Good Law | Bad Law #92 - Shame on the Catholic Church’s: Does the historic Grand Jury report on widespread sexual abuse go far enough? W/ Marci Hamilton
Aaron Freiwald: Welcome back to good law bad law. My guest on this episode is Marci Hamilton. Marci is one of the country's leading experts on child abuse child sex abuse and neglect. She's a lawyer a professor a writer and author and she has worked very very closely on the issue of Catholic Church sex abuse of children. And we're talking about this incredible historic Grand Jury report that has come out as the Pennsylvania attorney general's office this week that details hundreds and hundreds of victims and hundreds of perpetrators inside the Catholic Church over 10 20 40 50 years of time. We're going to talk about the report what its findings are and what can be done and why the law needs to be reformed to allow victims of these horrendous crimes to be able to bring their claims in court. A fascinating important episode about law and also about Justice Stay tuned.
Aaron Freiwald: Welcome back to good law bad law. On this episode of the program we're talking about the Catholic Church and the most extensive most comprehensive and most horrifying report by a grand jury looking at decades of sexual assault and abuse of children in Pennsylvania. My guest today on the program to discuss this what it is and what significance is is one of the country's leading experts on this issue and it's a pleasure to have you here. MARCI HAMILTON Thanks for having me. Marci you have written a book about this topic. You have a nonprofit organization that you've started to deal with this and other issues relating to abuse and neglect of children and you are a professor at my alma mater the University of Pennsylvania Law School. So tell us a little bit about yourself and then let's get right into the subject of this incredible grand jury report that came out this week.
Marci Hamilton: Sure. So I was a law student here at the University of Pennsylvania and ended up clerking for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and became a law professor so for 26 years I worked on issues involving religious groups that break the law. It was the only law professor doing it. Largely I was doing it because I had a case at the United States Supreme Court Bernie v. Flores and I defeated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. So
Aaron Freiwald: Just remind us what that was because that's not a small achievement.
Marci Hamilton: So Bernie de Flores was the case in 1997 that address whether or not the federal government could pass a law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act RFRA that could set a standard for religious liberty that had never been seen in the United States before. We persuaded in telling the Supreme Court it was unconstitutional. It was an unexpected victory. There were many that thought the court would say hands down RFRA is a fine law and the result was all the groups that lobby against religious groups started contacting me. There were no law professors in the United States in religious liberty issues that were on the other side of religion. And as a Presbyterian married to a Catholic I never thought I would be. But the more I was approached the more I learned about child abuse child neglect breaking laws in religious groups. So when the clergy sex abuse crisis hit it literally landed in my lap. And I've been working on it ever since.
Aaron Freiwald: Well let's let's get a little of the background on this and that will help us understand in context why this new report by a grand jury in Pennsylvania that revealed hundreds and hundreds of perpetrators in dioceses all over Pennsylvania and hundreds and hundreds of victims really documents their story in incredible detail. Let's go back to the beginning as you say of this crisis and does that go back to the to the Boston exposé on the Catholic Church's practices there.
Marci Hamilton: It does. So in 2002 when the spotlight story came out which of course became a major motion picture movie of the year we learned for the first time not about child sex abuse. We knew that that was in existence. But we did not know that there were very powerful men in power who were actually covering up for pedophiles. And so that story hit very hard. But the initial response to the Boston story was that it just must be Boston. I remember Rick Santorum the senator saying that well this doesn't happen in Philadelphia because Philadelphia is not as liberal it was because Boston was some kind of liberal stronghold.
Aaron Freiwald: Former Republican senator from Pennsylvania.
Marci Hamilton: All true. But there was a tremendous amount of pushback by Catholics and everyone everywhere. Nobody wanted to believe that the institution that you always wanted to have their clergy on your jury. Now was the institution that was actually imperiling children in large numbers. So when this story started to come out about Gaygen who was in his 80s and Shanley who was actually a member of NAMBLA the North American Man Boy Love Association. The details started to sink in. Now we started to hear from survivors and other parts of the country. We saw SNAP the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests become very public. This all kind of snowballed into a moment when long before the Me too movement we had the clergy sex abuse survivors walking into the public square and saying me too.
Aaron Freiwald: Some important parallels to the ME movement.
Marci Hamilton: Tremendous. I would say that this movement the clergy sex abuse movement is the historical precedent for the me too movement. This whole concept of telling the public and trying to help everybody else who's had the same problem that really was rooted in the way in which the Catholic victims first started to come forward. But it wasn't very long and it wasn't just Catholic victims. It was Jehovah's Witness victims. And then it was Jewish victims and then it was Penn State and then it was all the private boarding schools including in Pennsylvania. Here the Solebury school. This all added up to the point that we now had a certifiable epidemic of child sex abuse in the United States. And as that became more well understood that it also became a global issue.
Aaron Freiwald: And an epidemic of victims whose victimization goes back 10 20 30 years or even more.
Marci Hamilton: Right.
Aaron Freiwald: And lots of special problems in the law that present because of that.
Marci Hamilton: Right.
Aaron Freiwald: Which we need to talk about.
Marci Hamilton: Right. So you know I was drawn into these cases early on as a first amendment expert. So I was brought in to help craft the arguments against the church's arguments that they had a First Amendment right not to do discovery. They said they had a right not to be sued. And there are states to this day that actually have cases like Missouri the brewer case which holds that you cannot sue the Catholic Church for sexual abuse.
Aaron Freiwald: Because of the First Amendment.
Marci Hamilton: Because of the First Amendment.
Aaron Freiwald: Because that's a new one I've never heard of that.
Marci Hamilton: Three states Utah Wisconsin and Missouri have cases which say you can't sue the Catholic Church for sex abuse. So I became the person who was crafting the legal arguments in this and assisting the clergy sex abuse attorneys on those First Amendment arguments. But very quickly I learned that we would have a case and there would be one victim. And I'd be reading about the case. And then there would be 20 other victims mentioned or there would be siblings but none of those people would be involved in the case and I would say to the lawyers what's going on here why aren't you representing everybody. And it was the same answer again and again and again. It was the statute of limitations. And I frankly could not believe a deadline a very arbitrary procedural mechanism. This technicality was the only reason that one person out of 50 was able to bring a lawsuit or be able to prosecute. So I had this great idea that I would just write a book about it and I had already written a very academic book about religious liberty and I would have a column for years and years. I thought no I'm going to write a book for legislators and it's going to be very short very readable. It's called justice denied. What America Must Do to Protect Its Children. And it lays out very quickly here's why child sex abuse victims need time to come forward here is this terrible state of our law on sexual abuse statutes of limitations. And let's get rid of them.
Aaron Freiwald: Well just before we dig deeper into that and just so people listening understand the statute of limitations is a case killer but there's a reason generally speaking for it in the law right so a statute of limitation is a period of time within which you may bring a claim and after which you may not.
Marci Hamilton: Right.
Aaron Freiwald: For a lot of tort type claims you know injury kinds of claims the statue of limitations would be generally speaking two years.
Marci Hamilton: Right.
Aaron Freiwald: Although it varies a lot from state to state and often for children the statute of limitations is longer. In many states but not long enough for these kinds of cases where the where someone might have been 8 9 10 12 14 years old at the time that they were abused and they're coming forward many years later.
Marci Hamilton: Right. So you know we have statutes of limitations for contract claims and property and they tend to be short. You want to get these things settled and determined. You want everybody to know who owns what who has obligations. Murder has no statute of limitations. So the question that falls in-between is well what about child sex abuse statutes of limitations does it belong on the murder end of the spectrum or does it belong on a contract end. And the more I studied it the clear it became to be to me that it clearly belongs with the murder end of the spectrum. These victims are disabled. They don't understand what's happening to them and the trauma keeps them from coming forward. So on average a victim needs until age 52 to come forward. So when we have short statutes of limitations even when they're in their 20s or 30s we're still shutting out most victims. But the real irony is there was a time when we thought of child sex abuse as like a broken leg. So you just assumed the kid understood they'd been hurt. They go tell their mom and it'll get taken care of. Instead it doesn't work like that. So at one point in our history in the United States the statute of limitations for child sex abuse would be two years from the date of the act. So if you were a 6 year old who was assaulted by your uncle if you didn't come forward by age 8 it was over. So we then extended them generally to age 18. You got to age of majority plus two years. Well then that was and so now we're in a full fledged movement.
Aaron Freiwald: Ok. And we're going to talk a lot more about the statute of limitations. Because that is the key.
Marci Hamilton: Yes.
Aaron Freiwald: That is the key to something more than what is already happening happening. So OK so we go from Boston where this you know where this really the lid comes off the issue but it's localized still possible localized some say well that's Boston. But Pennsylvania then gets drawn in pretty heavily. And give us that background too.
Marci Hamilton: So what happens is that Lynne Abraham is the district attorney of Philadelphia and unlike any other prosecutor in the United States at the time in 2003 she says to her staff we're going to figure out just how bad of a problem this is in Philadelphia. She instituted a grand jury in 03. She then reinstituted another grand jury and brought me in as an outside consultant. I was the expert who helped with the crafting of the legal remedies and what to do next. So in 2005 we published a grand jury report on sexual abuse in the Philadelphia archdiocese over 400 pages. The first of its kind. And it laid out the sexual abuse by dozens of priests hundreds of victims. And it was shocking. Now it was an era when the bishops still had the capacity to do a lot of name calling and so she was immediately accused of being anti Catholic which was ridiculous because the detectives that were on this case were Catholic and devout Catholics. And so the 2005 grand jury report was a groundbreaker. What it said wise we have all of this crime we now know it's been a terrible problem in the city of Philadelphia. But because of the statute of limitations we can't bring one prosecution.
Aaron Freiwald: And that makes this so exceptional right because grand juries are used all the time. They hear evidence by the prosecutor and they hear testimony of witnesses and then they will recommend if they think the evidence supports criminal charges to be brought. that's how we know grand juries are used all the time in cities and communities all across the country. Here you have this 400 page report documenting all these crimes and the grand jury can do nothing. Well I wouldn't say nothing. I mean they do create this incredible report.
Marci Hamilton: Well and we recommended the elimination of the criminal statute of limitations and we recommended the revival of expired civil statutes of limitations and fixing the child endangerment law mandatory reporting. So what came out of it was This felt sense of injustice that all of these victims had been left behind but that there could be something that could be done. So that was that really set the standard. And it's because of that report that Pennsylvania now is the leader in the United States on child sex abuse. Grand Jury reports involving institutions not just the Church but institutions generally.
Aaron Freiwald: Well OK so how does the grand jury report that was just issued. We're recording this on Thursday. Our episode will be posted on Friday. This grand jury report comes out just two days ago. So what is what is different or unusual about this grand jury report.
Marci Hamilton: So what's historic about this grand jury report. Is it now fills in the gaps for every diocese in the state of Pennsylvania. After the Philadelphia grand jury reports of which there were three there was one that was done on the Johnstown Altoona diocese.
Aaron Freiwald: Which was in western Pennsylvania.
Marci Hamilton: Western Pennsylvania also devastating. In fact it had it actually had a payoff chart where it showed you the type of sexual abuse and the amount of money they were paying off on it in a very neat and tidy chart.
Aaron Freiwald: Paying off victims.
Marci Hamilton: Paying off victims a hundred thousand for a rape and etc.. So those two grand jury reports were in place Penn State the Solebury school in Bucks County. And this report comes out. What this report does is it means that we now know about sex abuse in every diocese in the entire state of Pennsylvania. No other state comes close to this. No state has done what Lynne Abraham didn't 05. But what we do have now is this extremely valuable historical document telling us the scope of the abuse the number of victims at a minimum and the number of perpetrators at a minimum it's eye opening. But it's just so important for understanding the scope of this problem.
Aaron Freiwald: Well this is the this is the first paragraph of the report which I think is so powerful people should know that it says this and we'll post a link to the report too and if you don't read the whole thing read the introduction and read some of the stories that are documented here. But this is how the grand jury report itself starts. We need the members of this grand jury need you to hear this. We know some of you have heard some of it before. There have been other reports about sex child sex abuse within the Catholic Church but never on this scale. For many of us those earlier stories happened someplace else someplace away. Now we know the truth. It happened everywhere. I mean you say filling in the blanks. There is no running. There is no hiding from this. Right. I mean this is on a scale that is pretty hard to imagine and yet this this report gives you the evidence that's unavoidable.
Marci Hamilton: Well and it gives it to you in detail so it's 886 page report. It has 450 pages at the end which are appended by responses with responses by bishops and priests. So it's by far the longest report. It's the only report that has responses that are built into it even though by law someone who is mentioned in a report can add a response. This is the first time it's actually been done. So it is gigantic a thousand victims over 300 priests named. And I can tell you that it's not all of them. I've heard from survivors in the last several days all of whom have said to me where's my perpetrator. And so this is a beginning. It's still not completely comprehensive.
Aaron Freiwald: Now you say there were a thousand victims identified in this report who are covered by the details in this report of the thousand victims. How many of those could actually still bring some kind of claim or could still have the crimes that they are victims of prosecuted.
Marci Hamilton: Well sadly only two priests were capable of being prosecuted for child sex abuse as a result of this report. So two victims brought claims against each of their priests that happened before the report was issued. So they issued those indictments early. The report itself was not accompanied by any new indictments.
Aaron Freiwald: Could that have happened. Could there be new indictments along with the findings of this report.
Marci Hamilton: It's my view that the hierarchy should have been subjected to indictments for child endangerment.
Aaron Freiwald: So let's understand that because that is an extraordinary view to take. And this is a this is a report the attorney general of Pennsylvania who sort of is the sponsor of this report Josh Shapiro is very proud of. And what it does in scope and in the historic nature of it is quite an achievement. What I hear you saying though is that this doesn't go far enough. And so spell that out. When you say that the leadership or the hierarchy should have should be charged. Tell us exactly what you mean by that.
Marci Hamilton: Well if you read enough of the report you will see the callous disregard that the hierarchy had for children. Again and again whether it was the vicar of clergy or it was the bishop in that particular diocese. It is pretty ugly. And in a week there was a moment in Pennsylvania history where the hierarchy would not have been guilty of child endangerment. But when Monsignor Lynn was prosecuted he's the first ever prosecution in the United States of a Catholic member of the hierarchy for endangerment of children. He was convicted. The Superior Court reversed that conviction saying well he wasn't really responsible for particular children. Therefore that's not child endangerment.
Aaron Freiwald: And he was never accused himself of having assaulted or abused a child. He was he was convicted in his role as an in effect his role as supervisor.
Marci Hamilton: In his role as a supervisor and administrator of essentially the list of known abusers. So after he won in the Superior Court it was appealed by the prosecutors back up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court said wait a minute. He surely could be capable of endangering children even if he's not responsible for particular children. If he creates danger for the children in his organization that's endangerment. And so they threw out the reversal of the conviction. He is now awaiting retrial here in Philadelphia on child endangerment.
Aaron Freiwald: So what I hear you saying is that this is often the way the law evolves in this the Supreme Court has declared that there is a claim they believe they've essentially set the law in Pennsylvania that someone may be charged for this and now he's going and they're going to retry him to see if he will be convicted of that charge.
Marci Hamilton: Right.
Aaron Freiwald: And so you're saying now that the Supreme Court has declared that this is the law and one could be charged you're saying they should apply that law and bring charges.
Marci Hamilton: So from the beginning of this report I assumed that the payoff would be the indictment of the hierarchy. We have been dealing with the injustice to the victims for a very long time. There's a very specific solution. We know what we need to do. So do the members of the state legislature. But what we haven't been able to do is hold the institution to account. And the only way to do that is by holding its leadership to account. So if you noticed Graham Spanier the president of Penn State is in jail right. Why. Because of endangering children.
Aaron Freiwald: And that's the Sandusky case you're talking about.
Marci Hamilton: That's the Jerry Sandusky case. That's Penn State. The same is true here we have one higher up after another who callously disregard the suffering of children who let pedophiles closer to them who knew exactly what the result would be.
Marci Hamilton: And this report details that pretty compelling this isn't just about a whole bunch of pedophile priests. I mean they were they were known to the hierarchy. They were shipped around from location to location they were sent to rehab. You know in certain designated rehab places where that's where you sent the priest to for this. So I mean that's those are the kinds of facts.
Marci Hamilton: Right. They didn't know that that they had abusing priests. They knew the M.O. for each priest they knew whether this priest was going to go after a 12 year old boy or if this priest was a danger to 6 year old girls they knew that. In fact I've often said that the experts in the world on child sex abuse are these secret archives of the Catholic Church. That's where the facts lie. That's where the expertise lies. These bishops knew exactly what they were doing and if they didn't it's because they didn't want to know it was criminal recklessness. And so my view was that there should have been charges that were filed against each and every one of them. And let the chips fall where they may. They may not have succeeded with all of them but they certainly would have succeeded with some of them. The you know the country of Chile recently the Pope visited he said some things dismissive of the victims. He was then forced to admit that the bishops of Chile had both covered up abuse and some of them were abusers. He went into that country and removed every single bishop. Why. Because it covered up abuse. Why is that not happening in the United States. Well probably because of the power of the United States probably because of the size we need prosecutors to do that. And until someone takes these bishops seriously as criminals we really are not going to see change this will not make any change in this church. Two indictments of priests will not make any change in this church unless we see actual criminal charges that make a difference to the people who matter in the church.
Aaron Freiwald: Now is there's still time to do that because we started talking about the statute of limitations earlier and we have to separate now criminal charges that could be brought this child endangerment charge and civil claims that could be brought by the victim. So let's discuss each on the criminal side. What is the statute of limitations for the criminal endangerment charge.
Marci Hamilton: So the endangerment charge has a relatively short two year statute of limitations. But that's not a problem because for all of these diocese the public was unaware of the facts in their secret archives until Tuesday. So if you think about Pittsburgh Pittsburgh has been one of the most frustrating diocese in the United States and trying to get information about sex abuse in that in that particular diocese. The press in that city has not been terribly responsible in delving into the issues. The bishops have not been forthcoming. We are told by Cardinal Wuerl who's now running Washington D.C. that he was doing everything he possibly could. That is simply not true. The secrets about child sex abuse in Pittsburgh were literally under lock and key until Tuesday when the report came out. My view is that child endangerment clock did not start ticking until the report appeared. For every single one of these six dioceses.
Aaron Freiwald: Right. And it sounds like a fantastical story but the report documents that there were lists of priests.
Marci Hamilton: Always.
Aaron Freiwald: They were kept in a safe. And the bishop was the only one who had the key.
Marci Hamilton: That's a policy in the entire church. That's just the way they do it. Yeah. So in some ways I really just wish that Congress would hold hearings and say OK bishops in the United States just bring your secret archives until they let loose with what's in their secret archives. They're sitting on poison and they're going to continue to be poisoned by those archives in the state of Pennsylvania. This grand jury report details lots of what is in those secret archives. But none of us knew of the full scope of the cover up for real until Tuesday.
Aaron Freiwald: Ok so we're talking now about what can be done. I mean this report and the Philadelphia report in the Johnstown EPA report that came before these have laid out the facts in a way that cannot be denied. So now we're really talking about OK what can be done. One thing that you're saying could be done if the attorney general had the will and the courage to do it would be to bring some prosecutions of bishops and the other leadership of the church in Pennsylvania and conceivably beyond Pennsylvania where it was felt that there was knowledge beyond Pennsylvania and and do that bring criminal charges based on the evidence in this report which is two days old. What about civil claims now. That's a much tougher row to hoe because of the statute of limitations.
Marci Hamilton: Right. So it is increasingly clear that the only way to level the playing field for the victims is to create a statute of limitations regime for child sex abuse that says you come forward when you're ready. In other words we need to eliminate this criminal and the civil as SOLs and then we will help the future. But for those victims in this report for every single one of them they don't have a civil claim. We have to revive their expired civil statutes of limitations. We have to create what is called. Now at this point a window and a window is it's a time period a year two years three years during which the statute limitations just doesn't stop you. You still have to prove your case. You still have to have a case. I still have to do all the depositions and all the rest of it. But there isn't this arbitrary timeframe. And so right now in Harrisburg there is a bill that's been pending. Mark Rossi has had a bill. Tom Merck has had a bill so this idea of reviving the expired civil SOLs has been around. We proposed it as long ago as the 2005 grand jury report.
Aaron Freiwald: Because they're around for more than 10 years.
Marci Hamilton: More than 10 years. So we've been working on this every single year and we get closer and closer and closer. The only answer for the victims from the past is to revive their claims. The problem is that the bishops continue to get the ear of lawmakers on what to do about clergy sex abuse in some ways if that doesn't turn your head around I don't know what will. We have lawmakers that defer to the bishops on justice for victims of child sex abuse. When the bishops are the reason that so many of these victims are in trouble. So the answer is easy. We've done it we've seen it. We know that we did it in Delaware we've done it in Minnesota Hawaii. We've seen how it has operated in Connecticut in Massachusetts.
Aaron Freiwald: And these are states that have relaxed the statute of limitations in the way you're talking about.
Marci Hamilton: That's right so these are all states that have let people whose claims have already expired still go to court and we have two bottom lines and we've been I've been studying this for years childUSA.org on its website has a chart which explains that the relative success of these kinds of approaches we end up having a modest number of claims but we have a significant number of claims that come forward and they tell the public things that nobody knew the only way for the victim to get the truth about their abuse is through the courts.
Aaron Freiwald: Well I've always understood the statute of limitations as representing a balance. On the one hand you have a victim of some wrong who has a right to bring your claim in court and you want to allow enough time for that person to do that to bring their claim in court. On the other hand we think of the wrongdoer the one who would be held accountable if the claim was brought in time. We think of that wrongdoer having the right to not look over their shoulder at a certain point you know whether if it's a contract or it's a car accident or something like that after a certain point we say that person has the right to repose to rest and not worry. Why do you think that the perpetrators of these types of wrongs should never have the comfort of relaxing. In other words why does that balancing of interests not work here in these types of crimes.
Marci Hamilton: Well there's a fact answer and legal answer. The fact answer is that perpetrators abuse well into their elderly years. So if you say that a victim can't come forward after a certain age it's very likely that their perpetrator is just moving on to other victims and doing it scot free. So that's one aspect of it. The other factual aspect of it is that the trauma is very real that blocks the victim from the capacity to come forward. It's very unfair to put a victim in the position where they have to come forward before they physically and emotionally can. But the legal answer is actually really interesting and that is that statutes of repose are on the downswing statutes of repose increasingly are simply not a part of the law. A defendant does not have a right to be able to sleep at night if they've committed a crime. A hundred years ago statutes of repose were quite strong. It has increasingly been the position of the courts and particularly the United States Supreme Court that they are supposed to defer to the state legislatures and the federal legislature on these kinds of practical questions procedural questions. So there really is no right and certainly not in the state of Pennsylvania for a perpetrator of child sex abuse to say oh from now on I get to sleep tight at night because I know that nobody can come get me. So that's not an argument against the elimination. The argument against the elimination that the bishops have made and they are the only ones who publicly oppose the insurance companies are in the background opposing.
Aaron Freiwald: I was what I was going to ask you about because insurance companies I can see have a big interest in this too.
Marci Hamilton: They do. They are definitely in the shadows. It is in their interest not to pay on claims they've already covered.
Aaron Freiwald: Right.
Marci Hamilton: But the bishops argue that it's going to bankrupt them. And this is sophistry at its best because what they really mean is that if they get into enough hot water what they'll do is they'll file for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy. They'll reorganize their wealth and they'll reduce the payment per victim. They've done it again and again.
Aaron Freiwald: I did know the Catholic Church out of money.
Marci Hamilton: It does not have a money problem not only that it's the largest landowner in the United States try to just for fun some afternoon try to figure out how much the Philadelphia Archdiocese owns and property. It's virtually impossible because much of it is not in the name of the archdiocese. Most of it isn't much of it is a name of a particular priest or it's in the name of a small group. So only they know how much they're worth and because of the tax laws they don't have to tell us how much they're worth.
Aaron Freiwald: Now I know you told us that one of the objections that came out when this first started coming to light in Boston when that happened and I'm sure the same was true when DA Lynne Abraham was working on this and you were working on it with her one of the objections is this is anti church anti Catholic and I know a lot of your work has been around issues relating to religion and the law. Why. What's wrong with that argument. Why isn't this why is this an issue that's got nothing to do with the fact that actually this is a church as it has everything to do with it. That it's the church.
Marci Hamilton: So the first time I wrote a column on these issues I immediately received an e-mail from Bill Donohue and Bill Donohue was the head of the Catholic League. And he's kind of to attack dog for the bishops and he wrote to me and he accused me of being anti Catholic. And I responded by saying Actually I'm really anti child sex abuse in every context. And by the way my husband is a devout Catholic my husband is a devout Catholic but he's a militant on these issues. And so the notion that you're being anti Catholic because you're trying to root out child sex abuse is the flipside of the truth. The truth is this poison is destroying the church. If they don't figure out a way to solve the fact that they're poisoning themselves they're going to be the ones who are the losers. I'm not opposed to the Catholic Church or any other church. In fact I'm a believer but I am deeply opposed to orchestrated systemic child sex abuse that is put together by men in power who have no moral compass when it comes to children.
Aaron Freiwald: Well we're no country getting into the philosophical part of this discussion and I'm glad we are because because it's it's really I think so powerful and gets in a lot of what the motivations are on all sides here. So obviously for the victims you hope that they have some opportunity to have their day in court. Otherwise they're left with telling their story in there and there may be value in that. There certainly is value in that. The grand jury report is a historical record of what's happened in the past has value just for that just for that purpose it serves. But but to have your day in court and I say is to as a trial lawyer. I say this as a former journalist and historian. I mean having a day in court has meaning or may have meaning even beyond what it means to that person. And so so I wonder if you could talk about that a little bit because it seems to apply so clearly here.
Marci Hamilton: So these cases are really important first because they shift the cost of the abuse from the victim over to the ones who caused it. That's critically important for fairness. That's important for the public to understand that we have not only ignored these victims but we have saddled them with all the costs of the abuse. While we know full well who caused the abuse. So that's part of it. But the other part of these lawsuits is that you learn about perpetrators and mechanisms and the ways in which institutions fail to respond to children's needs. Through the lawsuits you won't learn this in any other way. And so while this report is lengthy it is after all about a thousand victims and over 300 priests you have a snippet of each of those individuals actual stories. We won't know the full story unless these victims are permitted to leave that cave of darkness and to be able to come forward. File a lawsuit do discovery and get the facts in the public record that everybody deserves.
Aaron Freiwald: Yeah yeah. I mentioned this to you when we were chatting before we started that the last project I worked on as a journalist before I went to law school was a book about the Holocaust and the the war crimes trials in Germany after World War II and I think a lot of people probably know that the major Nazi figures you know like Goering and others that there was a Nuremberg trial but I think a lot of people don't realize that those trials continued for many years in Germany as the lesser figures were rooted out and brought to justice. And I was reminded of some of the things that I was thinking about when I wrote that book when I was thinking about this topic because the subject of the book I wrote about was was an 80 year old man when he was brought to trial in 1990 having committed crimes during the Holocaust and during World War II 40 45 50 years earlier. But there was a point to his standing trial shirt sure for the crimes he committed. And for the victims who were still alive to see that happen. But as a country you know Germany wanted this tried to actually wanted this to happen. And there were those in the country who said why do we have to go through this again. Why do we have to be accountable. This was in the past. We don't have anything to do with that. But there was something important about the exercise of going through being accountable for what you've done. And you know I wonder what you think about that here. We probably are hearing a lot of statements of goodwill and intention from leaders in the Catholic Church she told us about the example in Chile. But can those intentions really be carried out. You know with credibility if you haven't come to terms with the past.
Marci Hamilton: You know the one of the great aspects of a report like this is that it really isn't just about the Catholic Church. It's about child sex abuse in every context to every victim. Is listening and reading about this report. Not just because they might be Catholic or not but because they are part of this universe of having been a child sex abuse victim. Our legal system has set up unintentionally in my view but quite clearly a message for these victims. And that message is you can't move fast enough to get to court. So your claims really don't matter. So by the way the abuse was your fault and so was the lack of justice. And by the way you've got survivor's guilt because others were abused after you. That's your problem. So what happened.
Aaron Freiwald: Good luck dealing with all of this on your own.
Marci Hamilton: It's all you're all on your own. So what happens when you can have these public proceedings whether or not it's before a jury or it is old papers and there's a settlement at the end which is what happens for most of these victims is that it is a way of saying to every victim out there it's not your fault. The law has now ruled. It's not your fault. You are a victim. What was done to you was wrong. And as a system we are going to do something about it. So long as we keep the statute of limitations as a fence around justice these victims can't get into the messages. You don't count and we don't care. And for me that's the reason that I dedicate so much effort to this issue. That is just cruel and unfair.
Aaron Freiwald: Marci just before we finish just tell us a little bit about child USA because because I know that you write you teach but but this is also something very important to you. And what we've been talking about so far is one of the issues the child USA deals with so just give us a bit about the please.
Marci Hamilton: So I operated as a soul a law professor with you know six research assistants running essentially a nonprofit for a number of years and finally realized I needed an organization to be able to house all the data that we were generating but also to help victims everywhere. And so two years ago we started child USA for the purpose of creating a think tank to prevent child abuse and neglect. We don't do any direct service. We study these issues and then we put together the laws and the policies that will actually protect millions of children at once. So it is it's an enormous task but it is an honor to be able to do it. And we are looking at the incidence of abuse and neglect of athletes. We're looking out what are the impacts of gay conversion therapy on young people. We have formed up an independent commission to study what really happened with the Nassor scandal in all of these institutions. Nobody is studying the Nassor scandal that hasn't been hired and has a client. We are an independent group of 16 experts from around the country and we're going to address that and issue a report.
Aaron Freiwald: And we will put a link our description for the episode. We'll put a link there so people can get to the website. It's a great website with a lot of information. Just finally you know it is fascinating to me we're here in Philadelphia. You're at Penn my offices here in Philadelphia and it is fascinating that Philadelphia and Pennsylvania really are leading the way on this issue. What impact do you think this will have in other parts of the country. I mean do you hear already that other states are undertaking these types of grand jury investigation so they can document what has happened in their communities. Is this reverberating. Do you think or not enough and it should.
Marci Hamilton: What's frustrating is that prosecutors are not picking this up so that Lynne Abraham started something set up a paradigm which is now being copied and replicated in the state to the point that Attorney Shapiro has put together this amazing report. But other states are not stepping up. Prosecutors are not stepping up they're elected officials. I think that they falsely fear that it will affect re-election ticket looks like they are so-called going after the church. Josh Shapiro gets it fundamentally gets it the side of the Angels is on the side of the victims. And so we're not seeing a proliferation of studies like this. What we are seeing is increasing interest and activity for statute of limitations reform. We just finished a study from 2002 to the present on what are all of the changes that have happened. It has been very very busy but it's getting busier. And so what these studies do is they help inform the whole world on why you need SOL well reform. So far I don't see a lot of prosecutors stepping up and putting in the resources that are needed.
Aaron Freiwald: But if you do get a statute of limitations reform that opens the door for victims to come forward and press their claims and becomes another avenue for for bringing all of this to light.
Marci Hamilton: So we filed an Amicus brief with Bishop Accountability in the proceedings involving the grand jury. And our argument was there was only two ways for the public to get full information about clergy sex abuse or child sex abuse. One is through a grand jury report. The other one is through statute of limitations reform either will take us down the path of getting the information we need. But we need them.
Aaron Freiwald: Marci HAMILTON Thank you so much for being on. Good law Bad Law. Great to meet you too.
Marci Hamilton: Thank you.