States Prosecute Priests for Sex Abuse Going Back Several Decades

Prosecutors in several states are working around the statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases in order to prosecute priests for child molestation and rape that occurred over the past several decades, according to the New York Times. This week, five priests were arrested in Detroit and Boston using a loophole that “stops the clock” when suspects move out of state, the Times reports. Other state legislatures, including Colorado and Connecticut, have lengthened the period of time in which abuse victims can file civil suits against their alleged abusers. California Governor Gray Davis recently signed a law that allows victims of childhood abuse to file charges against third parties who knew of the abuse and did nothing for up to three years after discovering any psychological damage. In addition, the Times reports that Davis also signed a law suspending the statute of limitations for one year, which is expected to lead to many lawsuits for abuse by priests that occurred over the past several decades. Four Detroit priests were charged using a loophole in the statute of limitations – all four left or have been removed from the ministry; one was voluntarily defrocked in the early 1990s. However, Michael Duggan, a prosecutor for Wayne County, Michigan, told the Detroit News that while there was evidence against 15 other Detroit priests, he was unable to charge them because of the statute of limitations. One of the four priests, Robert Burkholder, now 82 and a resident of Oahu, Hawaii, admitted to abusing children throughout his years as a priest – starting from his ordination in 1947, according to the Detroit News. “The boys work in the rectory with the priest and you just get friendly. You sit down in the rectory and have a Coke. It’s a mutual deal. An affectionate thing and a friendly thing,” he said, according to the Times. He also said that he mostly fondled boys that he abused but sometimes had oral sex with them, claiming his relationships with the boys were “always a two-way thing,” the Times reported.


New York Times 8/29/02; Detroit News 8/28/02; Feminist Daily News Wire 7/15/02

Support eh ERA banner