Lawmakers, victims push reforms recommended by priest sex abuse grand jury

"No more passing the pedophile," said victim's father.

Jim Melwert
September 18, 2018 - 12:26 pm
Pa. Attorney General urges lawmakers to pass legislation that strengthens laws requiring reporting of abuse.

Jim Melwert/KYW Newsradio

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NORRISTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania lawmakers joined victims of priest sexual abuse at a roundtable discussion on Tuesday. The aim was to urge the legislature to adopt four reforms recommended by the grand jury that investigated allegations against priests and church leaders across the state. 

Attorney General Josh Shapiro says the grand jury report identified 301 pedophile priests.

"We ran each of those 301 predator priests through what’s known as a statute of limitations test and could only charge two," Shapiro said.

He is urging state lawmakers to eliminate statutes of limitations and enact a law to punish organizations that don't report child abuse.

State Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery County) said, "So that those who fail to report the repeated and likely continuing abuse of children can be held accountable for their crimes."

Art Baselice, who was present at the discussion, said his son turned to drugs after he was sexually abused by a priest, and he later died of an overdose.

"I can’t tell you how grateful I am to you guys standing up for the little guys," Baselice said. "This has to get done. No more passing the pedophile."

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele joined Shapiro in the call for changes to the law. Steele said it may take sex assault victims years to come forward because they need to process what happened to them.

"Especially when the abuse happens when they are children, and the abuser is a respected person of authority in that child’s life," he said.

Shapiro has this message for lawmakers who will vote on the changes: "You can either side with the Catholic conference and the insurance company lobbyists, or you can side with survivors. And that’s a pretty clear, stark choice."

Shapiro says more than 1,000 calls have come in to their clergy abuse hotline in the five weeks since the grand jury report was made public.

"Our agents listen to each of those calls, speak to each and every one of those callers, and are conducting further investigations where appropriate," Shapiro said.