A bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations concerning certain civil actions in sexual abuse cases  was scheduled to be considered by the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee March 7.

As of the March 6 press time for The Monitor, Patrick R. Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, was slated to offer testimony before the Committee on behalf of the Catholic bishops of New Jersey regarding Senate bill S477. Brannigan will reiterate the steadfast commitment that the five dioceses have exercised over nearly two decades to help victims and keep children safe.

More recently, the New Jersey bishops enacted several important measures to provide greater  transparency and assist victims, including those who may not have come forward with an allegation about their abuse. A list of credibly accused clergy was published by all five dioceses in early February, and a Victims Compensation Program has been established to offer “a speedy, transparent and non-adversarial process to resolve their claims with a significantly lower level of proof and corroboration than required in a court of law,” according to an earlier statement by the NJCC.

In his testimony, Brannigan will detail three provisions proposed by the Church for the removal of the statute of limitations. His prepared address states, “For years the Catholic Conference has attempted to work with the sponsors of both Assembly and Senate statute of limitations bills. We offered a number of provisions; the three most significant would be elimination of the statute prospectively (going forward) for institutions and perpetrators; elimination of the statute retroactively for perpetrators (similar to the School Boards Association 2012 position), and retroactive elimination of the statute for institutions and perpetrators back to 1996 – the year the criminal statute was eliminated. We continue to support those three provisions.”

If none of the provisions advanced by the bishops are accepted, Brannigan will ask the Committee to delay the implementation of the law – now set for Dec. 1, 2019 – until after the Victims Compensation Program has been completed. (The proposed implementation date is 30 days before the deadline for victims to file a claim through the independently run program.)

Underscoring the standing practice of the five dioceses to assist victims regardless of when the abuse occurred, Brannigan will reiterate that of the $50 million paid to victims of abuse over the last two decades, $30 million was issued for cases that were beyond the statute of limitations.