On Front Page, NY Times Trumpets Efforts to Financially Cripple Catholic Church

Laurie Goodstein and Erik Eckholm

Dreaming of bankrupting the Catholic Church? NYT's Laurie Goodstein and Erik Eckholm

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.

Misdirection play

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.


  1. Julie says:

    I have worked in newsrooms for many years. I have seen other cases where groups with an agenda take full advantage of lazy, biased reporters like Laurie Goodstein. And often, these very reporters see themselves as investigative reporters. Mind-boggling.

  2. Brenda says:

    If the church would stop abusing women and children, it wouldn't have to fear law suits.  Most abuse cases are too difficult to prosecute because illiterate children don't take notes and lied-to ob/gyn victims of Catholic anti-"birth control" symphisiotomies can't get their medical records.

    • TheMediaReport.com says:

      I invite you to check out TheMediaReport.com’s “Fast Facts About the Media’s Coverage of the Catholic Church Sex Abuse Story.”

      Thank you.

    • Fr Jim Smith says:

      In fact, your suggestion is incorrect. The Church has pretty well stopped any abuse. This "window" legislation will open the doors to anonymous accusers (while the often dead priest has his name trumpeted across the news) who can file frivolous suits. Innocence is not a defense in these cases, even in cases where the plaintiff has a lengthy criminal record for fraud. Even if a defendant "wins," he is often burdened by massive legal bills and the damage to his good name.
      Statutes of limitation exist for a reason. After time, evidence of various types gets lost, making a fair trial impossible. The Constitution was written to protect the rights of the accused, not the accuser. As a society, we forget this at our peril. With laws like these proposed changes to statutes of limitations, anyone with an enemy can be set up for a false claim.
      If you look at the diocese of Wilmington, DE, the only people who got rich were a handful of plaintiffs' attorneys. People claim this is "to save kids," but in Delaware, the bankruptcy court forced the diocese to stop paying for therapy for accused priests. If people want to protect children, it seems it would be a good idea to force the diocese to pay for therapy, not forbid it. Of course, that therapy would have reduced the personal injury lawyers' share of the money.

    • Bob says:

      You are wrong to say "If the church would stop abusing women and children".  For it isn't the Church that is guilty.  It is members of the clergy and Church members that are guilty.  But the fact is that when comparing the number and percentage of true incidences of abuse, the Catholic Church is the lowest of all other organized entities.  The only difference is that the Catholic Church has a much bigger target on their backs.  They are the currently the most persecuted in the world today.  It seems obvious that you are on the same bigoted team that chooses to persecute the Catholic Church and their members.

  3. Pete Saracno says:

    Dear Fr. Jim:
    As a priest and man of God, I should think you would want predatory clergy now in ministry identified so that Catholic children can be safe from them. California passed similar windows legislation and while very few victims came forward, over 300 predatory clergy were identified and MANY kids spared the horror of rape.  Deleware has had the same sort of results but with smaller numbers because it's a smaller state.  I should think that as a man of God, you would want that. I seem to remember Jesus saying something about folks who harm kids……………..
    Open your eyes to the goings-on in the Catholic world…..look at the trial in Philly for instance.  You guys STILL value your power and reputation and money over kids.  The ONLY thing you respond to ARE law suits.   If children ARE any safer in your church it is BECAUSE survivors and the press and the legal community has FORCED you to be more responsible…………and you have kicked and screamed all the way to accountability…………..and from the sound of you post, you are STILL kicking and screaming!
    You still seem more concerned with the church's "reputation" and treasury than with vulnerable Catholic children and vulnerable adults.  You seem to be a sexual predator apologist rather than a man dedicated to keeping children safe. Is that why you were ordained – to value predators, "reputation" and money over kids lives………………..
    Just asking…………..
    And please get your story straight……….under the windows legislation, the burden of proof will lie with victims who bring cases forward – the VAST majority of whom are telling the truth.
    Stop defending predators and the people who protect them (like the NY State Catholic Conference of Bishops.  Stop running away when you catch sight of the wolf.  Stop "working for pay" and be more like the Good Shepard who lays down His life for the sheep……….and please for "sheep" please read children and vulnerable aduts and not your precious money, reputation, and clerical "status".

    • TheMediaReport.com says:

      Pete -

      1. What organization has done more to atone for its mistakes and strive to make itself the safest environment for children more than the Catholic Church?

      2. Where is your demand for accountability in other organizations, such as public schools? Does the abuse of children really upset you, or is it only the decades-old abuse in the Catholic Church?

      3. In California and Delaware, there was barely any “burden of proof” for the accusers. In fact, I know of cases in California that were debunked, but the accuser still received a big settlement!

      4. No one is “defending predators.”

      5. You wrote, “Stop running away when you see the wolf.” Well, I think you are right about one thing. SNAP and their attorneys have indeed been the “wolves” in this entire story.

      6. From your comment, it seems your ultimate aim is to cripple and bankrupt the Catholic Church, not protect kids.

  4. David Lorenz says:

    Just because the SOL is extended doesn't mean the accused are guilty. The accuser still must prove their case in court with all of that faded evidence. The increased time makes it more difficult for an accuser to prove their case than for an accused to defend themselves. Simply put – if all evidence has faded into history, then it is he said/she said and their is no case.
    BTW – just because Marci Hamilton has been called by many accusers to help their case, does not make her non-credible. Talk about biased reporting – your entire article reaks of guilt by association

  5. Delaware Catholic says:

    In Delaware, one — ONE — accuser had to prove his case against the diocese. (A few reached settlements with religious orders or private Catholic schools.) The other approximately 150 who sued during the 2-year window were then included in a settlement without ever having to step into a courtroom or prove a thing. I heard over and over how there was this incredible burden of proof for the accusers, but that was not really the case.
    Delaware's law, by the way, included public schools and other public entities as long as they agreed to waive sovereign immunity. That's right, school districts had to agree to be sued. There were several lawsuits against public school districts, but only a few ever made the news. In the Brandywine School District, the settlement amounts of three lawsuits were kept confidential. Such agreements have been lambasted when reached by the Catholic Church.

  6. Publion says:

    In the matter of the "David Lorenz" comment above: if his theory of SOL-extension is true, then why enact it at all? If the accuser – the pitiable yet heroic victim – is pretty much set up for failure by the legal system (as Lorenz himself asserts) then why oh why enact this gambit into law in the first place?
    If Lorenz is accurate, then doesn't this SOL-extension gambit demonstrate that the whole thing has been a political feel-good scam from the get-go?
    And yet, as 'Delaware Catholic' points out: given the social-political context of the gambit – that the MSM have helped delude much of the public into believing that the Church is rampant with pedophile rape and so on – then no prudent attorney is going to advise a diocese to go to trial because the jury-pool has most probably been tainted before the fact; hence the diocesan retreat to blanket settlements that simply make the dioces a pinata for the allegants and the torty-attorneys.
    I point out again that what I see in much of the 'thinking' put forth by even the higher end of the anti-Church spectrum is really what somebody commenting on the Philly trial site pointed out as being  "law office history" (i.e. an attorney puts together a theory of the case, has the office staff comb the books for any statute or case law or factoids that will appear to support that theory of the case, and then call it the 'history' of the case). Whereas in reality, a much wider and more comprehensive appreciation of all the relevant (even if not necessarily convenient-to-your-case) elements and facts must be taken into account.
    I attribute this to a lot of victim-groups having been addressed by tort-attorneys and such 'experts' as Fr. Doyle who assure their hearers – upon the weight and authority of their education and degrees and so forth – that the anti-Church 'law office history' is the history, the whole history, and nothing but the truth about the matter. And their hearers, thus deluded, hit the websites and then can't understand why people still don't totally agree with them.
    How long will this band play on?

  7. Gary says:

    How many writers of the New Times have abused children that go unreported.

  8. Fred Adams says:

    RE:  Pete Saracno
    "California passed similar windows legislation and while very few victims came forward…"  
    Where did you get this information?  Hundreds of accusers came forward with allegations of abuse once the statute of limitations was suspended for one year in California.


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