As Pope visit nears, U.S. sex victims say Church remains obstacle to justice
By Scott Malone
BOSTON (Reuters) - Mark Rozzi says he was 13, a young altar boy, when a priest at his eastern Pennsylvania parish sexually assaulted him in a shower.
It took Rozzi, who says the priest spent a year grooming him with trips to McDonald's and secretly shared beers, a quarter century to talk about the experience publicly. By then it was too late for any legal action.
Now a 44-year-old Pennsylvania state representative, Rozzi is a driving force behind one of about a dozen bills making their way through legislatures in states including New York and New Jersey that aim to give child sex assault victims more time to sue their attackers.
When Pope Francis makes his first visit to the United States this month, he will find that wounds from the U.S. Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal are still festering - and draining its finances - more than a decade after it burst onto the national stage.
The tensions are being played out in courtrooms and state legislatures, where the Church is using its legal and political clout to oppose bills that would extend the statute of limitations for victims of child sex abuse. A statute of limitations forbids prosecutors or plaintiffs from taking legal action after a certain number of years.
The pontiff has vowed to root out "the scourge" of sex abuse from the Roman Catholic Church, and this year created a Vatican tribunal to judge clergy accused of such crimes.
But U.S. victims' advocates contend the biggest obstacle they face in giving victims more time to report abuse remains the Church itself, and want the pope to change that stance.
The U.S. church has already been dealt a heavy financial blow by settlement payments and other costs totaling around $3 billion, which has forced it to sell off assets and cut costs. Continued...