Two bills were announced in Wisconsin this week intended to protect victims of child sexual abuse. The Catholic Church in the state has registered its strong objection to one bill’s intention to force violation of the seal of confession.
The Child Victims Act would remove the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse, while the Clergy Mandatory Reporter Act would force priests to report child abuse learned of during the sacrament of confession.
Kim Vercauteren, executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, told CNA that there is room to improve victims’ pursuit of justice, but decried the attack on the confessional.
“I think more needs to be done to highlight what can be done for victim survivors and what are some of the other resources out there,” she told CNA. “Part of this is to provide more education and information to survivors to what they can and can’t do, like what is the expectation to further the case along.”
The bills were circulated via email Aug. 7 inviting legislators to add themselves as a sponsor. The sponsor deadline is Aug. 21; the measures will not be introduced to the legislature until after this date.
The bills have been sponsored by Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) and Representatives Chris Taylor (D-Madison) and Melissa Sargent (D-Madison).
“Child victims in our own state suffered greatly as pedophile priests were not reported to authorities and simply moved to other parishes where they continued to abuse children,” reads an Aug. 7 statement from Chris Taylor’s office.
“The Milwaukee Archdiocese’s own files reveal how the systemic sexual abuse of children was covered up, ignored, and seldom reported to authorities until the early 2000s,” the statement reads.
The Clergy Mandatory Reporter Act would replace a 2004 law of the same name.
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