NEW YORK (ChurchMilitant.com) - The New York Catholic Conference is spending millions fighting state reforms to the current statute of limitations requirements.
According to a report by the New York Daily News, the state's Catholic Conference, under the direction of Cdl. Timothy Dolan, has employed some of New York's most prominent lobbying firms to assist in blocking the passage of the proposed Child Victims Act, legislation that would seek to eliminate "both criminal and civil statutes of limitation for child sexual abuse, preventing predators and their protectors from escaping responsibility for their crimes by waiting out the clock."
The proposed legislation would additionally offer a one-year window in which to file a lawsuit to those who can no longer sue per current law.
State records reveal in the church's fight against both the Child Victims Act and various similar pieces of legislation, it spent over $2.1 million between 2007 and 2015 solely on various lobbyists, separate from the conference's own personal lobbying team. The four firms contracted by the New York church are Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, Patricia Lynch & Associates, Mark Behan Communications and Hank Sheinkopf, who purportedly has close relations with multiple Albany politicians including Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The revelations have been met with much criticism from various proponents of the legislation. "They are willing to spend limitless money in order to basically keep bad guys from being accountable for their actions," accused Melanie Blow, COO of the Stop Abuse Campaign. Blow maintains the ardent fight against the proposed legislation is simply to avoid having to "pay out settlements."
The conference continues to maintain its position that such legislation, particularly the opening of the one-year window, would bankrupt the church in New York. Dolan has, however, expressed an interest in discussing the legislation. "[The bill is] an issue I wouldn't mind talking more about," Dolan told the Daily News late last month. "This might not be the time. You keep that in mind. The time will come I may give you a call and say come on over."
However, Kathryn Robb, an abuse survivor herself and victim's rights advocate, is not buying the story, asserting if the church needs "to spend that much money on lobbying, clearly, then, they have some pretty big secrets to hide."
Wilson Elser, the largest lobbying firm in Albany, reportedly received $1 million over eight years; following the departure of several key lobbyists, the church chose to not renew its contract with the firm and instead decided to employ Greenberg Traurig, whose lead lobbyist previously worked with multiple state senate Republicans.
One of the other firms, Patricia Lynch & Associates, has a history of relations with disgraced Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was convicted last year of federal corruption charges and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The firm was hired on in 2009 after the state assembly's passage of varying versions of the Child Victims Act between 2006 and 2008; following the contracting of Lynch, the proposal was never again brought up for a vote. According to lawyer and clerical abuse victim's advocate, John Aretakis, once "Ms. Lynch lobbied for the Catholic Conference, Mr. Silver's support for our bill ended, and the bill did not come out of the Assembly’s Codes Committee ... which as speaker, he controlled."
Lynch's contract with the conference has since been allowed to expire by what she claims is "mutual consent."
The remaining lobbyist firms have declined to comment on the nature of their relationship with the New York Catholic Conference.
The Child Victims Act was initially introduced by Democratic Assemblywoman Margaret Markey of Queens, New York, and has since gained bipartisan support within the state legislature, although it currently lacks the votes to pass. The legislative session is scheduled to end June 16.
The Catholic Church has to date paid out over $2 billion to victims of clerical sex abuse.