Rep. Beth Bye (left)Anti-Catholic forces in the US state of Connecticut are using the sex abuse scandal to advance their campaign. House Bill 5473 would eliminate the statute of limitations for civil law suits and open the Church to claims that are up to seven decades old — clearly with the aim of bankrupting the Church.

Last year there was a similar effort to get a bill passed that would have restructured the governance of the Catholic Church by giving lay people control of their parish finances. When the diocese organised an effective public rally against the measure, state officials tried to force the church to register as a lobbyist in order to engage in such activities or even use its website to encourage its members to contact their elected representatives.

Archbishop Henry J. Mansell of Hartford, Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport and Bishop Michael R. Cote of Norwich sent notices to all pastors April 8, requesting their help in mounting a campaign opposing a measure in the House that would make Connecticut the only state without a statute of limitations for the filing of sexual abuse claims concerning minors.

“The passage of this legislation could potentially have a devastating financial effect on the Catholic dioceses of Connecticut, including parish assets and those of other Catholic service organizations,” said the letter to pastors.

“We all realize the serious nature of these crimes,” it said. “However, the passage of this law could result in claims that are 50, 60 or 70 years old, which are impossible to adequately defend in court.”

Furthermore, the move “does nothing to protect the state’s children because it delays reporting,” said the bishops.

The bill, promoted by Democrat Rep. Beth Bye (pictured), is tied to the claims of people abused by a doctor, now deceased, who practiced at the Catholic Hospital of St Francis in Hartford. It could be voted on in the state General Assembly within two weeks. Already Connecticut has the longest retroactive statute in the US, allowing alleged victims to file suit until 30 years after they turn 18.

“Over the past several years in states that have even temporarily eliminated the statutes, it has caused the bankruptcy of at least seven dioceses,” it said. “House Bill 5473 would make Connecticut the only state without a statute of limitations. This bill would put all church institutions, including your parish, at risk,” the bishops’ letter said.

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet