PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Those who survived abuse at the hands of priests and the churches accused of covering it up remain distraught and angry.
“You have no right to touch anybody’s child. And I don’t like the fact, that I had to bury my child,” a teary Arthur Baselice told state lawmakers and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “That’s why I had kids, so they could bury me.”
Baselice is confident Pennsylvania lawmakers will take swift action recommended by an investigating grand jury. His son, Arthur III, died from a drug overdose, years of numbing the pain triggered from sexual abuse by a trusted priest, who was principal at Archbishop Ryan, the younger Baselice’s high school in Northeast Philadelphia.
“The two guys who abused my son are living large,” he said. “They’re laying up in their ‘crew,’ as they say, and collecting a check.”
Shapiro and two state lawmakers personally met with survivors on Tuesday — ahead of a predicted battle next week in Harrisburg.
When legislators return — two big items they’ll face: The prospect of opening a two-year civil window in the statute of limitations and strengthening laws on mandated reporting.
“Mandated reporters who failed to report repeated acts of abuse must be held accountable for the additional victims they placed in harm’s way,” Representative Todd Stephens, a Republican representing a house district in Montgomery County, said.
His bill would increase the penalty of repeatedly failing to report instances of abuse from a misdemeanor to a felony.
It’s anticipated the Catholic Church will attempt to wield its influence, and obstruct the opening of a civil window. Two years ago, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia waged a campaign to quash a similar piece of legislation.
“I fully expect they will bring all their powerful lobbyists and their tricks of the trade out next week,” Shapiro said.
We asked Republican State Senator John Rafferty if the church or any of its lobbyists reached out to him. He answered with a firm, “no.”
The senator says he senses a temperament change in Harrisburg, a departure from two years ago when similar legislation was torpedoed by lawmakers.
“So I don’t care how much power some archbishop or bishop thinks they wield, at the end of the day, I think these lawmakers will listen to the survivors,” Shapiro said.
Reached for comment, the Catholic Conference of Pennsylvania released the following statement:
“What happened in Pennsylvania is a tragedy. We respect everyone who demands action and seeks justice. PCC will review all legislative proposals once they’re introduced.”
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia referred CBS3 to a statement released last month:
“Some victims of historic abuse are barred from filing a court case because the Pennsylvania Constitution prevents time-barred claims from being revived, and statutes of limitation serve a needed purpose. We nonetheless believe these victims are entitled to help. This is consistent with our on-going approach.
The Archdiocese has paid more than $10 million in recent years to help hundreds of victims, regardless of whether their claims are barred. Thus, we are receptive to any fair and reasonable program to help victims whose cases are barred.”