Several states are mulling legislative efforts to lift the statutes of limitations in cases of sex abuse for a one or two-year period. These so-called "window statutes," pushed by left-wing legislators and left-wing pundits, would enable people to sue organizations for abuse no matter how long ago the alleged incidents occurred.
These "window statutes," if enacted, would have a devastating financial impact upon the Catholic Church, as scores of anonymous claimants would line up to make decades-old allegations against now-deceased offenders.
But there's a catch: Public schools are exempt from these legislative proposals. So if a teacher raped, sodomized, or molested a student – even in recent memory – the victim has no legal recourse whatsoever. (In New York, for example, the statute of limitations to file a civil suit against a public school institution is a mere 90 days.)
But if a person alleges that a Catholic priest – even one that is now long ago deceased – molested him 65 years ago, that accuser could receive a sizable cash settlement.
This imbalance sounds unfair, doesn't it? Not according to the New York Times. Just over a month ago, the paper published an editorial in support of these "window statutes" and never mentioned this outrageous discrepancy.
Now, in a front-page story, the Times' Laurie Goodstein and Erik Eckholm follow their paper's editorial cue. The pair attempt to provide both sides of this issue, but, upon closer inspection, it becomes clear which side of the debate they stand on.
Near the beginning of their article, Goodstein and Eckholm explain that the time limits imposed by the statutes of limitations have prevented criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits "against all kinds of people accused of child abuse – not just clergy members, but also teachers, youth counselors and family members accused of incest."
This statement early in the article gives the misleading impression that the legislative efforts to lift the statutes' time limits apply to all kinds of organizations.
One has to read much farther down the article to see that the writers have buried the critical single fact that "public schools, the site of much abuse, and municipalities have fought successfully to be exempted" from any legislation affecting them.
That brief and buried fact is a big deal. It puts the Church's opposition to this legislation in perspective. The Church feels – and the media coverage of the past decade bears this out – that any new laws are designed almost exclusively to single out the Catholic Church for punishment.
As we relayed just recently, 248 complaints of sexual misconduct involving school employees were reported in New York City public schools just in the first three months of 2012. That's an average of 2.75 sex-related complaints per day, including Saturdays and Sundays, in one city's school system.
Does 90 days seem to the Times a sufficient period of time to bring a lawsuit for sex abuse while claimants against the Church are given several decades? Apparently not. The story of the 248 complaints has never gone further than one of its blogs.
Marci Hamilton – again
Goodstein and Eckholm also give some ink to attorney Marci Hamilton, whom we recently profiled.
The Times doesn't mention it, but Hamilton has a troubling record of legal scholarship, and she has a long history of attacking the Catholic Church. She is a dogged lawyer for the anti-Catholic group SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) and has closely collaborated with members of the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office in its decade-long aim to prosecute the Church.
Not telling the other story
If Goodstein and Eckholm really wanted to present a balanced piece, they would have asked Hamilton some obvious questions:
- "Do you think 90 days is a sufficient period of time to bring a lawsuit against a public school employee?"
- "If this legislation is really not about punishing the Catholic Church, why not insist that the new rules include public schools?"
- "Why should one class of victims (those abused by Catholic priests) be treated differently than another (those abused by school employees)?"
But the Times' piece does not include such questions. Why? Because the Times has already taken a stand on this issue, and Goodstein's and Eckholm's piece simply reinforces the paper's efforts to attack and punish the Catholic Church – all under the guise of journalism.