Catholic Bishop Breaks Ranks and Silence Regarding Abuse Cases
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
This Story from the Washington Post Deserves as much attention as possible:
Breaking ranks with his peers, a Roman Catholic bishop called yesterday for state legislatures to temporarily remove the time limits that have prevented many victims of sex abuse from suing the church.
In making that extraordinary appeal, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit also unburdened himself of a secret. As a teenager 60 years ago, he said, he was "inappropriately touched" by a priest.
Gumbleton, 75, is the first U.S. bishop to disclose that he was a victim of clergy sexual abuse. He is also the first to endorse proposals in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and other states to follow California's example and open a one-year window for victims to file lawsuits over sexual abuse, no matter how long ago it took place.
"I don't want to exaggerate that I was terribly damaged. It was not the kind of sexual abuse that many of the victims experience," Gumbleton said in a telephone interview. But, he said, he knows why sex abuse victims often cannot file lawsuits within the period allowed by the statute of limitations, which in many states is two to five years after the alleged crime.
"They are intimidated, embarrassed, and they just bury it. I understand that," he said. "I never told my parents. . . . I never told anybody."
Gumbleton is stepping into the middle of a legislative battle between victims' groups and lobbyists for the Roman Catholic Church and other religious organizations. It began in 2002, when the California legislature voted to lift the state's statute of limitations on sex abuse lawsuits for one year, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2003. During that period, victims filed more than 800 suits against California dioceses. Most are still in mediation, with a cost that attorneys on both sides have said could top $1 billion -- about what the sex abuse scandal has cost all other U.S. Catholic dioceses in the country combined.
The complete story may be found here: