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Group seeks more time leeway for abuse victims

BOSTON — Child welfare advocates have sent a letter to the head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston asking him to back legislation that would extend the time that victims of childhood sexual abuse could file lawsuits.

The open letter to Cardinal Sean O’Malley released Sunday came days after he announced a major effort by Pope Francis to explore ways the church can protect children from abuse and care for victims. The Vatican commission marks the Catholic church’s first comprehensive effort to address a worldwide scandal that exploded in 2002 in Boston.

“Protecting the ‘dignity of the human person and the sanctity of (all) human lives,’ the expressed goals of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, apply to the quest for justice that victims of sexual abuse and advocates for children have been on for so long,” says the letter from a group of advocates led by Massachusetts Citizens for Children.

By supporting the legislation, “you can help us help them and prevent more children from being abused,” the letter reads.

One proposal within the bill would allow abuse victims to file a lawsuit up to the age of 55. Current law generally caps the filing age at 21.

Current law applies to all abuse cases and is not limited to church-related ones.

While not addressing the letter directly, a spokesman for the archdiocese says the church is committed to protecting children and helping victims.

“We indemnify and provide services for any person impacted by the sexual abuse of minors in the church, regardless of when the abuse took place,” Terrence Donilon said.

Opponents of similar legislation last year said they feared it could expose the church to additional liability.

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