Sunday, September 15, 2013


Looks like the Diocese of Orange, CA is up against the same thing our Archdiocese was a few years ago: legislation aimed directly at the Catholic Church. SB 131 lifts the statute of limitations on child sex abuse crimes for a period of one year and specifically targets non-profit organizations. Obviously, the largest non-profit organization is the Diocese of Orange. The bill was passed by the legislature and now goes to Governor Brown for his signature. Read the Diocese of Orange statement on SB 131 here

In January of 2011, Senator B.J. Cruz introduced Bill 34-31, similarly aimed at the Catholic Church. The bill opened a two-year window for past victims of child sexual abuse to file civil suit in the Superior Court of Guam. The bill, as introduced by Cruz, would have made institutions, not just persons, liable for these crimes.

But whereas SB 131 specifically names non-profit organizations, Cruz' bill only named "institutions". While Cruz may have meant to target the Church, his lack of distinction allowed opponents (namely me at the time) to point out that the bill would also make public institutions liable, and there was potentially much more cause for lawsuits in DOE than there would be in the Catholic Church.

The arguments flared up on local radio and I recall some very pugnacious exchanges, particularly one with a former congressional candidate who was the prime public proponent of the bill and, as it turned out, worked for Senator Cruz. 

In the end, the language relative to the liability of institutions - probably because it opened up GovGuam for lawsuits - was removed and the bill was signed into law by Governor Eddie Calvo. And with institutions not being held liable, suing for the big money, as we have seen happen to dioceses in the states, was taken out of the equation.  No law suits were filed and the two-year window is now closed. 

But the Church came out limping on that one. Senator Tom Ada, a well-known senator and a Catholic, said that the testimony presented by the Church's representative was "a turning point for him":
"The witness that stepped forward to provide testimony against Bill 34 at one point articulated the fact that he was concerned about the financial impact this might have upon the institution that he represented and so in my mind he was saying it was all about money. This could bankrupt us and never mind the lives that have been destroyed but this bill has the potential for impact on that institution."
Though Bill 34-30 did not specifically name the Archdiocese of Agana, past actions by Senator Cruz - mostly in response to the Church's opposition to his same-sex domestic partnership bill, Bill No. 185-30 - made it clear what he intended and WHO he intended to persecute.

In the previous legislature, Cruz had introduced Bill 372-30, a bill which clearly intended to intimidate the Archbishop. In the bill, Cruz specifically named the "Roman Catholic Archbishop" as a mandated reporter for reporting crimes relative to child sex abuse. 

At the time, there was at least one case before the chancery which eventually resulted in a local priest being laicized. Failure to report could have meant up to six months imprisonment and it appeared to be Cruz' intent to leverage that case against the Archdiocese, and the Archbishop specifically, with this legislation.

The bill was eventually modified to eliminate the words "Roman Catholic Archbishop"(and other words aimed at Catholic clergy) and was replaced with "clergy member of any religious faith". The bill passed the legislature and was vetoed by Governor Camacho. But the veto was overridden and the bill has become Public Law 30-218.

There seems to be some misperception that because the words "Roman Catholic Archbishop" were taken out of the bill, that there is now nothing to worry about. However, there is everything to worry about, or at least pay attention to. The new wording not only does not exempt the Archbishop but includes everyone and anyone who has anything to do with almost any aspect of church life. Here's the new section:

"Persons required to report suspected child abuse under 9 Subsection (a) include, but are not limited to... clergy member of any religious faith, or other similar functionary or employee of any church, place of worship, or other religious organization whose primary duties consist of teaching, spreading the faith, church governance, supervision of a religious order, or supervision or participation in religious ritual and worship.."

That means that even choir members are liable (i.e. "participation in religious ritual") or for that matter just about anybody who goes to church. Some may think that there's nothing to this, but the law is a time bomb. And as we can see from what's going on in California, it's just a matter of time before our local church is once again targeted. Be careful who you vote for.


  1. As far as I'm concern every clergy, priest, deacon and even the archbishop should be mandated to report even suspected child abuse to the appropriate authorities. This should apply to all religions and denominations with no exception and anyone affliated with a church or a religion. I believe the current law requires this in stating who are considered mandated reporters. However, if an individual in confession confesses that he/she committed abuse or neglect of a child, the priest without breaking the seal of confession should strongly encourage that individual to self report and obtain needed help. Otherwise, I believe a priest can withhold absolution. The seal of confession is absolute and can never be breached. However, this does not preclude the priest from doing all he can to ensure that the reported (confessed) abuse is properly addressed.

    Any violation of the mandated reporting law as it pertains to child abuse and neglect should be fully enforced if it becomes known. I would have no problem seeing a priest, nun or any other religious person prosecuted if he/she deliberately failed to report a child being abused, especially if that child is at further risk of abuse. No one is above the law and that includes our priests and religious. While priests are generally held in high regard, they do not warrant special treatment or consideration in my opinion, especially if it is disclosed and becomes known that they are the perpetrators of child abuse, which also includes child sexual abuse.

  2. I agree with all of the above, however, the law now goes further than just people in authority, but every person who participates in a religious event. Also, in today's climate, it can simply be alleged that child abuse or neglect occured on somebody's watch and that person is guilty till proven innocent, costing possibly innocent person's thousands of dollars to clear their name, but of course once accused, a name can never be fully cleared even if found innocent.

    Also, mandated reporters, such as doctors, teachers, etc., normally receive training to identify child maltreatment, the average choir director or CCD volunteer receives no such training, yet is held to the same standard.

    The bottom line is that the legislation was malicious in its intent and in an effort to hurt certain people in the church, has set up the possibility of hurting everyone.

    But as for some people who have brought shame and scandal on our church, I'm all for throwing them in jail.

  3. Look how the Catholic Church is being attacked by sex abuse scandals i disagree with that , We the Catholic Church are good and we care for people we respect them , the issue on politics versus the Church itself is quite unacceptable on certain issues yes we have been targeted on this issue but I quite find it offensive especially addding on the Catholic Church the Catholic Church ( the Pope Rome , Eastern Rites 1.1billion followers ) that hurts our feeling , and never again I am loyal to the senators , sincerely blaming a religious establishment , well Sir ! I know we have responsible and alert full people never again to the next elections ! , We want more responsible senators who cant put the blame for the church but rather settle a law where "thecatholicchurch" does NOT involve it !