Sexual abuse survivors lean on Pa. Senate to reform statute of limitations

"We just kept hearing the same excuses to cover up still for the Catholic Church."

Steve Tawa
October 12, 2018 - 1:24 pm
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro

Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Advocates for clergy abuse reform are trying to apply pressure on the Pennsylvania State Senate to act next week on statute of limitations legislation. The senate is only scheduled to be in session three more days. Advocates also reacted to a significant resignation in the Catholic Church.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro says "it's unacceptable that Washington D.C. Cardinal Wuerl oversaw and participated in a systematic cover-up of clergy abuse when he was a Bishop overseeing the Pittsburgh Diocese."

"He is now able to retire, seemingly with no consequences for actions that were documented in the Grand Jury report," Shapiro said, "but also in the Church's secret archives."

Shapiro, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, Bucks County DA Matthew Weintraub, and two women who were abused as children, all gathered to push the State Senate to approve key elements recommended in the Grand Jury report on priest abuse across the Commonwealth. 

It appears as though the Senate will only be in session three more days before a fall break to campaign in home districts. Advocates say there should be no time limit for justice, and they want the Senate to go along with the House in eliminating the criminal statute of limitations for abusing children. Thirty-nine states have already done so.

Two sisters from the Harrisburg area, Patty Fortney-Julius and Carolyn Fortney, are among the survivors of alleged priest abuse. Patty says five girls among nine children in her family were physically abused by a parish priest. She says they approached wavering senators and received no assurances.

"We just kept hearing the same excuses to cover up still for the Catholic Church," she said.

Steele says victims of sexual assault by a person they know rarely report the incident right away. If they do, delayed reporting of sexual abuse is the norm and not the exception.

Weintraub says it's time to end the statute of limitations on sexual assaults in Pennsylvania, and he thanks victims for stepping forward, adding, "there should be no statute of limitations on courage."