Vatican Spent $10.6M Lobbying State Legislatures To Stymie Sex Abuse Laws

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As states attempted to help victims of clergy sexual abuse, the Catholic Church poured millions into fighting the laws.

The Catholic Church has poured more than $10 million over the past eight years into battling legislation that would benefit survivors of clergy sexual abuse, according to CBS News, targeting laws in the northeast United States with its efforts.

A report on the spending was commissioned by four U.S. law firms representing hundreds of victims of sexual abuse related to the Church.

Of the total $10.6 million, $2,912,772 went to fighting the Child Victims Act in New York, which was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo in February; another $5,322,979 was spent in Pennsylvania, lobbying against expanding the statute of limitations,which would allow more time for victims to pursue criminal or civil charges; and $875,261 was allocated in Connecticut to oppose several bills aimed at helping victims of clergy sexual abuse seek justice.

CBS News noted that directing “such a large chunk of money to the Church's lobbying arm, the Catholic Conference Policy Group, with the intention of combating reform that would benefit sexual abuse victims seems directly counter to recent statements the Church has made publicly, vowing to take accountability.”

Further, the laws opposed by the Church would benefit victims of abuse apart from those who suffered at the hands of priests — meaning the Catholic Church’s attempts to protect itself would also bar increasing the statute of limitations for non-Church related cases as well.

Gerald Williams, a partner at Williams Cedar, one of the law firms that commissioned the report, told CBS News that he and other attorneys were driven by frustration, saying, “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."

Al Gnoza, the communications director for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, said in a statement to CBS News, "We have not reviewed the report. For more than a half century, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has lobbied on a myriad of issues that are important to people of the Catholic faith. We do not have a breakdown of costs, but our lobbying budget funds this broad effort."

Read the full report.