Pa. Senate revives child sex abuse debate to consider amending statute of limitations

HARRISBURG, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — After falling off the state Senate’s radar for much of the past year, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday once again took up the issue of how to give victims of child sex abuse a new chance to seek justice.

The heart of the dispute remains over whether to open a window of retroactivity in the statute of limitations so older child sex abuse victims can sue. 

As she convened yet another hearing on the issue, Republican state Sen. Lisa Baker, who became chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the beginning of the year, stipulated that the hearing was not about specific bills.

“This hearing is a renewal of our efforts to find broader agreement on better remedies for abuse victims,” she explained.

The hearing comes as six of the state's Roman Catholic dioceses have ended limited periods during which they've been considering claims and making payments in return for assurances from victims that they won't sue.

Administrators for six of the compensation funds say they've paid $65 million to 384 claimants over the past year. That figure is expected to grow as they sort through applications.

The opening testimony came from Penn professor and Child USA CEO Marci Hamilton, who argued that litigation — not compensation funds — will expose predators.

“No truth comes out as a result of these compensation programs,” she argued. “If the goal is to find out who the perpetrators are in this state, and who are the institutions that are aiding and abetting them, we need a real window.”

Meanwhile, Brian Wenger, a former attorney for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, spoke about the consequences of that archdiocese’s bankruptcy, including a 20 percent reduction in spending.

“There’s less money to help the poor, the handicapped,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said he will not take a position on any legislation until the committee completes its work.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. © Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.