Pennsylvania’s Senate Judiciary Committee has passed an amendment to weaken a bill that aims to make it easier for victims of childhood sex abuse to file charges against their attackers.
The original proposal had a clause that allowed the law to be applied retroactively, and it would have enabled victims to take legal action on assaults that happened up to four decades ago.
The amendment removes that retroactivity clause.
Some, including advocates for the Catholic Church, said the clause could introduce flawed cases against the institution.
Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, has a personal connection to the legislation; at 13, he was abused by a priest.
He said the vote shows the priority the church has over victims.
“The Catholic Church has always gotten a free pass,” Rozzi said. “The bishops have given the free pass to the perpetrators, the police have given a free pass to the bishops and the perpetrators, all the collusion going on, free pass, free pass.”
Several panel members voted for the amendment on the grounds that retroactive application of a law is unconstitutional.
Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, said while he felt for sexual assault victims, he thought the clause was bad policy.
“The retroactivity, I just find to be something that I cannot in good conscience agree to, even though as a matter of who I would like to see win, I have great sympathy,” Leach said in his remarks.
The bill still includes provisions to remove the statute of limitations on assault cases, extend the age at which victims can sue their childhood abusers, and holds organizations responsible for gross negligence should they allow sexual abuse to take place.