The Roman Catholic Church has spent more than $10 million lobbying against the New York Child Victims Act and other bills meant to aid adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
The money was paid out from 2011 through 2018 in eight northeastern states while legislatures were considering bills to extend the statute of limitations governing sexual abuse lawsuits.
According to a new report entitled “Church Influencing State: How the Catholic Church Spent Millions Against Survivors of Clergy Abuse,” nearly $3 million of that outlay helped block passage of the New York Child Victims Act until January 2019.
The bill was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo the following month, and gives adult survivors until their 55th birthday to file civil lawsuits against their abusers, as well as any institutions and individuals that enabled their abuse. The law also opened a 1-year window in which survivors of any age can file a claim.
“Three million dollars that went for lobbying could have done a lot of good elsewhere, including soup kitchens, after-school programs for children, support for seniors,” New York State Sen. Brad Hoylman, a major proponent of the Child Victims Act, told NBC News. “In my district, a Catholic school that is closing might perhaps have stayed open if that money had been used for better causes.”
The Church paid more than $5 million to stymie similar efforts in Pennsylvania. The state currently allows adult survivors to file criminal charges up until their 50th birthday, but they only have until the age of 30 to file civil claims.
“The extensive lobbying by the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania against the reforms recommended by the Grand Jury proves what I have said all along: The Church cannot be trusted to police itself,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Robert Shapiro told NBC News. “It’s reprehensible that the Church continues to spend significant sums of money fighting these reforms, instead of protecting and supporting the victims of clergy sexual abuse.”
Last year, Shapiro published a stunning grand jury report that detailed credible abuse allegations against hundreds of priests throughout Pennsylvania, as well as Church efforts that allowed their heinous behavior to remain hidden for decades.
The Catholic Church spent more than $633,000 to lobby against similar legislation in New Jersey. According to the Associated Press, Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill last month that allows child victims to sue up until they turn 55 or “within seven years of their first realization that the abuse caused them harm.”
Similar lobbying efforts cost the Church $537,551 in Massachusetts, $124,260 in Maine, $61,961 in Rhode Island, and $134,345 in New Hampshire.
“It’s appalling that parishioners’ donations are used to keep child sex crimes — and those who committed and concealed them — covered up,” said David Clohessy, the former director of the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. “There’s no better indication of how bishops think and act than where they put their flocks’ funds.”