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It’s been nearly two decades now since the latest iteration of the childhood sex abuse crisis rocked the Catholic Church.  This isn’t the first time in the church’s history that it has faced such a crisis over the abuse of children.  The canons of the church, papal bulls, and church councils have all alluded to this problem throughout its history.  In most instances, the church was allowed to police itself and try to implement reforms to curb the abuse.  When the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team began writing about the problems in the Archdiocese of Boston in the early 2000’s, the church assumed it would be allowed to police itself once again, and for a while it was correct.  Civil authorities didn’t want to interfere in “matters of the church”.  Civil and criminal laws favored the perpetrators and not the survivors in most states.  The church would absorb the public relations blows and attack the media for its supposed anti-Catholic bias.  During these years, there were little victories for survivors in places like New Hampshire, Oregon, and even California where the statute of limitations were temporarily suspended after the scope of Cardinal Roger Mahony’s cover-up in Los Angeles was fully revealed.   A few years prior, two Philadelphia Grand Juries were convened that provided the public a real glimpse into the extent of the problem in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

By 2010, these victories were attributed to a tenacious media that searched for the truth in spite of the Catholic Church’s threats and intimidation and a small band of lawyers and advocates who patiently helped survivors seek justice.  The movement took on a life of its own-advocacy groups organized, lawyers took on difficult cases often with slim hope of success, and the media continued to investigate the Catholic Church as an institution that didn’t protect children.  This movement became the civil rights cause of the new millennium.  With the tenacity and patience of a Rosa Parks and the moral certitude of Dr. King, the movement continued to educate the public as to the dangers of continuing to allow the Catholic Church and other institutions of public trust to police themselves.

Prior to my own involvement in the movement beginning in the early 2000’s, I would have never imagined that this would become part of my life’s work as a lawyer.  It wasn’t until a few young men came into my office one day and told me the horrific story of their abuse at the hands of a local priest.  We called the police and the priest was eventually arrested, convicted, and sent to prison for his crimes against these courageous young men.  Since that day, I have been fighting for abuse survivors rights all over the country.  This work has taken me to California, New York, New Jersey, and even Puerto Rico.  I’ve listened to their stories and witnessed the callous manner they have been treated by a church that is insular and self-interested.  I have celebrated their victories and suffered their defeats.  This is not easy work and not all lawyers are capable of it.  However, it’s righteous and it is just.  This is why I continue to push ahead to reach the day on which every survivor of childhood sexual abuse will be able to redress the wrongs they suffered as innocent little children.

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