Del. Eric Bromwell of Baltimore County has withdrawn a bill that Catholic leaders feared would have devastated parishes, schools and ministries had it become law.
House Bill 858 would have lifted the statute of limitations on child sex abuse civil cases, creating a one-year window during which individuals claiming to be sexually abused as children could file civil suits against the perpetrator and private institutions such as dioceses, parishes and schools regardless of how long ago the alleged abuse occurred.
Other dioceses have been crippled when similar legislation was passed in other states – forcing the closure of parishes and the elimination or reduction of important ministries, according to church leaders.
Richard J. Dowling, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, said he was he was “very gratified” by Del. Bromwell’s decision.
“Eric Bromwell is one of those delegates who really cares about what his constituents think,” said Mr. Dowling. “Here, a substantial number of his Catholic constituents made clear their belief that his legislation targeted the Catholic Church in an unfair way and did nothing to protect children from abuse.”
Mr. Dowling said Del. Bromwell is “genuinely interested in doing what he can to protect children from abuse.”
“I expect him to continue to pursue that interest,” said Mr. Dowling. “I would be surprised, however, if he sponsored this kind of legislation in future years.”
Father Kevin T. Schenning, pastor of St. Joseph in Fullerton, said he too was grateful that Del. Bromwell – one of his parishioners – withdrew the bill. Many St. Joseph parishioners contacted the delegate to discuss the issue, the pastor said. Many Catholics throughout the archdiocese had also written letters, sent e-mail, called and visited Del. Bromwell in recent weeks.
“It’s great that our voices are heard by our elected officials,” Father Schenning told The Catholic Review. He said that he was “very proud” of his parishioners for getting involved. “We were always concerned about protecting children, and we will continue to reach out to the victims.”
When the bill was being discussed, Father Schenning pointed out that the church has done much to reach out to victims by providing financial support for counseling to victims and their families and other direct assistance.
Mr. Dowling encouraged Catholics to show their gratitude to Del. Bromwell by sending an e-mail via the MCC Web site at www.mdcathcon.org.