Williams believes it's "likely" that some of the money used by the Catholic Church has to come from the contributions made by the faithful during Sunday collections.
A new report has been released that shows the Catholic Church has spent $10.6 million over the past eight years in the northeastern United States, just to fight a legislation that would have helped victims of clergy sexual abuse seek justice, according to CBS News. "At the most basic level, we were inspired by frustration," says attorney Gerald Williams, who is a partner at Williams Cedar, one of four law firms that jointly commissioned the report. "We represent hundreds of people, who have truly been victimized by clergymen in the Catholic Church. We've heard a lot about the church's desire to be accountable and turn over a new leaf. But when we turn to the form where we can most help people and where we can get the most justice — the courts of justice — the church has been there blocking their efforts.
The Catholic Church spent $2,912,772 in New York for lobbying against the Child Victims Act and it was ultimately signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo February 14, 2019. The act gives survivors more time to seek justice against their abusers, as the age at which victims are able to sue has been increased from 23 to 55. In Pennsylvania, too, a 2018 grand jury report gathered evidence of more than 300 priests accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children.
For that, the Catholic Church spent $5,322,979 lobbying so that they could keep current restrictions in place on the statute of limitations where victims can seek criminal or civil charges against their abusers. The Church's lobbying arm, the Catholic Conference Policy Group is channeling such a large chunk of money as they hope to combat reform that would benefit sexual abuse victims, but this seems to be the exact opposite of statements publicly made by the church, vowing to take accountability.
In August 2018, Pope Francis himself said, "The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults." However, according to the report, not only has the Catholic Church continued to invest in lobbying against the interests of victims, their investments have, in fact, only increased over the years.
"They make a lot of positive statements, but when the Church literally puts its money where its mouth is, it's on the side of self-protection and not help for the survivors," Williams told CBS News. "I believe the church has a long way to go to show that it stands with survivors. I believe that these data indicate that it's not standing with the survivors, that in fact, it's standing against the survivors."
The data collected and processed in the report is made entirely from public filings in the individual states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Williams believes it's "likely" that some of the money used by the Catholic Church has to come from the contributions made by the faithful during Sunday collections. "It's hard for us to tell just from the raw numbers, but it's likely," he says. "We can't say for certain where the money comes from. We can only say that it's a lot of money that could be spent on more constructive purposes." One look at the report and it's obvious that all the amendments detailed in the report would benefit all victims of child sex abuse, and yet, more than $10 million of the Catholic Church's money has been used to fight the statute of limitation.
"I hope, frankly, that Catholics who come across this report take away from it the same thing that I take away from it, as a Catholic born-and-raised person myself," Williams told CBS News. "I had 16 years of Catholic education. Catholicism teaches a lot of important and noble values, but the institution has really acted in ways contradicting those values. So, what I take away from this are really two emotions: sadness and anger. The sadness is a little stronger even than the anger. But maybe if Catholics themselves get angry about this, then maybe the institution itself will change… It just has to change. And that has to start with members of the church."
This money could have been used to help people in real need. Feed people? Clothe people? Pay off a disabled veterans debts so he can be free and get back to productive life? Ok that last one might be me...— Ed Williams (@RealEdwilliams) June 5, 2019