(HARRISBURG) – Today Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati issued the following statement regarding statute of limitations reform for victims of child sexual abuse.
“The Pennsylvania Grand Jury report on child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church has rightly gained attention across our Commonwealth, across the nation and throughout the world. The magnitude of suffering endured by victims is atrocious.
“Pope Francis has acknowledged the wrong doing of catholic clergy members and their superiors, who allowed the extensive abuse throughout six of Pennsylvania’s dioceses. However, admitting the failing is not enough – the church must continue to remove any priest who was implicit in this ordeal, as well as provide restitution for victims. The church needs to establish a victim support fund this year, to make restitutions to its victims. Monies from the fund should also be utilized to prevent abuse from happening in the future.
“Funds have been established in other states in times of extraordinary circumstances in order to compensate individuals who have suffered. The victim support fund should be administered by a neutral third party to ensure fairness and objectivity. The victims of child sexual abuse have endured the unimaginable. The emotional scars that they are left with may never heal. While financial support cannot change the past, it has the potential to aid victims as they attempt to move forward.
“The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 261 in February of last year, to strengthen laws as they relate to child sexual abuse. The language currently contained in Senate Bill 261 has no known opposition. The House of Representatives should have acted on the bill last year, and I continue to urge them to pass the bill.
“Many survivors continue to advocate for legislation which would include a retroactive component. While I fully appreciate their passion for this issue, it does not change the unconstitutionality of the reviver in light of Pennsylvania’s Remedies Clause in our constitution, which prohibits a retroactive change to civil and criminal statute of limitations. The possibility of allowing a reviver by constitutional amendment has also been raised. While I would support a constitutional change, it is an extended process and has no absolute certainty.
“The brave men and women who have come forward to shed light on this tragedy are no doubt courageous survivors who deserve our support. No action we take in the legislature can remove the pain and horror these victims have endured. Discussions must continue to take place about how to help survivors in constitutionally appropriate ways.”