Among the states trying to lift retroactively the statutes of limitations on sexual abuse, Ohio is well advanced. Bill SB 17 passed the Senate and is presently in the Judiciary House Committee, it could come to a vote soon. Many Catholics are unaware of the bill and its implications for all Church members. Lifting the statutes of limitations on civil suits on decades-old cases of alleged sexual abuse would unjustly penalize Catholics in the pew who would be held financially accountable for crimes for which they are completely innocent.
American TFP members brought the issue to the 2006 Answer the Call men’s conference in Cincinnati. Held at the City Music Hall on March 4, the event gathered together over 3,000 men. At the TFP table, hundreds passed by to take a copy of the TFP statement “Is It Fair That the Innocent Pay for the Guilty?” Upon understanding the issue, many would exclaim: “That’s it! There’re after the Church not those responsible for the crimes. Good job.”
Others would say: “They just want to destroy the Church, and it’s good to see someone taking a stand.”
One priest received the flier with gratitude saying: “I need to learn more about this. This is terrible since this law would keep the Church from doing good for souls. Thanks for getting this message out!”
Discussions were especially lively with men that receive TFP email updates. Mike Pearson, an active Catholic from Cincinnati commented how his research had uncovered the connection between Catholic dissident groups pushing to roll back the statutes of limitations and the homosexual movement.
“They work very closely together and they care nothing for the Church’s Divine mission” he commented. “I like your web site because you show how issues that affect the Church also effect society and vise versa.”
Ash Wednesday was a memorable day for TFP members and local volunteers who braved the cold Boston weather to hand out over 1500 flyers titled, “Is it fair that the Innocent Pay for the Guilty” in front of the downtown Saint Anthony’s Shrine.
The flyer, which explained the TFP’s position on the retroactive lifting of the statutes of limitation on decades-old sexual abuses cases, was well received in this area which is supposedly a hotbed of dissident activists railing against the Church.
It was quite the contrary as we found many Catholics who vented their rages against the attackers. Among those, we met was one Italian man who stayed for quite a while. He had heard of the TFP and our America Needs Fatima campaign. As we discussed the issue of lifting the statutes of limitations in different states and the possibility of more Church properties being sold, he made a very beautiful comment.
“These churches were built by the hands of immigrants and were meant to be around forever until our Lord returns.” Then pointing to the shrine he commented: “They should be sending people out here to help you distribute your message.”
One young man took a flyer saying he was about to convert to Catholicism. He explained that it was the veracity of the Church which led him to take this step. Alluding to the uproar against the Church he added: “That is why they are persecuting the Church, because it is the true Church founded by our Lord Jesus Christ.” Before leaving, he pointed to the TFP cape and said, “You wear your robe nicely. That represents the Church Militant.”
Probably the best repercussion of the day came from a man who approached me saying, “I know your group. You are standing out here in the cold doing this, but I want you to know that you are going to win.”
A Catholic man with ashes on his forehead had just left the shrine when he approached fellow TFP member John DaCosta.
“I took a brief look at your flyer while inside the Church.” he said. “I agree with you completely.”
A similar repercussion came from another man who held the flyer up in the air saying: “I read your flier and can tell you that I have been thinking about this for a long time and you are right.”
A very distinguished young businessman in a shirt and tie, without a coat (It was 19 degrees when we started and the wind chill factor made it feel much colder) approached me. In spite of the cold, this young man stayed for quite a while talking. He began by saying that he had already read the whole flyer.
“It is very well written,” he said. It was curious how he had even adopted the language and arguments of the flyer. “You cannot sue a municipality,” he said, “because innocent people would have to pay.”
We had a few people against us but nothing like a person would imagine for the Boston Archdiocese, which was so hard hit by the scandals. One lady, for example, after hearing our explanation of this issue simply repeated the Revolutionary mantra about “accountability.” My response was simple. Should innocent people be held accountable? I asked her if she was in favor of victimizing 67 million Catholics. After all, we are the ones paying for these million dollar settlements.” She just kept on walking. Perhaps she did not know what to say.
A young man refused the flyer saying that the Church is “just a bunch of rapists.” As he kept walking (scared to stick around and debate) I asked him if ALL fathers and teachers are also rapists. After all, such abuse also happens in schools and homes with even greater regularity. However, these were the only negative repercussions I received the whole day.
On a more positive note, many people would only take a flyer when they knew that we were defending the Church. For example, I began the day by telling those who approached that we were “defending the Church in face of a new religious persecution.” I quickly realized some people, upon hearing only the second part of the phrase, thought I was a Voice-of-the-Faithful type and quickly refused the flyer. When I changed my explanation to simply “Defending the Catholic Church,” many who passed by in a hurry would turn around and take a flyer with decision.
All in all there was no better way to spend Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, even when some of those who should be on our side were against us.