U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-South Boston
Victims call for Congress to probe clergy sex abuse
By Marie Szaniszlo
Wednesday, May 18, 2005 - Updated: 02:28 AM EST
A group of victims and their supporters are lobbying for congressional hearings into clergy sexual abuse, a crime that occurs in every religion, often facilitated, they say, by laws that vary from state to state.
``If they heard what I've heard, I believe Congress would be blown away,'' said John Harris, who says he was raped when he was a 21-year-old college student by the Rev. Paul Shanley, one of the central figures in the Archdiocese of Boston's scandal.
Harris was one of a half-dozen people who met Monday with U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-South Boston) to urge him to call for bipartisan hearings into the ``epidemic'' that became national news in 2001 with Boston's scandal, but is hardly unique to the Roman Catholic Church. Two former Jehovah's Witnesseses, for example, told Lynch how they were shunned when they spoke out against abuse in their own church.
Yesterday, the congressman said it was ``too early to say what the best course of action is,'' but called their cases ``compelling'' reasons for considering a national approach, such as changing the federal statute of limitations for rape.
The group would also like Congress to consider raising or doing away with limits on the amount for which a religious institution may be held liable, and revoking the tax-exempt status of any religious group that conspires to conceal abuse.
``Our goal is the safety of future generations of children, who right now are being victimized by pedophiles hiding behind religion,'' said Robert Costello, who says he was raped as a child by a priest at a West Roxbury parish.