The law signed on Sunday by California's Gov. Gavin Newsom gives all victims of childhood sexual abuse a three-year period beginning Jan. 1 to file lawsuits. Following that period, the new law will extend the age limit of the victim filing from 26 to 40 and the time limit of when the abuse is discovered to when the case is filed from three to five years.
Church Militant reached out to Stephen Brady, head of watchdog organization Roman Catholic Faithful, on the impact this law will have on the Church in California.
"This situation in California will make New York and other states that passed similar laws look like small-time cases," remarked Brady. He then explained:
When I was in the Los Angeles archdiocese 20 years ago working on the Cdl. Mahony situation, there were so many cases with so many payouts that I'm sure the Los Angeles archdiocese will be one of the biggest hit in the country. The Santa Rosa diocese and Fresno diocese can't be very far behind.
Seattle-based attorney Michael Pfau says he has some 100 victims of childhood sexual abuse already waiting to file. Lawsuits will be launched against many sectors of society including the Boy Scouts, foster homes, schools and the Catholic Church, acknowledged Pfau.
"Almost every Catholic Diocese in the state" will be hit, said Pfau. "The breadth of it is staggering."
Brady told Church Militant that California dioceses created a looming disaster.
"The dioceses in California which refused to address the abuse crisis as it properly should have been done years ago will now face an overwhelming onslaught," he observed.
During his tenure as archbishop of Los Angelos, Cdl. Roger Mahony oversaw the abuse of some 500 victims by 34 clerics. These cases have already resulted in staggering payouts totaling more than two-thirds of a billion dollars in his former archdiocese alone.
John Paul Norris, who last year launched a petition against Mahony, told Church Militant the cardinal has a history of covering-up sex abuse. Pointing to the evidence detailed in the well-respected site Bishop Accountability, Norris said Mahony's covering for sexual predators was no secret:
Mahony knowingly harbored, concealed or aided many criminals. He knew of their crimes. He knew of their victims. Instead of calling the police, he manipulated information, moved these criminals from parish to parish and allowed the crimes to continue. He directed priests to hide and leave the Los Angeles jurisdiction and the country to avoid criminal prosecution.
But California is focusing on all victims suffering from sexual abuse as minors, said attorney Paul Jonna. Jonna's firm successfully represented David Daleiden against Planned Parenthood when Daleiden exposed the abortion giant's trafficking in body parts from aborted babies.
"My understanding is that this law applies to many institutions and does not target the Catholic Church," said Jonna. "Any litigation that follows should help expose and end the corruption and evil of sexual abuse in our society, including in the Church."
Brady believes the so-called revival window in California and other states will ultimately be good for the victims who've been denied justice for so long.
"This will breathe new life into these poor victims who feared coming forward for one reason or another owing to the former statute of limitations," he remarked.
In 2019, 23 states passed legislation relaxing the statute of limitations to allow victims of child sexual abuse to seek justice.