By Tim Harfmann
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made it official to a round of applause. At the New York Daily News office in Manhattan, the governor told survivors of abuse he stands with them. “This is society’s way of saying we are sorry,” said Governor Cuomo.
The Child Victims Act raises the statute of limitations to 55 years old in civil cases, opens up a one-year window for all past victims of child sexual abuse to file a civil claim — no matter how long ago the abuse took place; and victims have until the age of 28 to press criminal charges.
There’s been a battle in Albany for years between the Catholic governor and the Catholic Church, with previous versions of the bill criticized for targeting the Church, while ignoring abuse in secular society. Last month, the New York State Catholic Conference withdrew objections to the legislation when the statute was broadened to include public institutions. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio told Currents News there are still shortcomings. “There’s no systematic way that people can get retribution because it’s going to be mixed up in the court system. That will take forever,” said Bishop DiMarzio. The bishop reiterated the Diocese of Brooklyn’s commitment to stand with survivors and said the new law is now fair because its scope extends beyond just the Church. “It’s not an institutional problem of the Church. It’s a problem of individuals in the Church and of society,” said Bishop DiMarzio.
During the Valentine’s Day press conference, Governor Cuomo said he always separated his official duties as governor from his Catholic faith. “It’s hard to take on your own Church. Well, there are a courageous few for whom it’s not about politics. It’s about making change, even when that change will cost you politically,” said the governor.
New Yorkers Anthony Raiola and Rafael Mendoza, two clerical abuse survivors, spoke about the new law moments before the governor signed it. “(I’m) extremely happy. I think it’s about time these people, the diocese needs to be accountable,” said Raiola. “I’m thrilled. I’m happy this is going through because I know I’m not the only one who has gone through something like this; and I just want justice,” said Mendoza.