April 15, 2014

Summary: In 2005, the Ohio Senate unanimously approved a bill that allowed a one-year window for victims to file a lawsuit alleging child sex abuse that had occurred as long as 35 years prior; however, the Catholic Church applied a full-court press on Ohio’s House and got the one-year window stripped out of the final bill – in favor of putting predator priests on a ‘naughty list.’  There are striking similarities between Ohio and California’s Senate Bill 131.  The only way to protect our victims is to take an uncompromising stance against Church’s reign of deception and protection of sexual predator priests.

Today, we live under the Golden Rule – those with the gold makes the rules.  The Catholic Church is a $170 billion per year institution; historically, they have had no problems wielding their wealth to gain influence.  A specific example of the Church’s desire to protect their sexual predators is the current fight over California Senate Bill 131, which would allow victims of institutional sexual abuse suspense on the statute of limitations for one year, and increase the maximum age to file a suit.  The Church fought heavily against this bill, having spent over $250,000 to lobby against the bill and to buy influence in the California government.

There is some historical context to what California is facing with SB-131; in Ohio, a similar bill (Ohio Senate Bill 17) was enacted by the Ohio Senate in 2005 after a spate of sexual abuse cases were uncovered against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland.  In the Ohio case, the Catholic Church had more time to prepare a battle against sexual abuse victims by placing pressure on Ohio’s House of Representatives.  One could only imagine that the ‘pressure’ applied by the Catholic Church included a lot of ‘righteous money’ thrown to Ohio lawmakers, and significant backdoor dealings with Ohio’s politicians.  In 2006, the House killed the one-year window, and instead implemented a civil registry in an attempt to strike a compromise between the victims of clergy sexual abuse and the Church.  The idealism of this civil registry would be to have abuser priests placed on a list if a judge could find them liable in a civil judgment; not quite as severe as having to register as a sex offender, but enough to where they would populate online.

Idealism and reality did not merry up for Ohio’s sexual abuse victims.  The civil registry is non-punitive; when this goes up to a judge, there is no jury, no hearing, and no traditional due process.  In fact, the process can be done without legal representation.  The priest is not required to be in the courtroom, and have a first right to request their name from being omitted from this list, and not notify the public. Priests on this ‘naughty list’ could request to be removed by a judge after six years if a judge forced them to stay on the list.  Did I mention that this registry is non-punitive?  It was designed to be like the sex offender list, but without a conviction.  People could see where these monsters lived, as to keep their children away from them.  Because it’s a list of accused sexual abusers, and not an officially-vetted list, it doesn’t have the teeth necessary to have the desired effects.

In the eight years of Ohio’s civil registry, exactly zero priests have been placed on the naughty list.  When you consider the nature in which the civil registry was introduced – as a compromise to the one-year window for victims to file claim – it’s stupefying to see how lopsided the victory is for the Catholic Church, and how devastating it is for the victims of clergy sexual abuse.  It’s no wonder why the Church fought so hard to keep the one-year window out of Ohio SB-17.  For them, it’s a matter of money, self-preservation, and keeping their documents secret; especially those regarding sexual predators.

Personally, I think the Ohio matter back in 2005-2006, and California in 2013-2014 was never about protecting victims of sexual abuse to the Catholic Church.  I also don’t think it was about money (though the Church is extraordinarily wealthy); this really comes down to protecting their secrets.  A former canon lawyer notes that the Church has known about clerical abuses since the 4th Century, with exact and precise knowledge.  To complete their denial and deception program against the public and their victims, the Church wrote secrecy into canonical law – quite convenient.  This way, the public will never be able to see the depths the Church went to protect their molester priests.

To the decision makers in Sacramento, ask yourselves this as the final last steps for Senate Bill 131 are considered; are you voting to protect children, or to allow the Catholic Church to continue its reign of secrecy?  For you reading this; does the possibility that victims having less means of recourse against a burgeoning and bullying Church sit well with you?

In either case – lawmaker and reader alike – shutting out victims of sexual abuse should be a disgusting proposition.  Protecting our citizens should resonate with everyone, especially those in Sacramento.  There is recent historical context into our fight against the Church; that compromising with the devil does not work.  We call on all victims, victim advocacy groups, and supporters of SB-131 to take an uncompromising stance against the Catholic Church; demand accountability from those that are direct representations of God on Earth.  Do not let another Ohio happen to us – fight for our victims.

If your child, or a child you know is a victim of sexual abuse, contact your local police department and report it.  To find out more about the victim’s legal rights, contact Estey & Bomberger today to get a free consultation at (800) 925-0723 or via email at


Civil registry of sex abusers never used

Ohio’s Victims of Clerical Sexual Abuse Left Frustrated by Senate Bill 17

Ohio law dodges statute of limitations for sex crimes

Victims, Church Battle Over Ohio Bill