Mexican Bishops Call for End to Statute of Limitations

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by Kristine Christlieb  •  •  January 15, 2020   

Contrasts with US bishops' fight to limit sex abuse suits

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DETROIT ( - Mexican bishops are urging the nation's government to do away with the statute of limitations (SOL) for child sex abuse cases.

Their recommendation is in contrast to their brother bishops in the United States, who have spent more than $10.6 million in eight northeastern states to fight attempts to extend or eliminate the statute of limitations in such cases.

Mexican bishops recognize the problem with these laws. Rogelio Cabrera, president of the Mexican Bishops Conference told the press, "We want to ask in the name of the bishops of Mexico for there to be no expiration for this crime."

Mexico was home to one of the Church's most notorious sex offenders, Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ.  He abused young men — including his own sons — and had children with multiple wives.  

In the United States, bishops have aggressively resisted SOL reform. 

Motivated by sheer frustration, Philadelphia law firm Williams Cedar, which represents more than 300 cases of clerical sex abuse, joined forces with three other law firms and commissioned a study of how much Catholic bishops were spending lobbying against reform of SOL laws for sex abuse cases involving minors. 

The Church hierarchy spends hundreds of millions each year filling lobbyists' pockets making sure the statutes of limitations are not changed.

Their report, released less than a year ago, showed that between 2011 and 2018 the Catholic Church in the Northeast spent millions of dollars trying to stop SOL reform. 

The study reviewed spending in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Eighty percent of the funds were spent lobbying in New York and Pennsylvania alone.  

Gerald Williams, a partner with the firm, told CBS News:

We represent hundreds of people who have truly been victimized by clergymen in the Catholic Church. We've heard a lot about the Church's desire to be accountable and turn over a new leaf. But when we turn to the form where we can most help people and where we can get the most justice — the courts of justice — the Church has been there blocking their efforts.

Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaires of Christ

When asked about the Mexican bishops' recommendation to do away with the country's SOL, Willams told Church Militant it is "a very good thing." He said the Mexican bishops represent a trend toward SOL reform. 

Church Militant has reported extensively on the Church's efforts to stop SOL reform. James Grein was abused for 18 years by former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, starting when Grein was just 11. When Grein testified in the New Jersey State Senate about extending the SOL for prosecuting sex abuse, he told lawmakers:

My time has come — now. I and so many others in this situation need your help. The U.S. legal system has allowed the Church to shield itself far too long. The Church hierarchy spends hundreds of millions each year filling lobbyists' pockets making sure the statutes of limitations are not changed. Imagine that, millions to cover their explicitly evil lifestyle.

The problem of the SOL has also come up in states outside the Northeast. 

David Clohessy, spokesperson for Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), responded strongly to Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt's statewide investigation of clergy sex abuse: "We are simply asking Missouri legislators to do what Schmitt has refused to do, which is to push for reforms in secular laws to better protect kids ... He [Schmitt] admits there are dozens of cases he can't prosecute because of Missouri's statute of limitations."  

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