Friday, July 22, 2016

About that sex abuse editorial

I always tell people I have "an" opinion.

Not "the" opinion.

That's the good thing about readers. They're not shy about telling us when they disagree.

Take yesterday's editorial on Rep. Mark Rozzi and House Bill 1947. Rozzi is vowing to put language back in the bill that would allow victims from decades ago to file civil suits against their molesters and their employers.

As you might expect, the Catholic Conference and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are not big fans of that language.

That's why they lobbied hard to have the language removed when the bill was taken up by the state Senate.

They were successful.

Rozzi is not amused, and vows to put the language back in the bill in the fall.

The editorial focused on that - and the very delicate position that likely will put several Delaware County House members in, possibly voting on the bill at the same time they are running for re-election. The archdiocese has not been shy about reminding the faithful which legislators voted in favor of a bill that characterize as a "blatant attack on the church."

But I received a letter of protest yesterday from Amy Hill, director of communications for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, for something the editorial did not say.

She took us to task for failing to point out the belief by many that the retroactive language included in Rozzi's version of the legislation is unconstitutional. In fact, Solicitor General Bruce Castor testified to just that at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

She's right.

But that was not what this editorial was about. Both the paper, our editorial page, and my own columns and blogs have mentioned the constitutional issues many times. I happen to agree with them. I'm not sure that language will ever pass constitutional muster.

But this was more about the fact that Rozzi is not about to let this issue die off, and the position the Delco delegation likely will find themselves in the fall.

In the meantime, you can expect to see Hill's letter on our op-ed page soon.

If you can't wait that long, I'll include it here:

Your editorial of July 21 failed to discuss the key reason the retroactive lawsuit language was removed from House Bill 1947 and it has nothing to do with the Catholic Church: It is unconstitutional.

Don’t take my word for it. Look at the legal opinion submitted by the Office of Attorney General. You can read it online here.

“House Bill 1947, if enacted into law in its current form and without amendment will, in our opinion, violate the Remedies Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution,” wrote Solicitor General Bruce L. Castor Jr. Several legal experts and law professors echoed the opinion of the Office of Attorney General at a Senate hearing.

Despite the various legal opinions that the bill was unconstitutional, you chose to focus on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s efforts to inform its parishioners how this legislation targets the Catholic Church and could result in the closing of parishes, schools and charities. You briefly mentioned that the Archbishop questioned the constitutionality of the bill, but omitted any mention of the testimony of legal experts.

Whether you were unaware of the testimony or decided to leave it out, you did not give your readers a true picture of why the retroactive language was amended.

No matter the final resolution with the legislation, the Catholic Church will honor its sincere commitment to the emotional and spiritual well-being of individuals who have been impact by the crime of childhood sexual abuse, no matter when it occurred.

Sincerely,

Amy Hill

Director of Communications

Pennsylvania Catholic Conference

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