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Frustrated By Church, Abuse Victims To Pursue Legislation

Nov 24, 2002 | AP Advocates for victims of clergy sexual abuse, frustrated with Catholic bishops' recent revisions to an abuse prevention policy, said yesterday that they will lobby legislators to enact protections because they cannot rely on the church to do the job.

"You're not going to reform the church; you have to rein it in," said Joe Gallagher of the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors. He said seeking legislative help is a "sizable shift in strategy" for the seven victims' groups that met for the first time yesterday.

The groups proposed reforms including the repeal of states' statutes of limitations for abuse cases and prison time for people who fail to comply with mandatory reporting laws.

"We do not believe bishops are showing moral leadership by not reporting every allegation of child abuse, which is a felony, to police," said Paul Baier, of Survivors First.

"All allegations should be turned over to the police, who are experts in this area. This is not a theological issue."

The groups also want to amend a Massachusetts law limiting judgments against charitable organizations to $20,000. It is unclear whether the liability cap applies in lawsuits filed against the Archdiocese of Boston over priests who were transferred from parish to parish after being accused of abusing children.

Boston Cardinal Bernard Law's admission in January that he had knowingly reassigned a priest accused of molestation set off a nationwide abuse crisis. All 195 U.S. dioceses have since come under scrutiny, and at least 325 of the nation's 46,000 priests have been suspended or resigned.

The victims' groups, including Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, Survivors First, Speak Truth to Power, Coalition of Catholics and Survivors and the Voice of the Faithful, met in the basement of a Wellesley Catholic school yesterday to discuss ways to work together.

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