The New York State Catholic Conference is urging all Catholics to fight back immediately against what it is calling "a retaliatory attack on the Catholic Church" by the leadership of the state Assembly.
With the current legislative session set to end June 17, Assembly leadership decided to bring to the floor A2872a, a bill the state Catholic conference characterizes as allowing decades-old, time-barred child sexual-abuse claims to be brought against the Catholic Church, while protecting municipalities and public schools.
The bill was first introduced in 2008 by Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Queens) and it has been shot down every year because it is fatally flawed, according to a June 8 statement from the Catholic conference. The Catholic conference contends that the bill is unfair because it amends the Civil Practice Law and Rules while failing to amend the General Municipal Law and the Education Law. As a result, the bill would give a person allegedly abused in a private school an extra year to file a civil lawsuit against the school, but no extra time for someone allegedly abused in a public school.
Thus, the Catholic conference said the bill is "fundamentally unjust" because it creates two different classes of victims, determined only by where the abuse occurred. Instead, the conference supports A5418/S3933, sponsored by Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Mid-Island) and Sen. Andrew Lanza (R, C, I-Staten Island), which NYSCC said are bipartisan and comprehensive bills that would protect children and victim’s rights without discriminating on the basis of where sexual abuse occurs.
The Catholic conference also cited as "suspicious" the Assembly leadership’s decision to bring the Markey bill to the floor at the same time as significant lobbying efforts by the Catholic Church and other groups in favor of the Parental Choice in Education Act, which would provide tax credits that could help families afford to send their children to Catholic schools.
"Some Assembly members are angry at being called out for their lack of support for Catholic school families, and are pushing for this measure in what seems obvious retaliation," according to a June 15 action alert from the Catholic conference. The e-mailed alert urged Catholics to contact their local representatives in the state Assembly and ask them to vote against the Markey bill and for the Cusick bill.
A draft message is available on the Catholic conference’s website, www.nyscatholic.org, where it can be customized and e-mailed directly to Assembly members.