On survivors rights, don’t be fooled by holier-than-thou Catholic Church | GUEST COMMENTARY

Exterior of the Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore, Sept. 29, 2022.

The Child Victims Act of 2023 (Senate Bill 686 and House Bill 001), as proposed, remove the statute of limitations for civil actions regarding child sexual abuse and allow for a retroactive application of the law. On Feb. 23, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard dramatic testimony from dozens of child sexual abuse survivors and experts urging support of the reform legislation. While the Maryland Catholic Conference (MCC) has privately lobbied hard against the bill, it submitted only written testimony at the hearing, grossly misrepresenting the facts about what the bill does.

For example, the MCC’s claimed that “the devastating impact that the retroactive window provision will potentially have by exposing public and private institutions — and the communities they serve — to unsubstantiated claims of abuse, cannot be ignored.”


Nothing in this bill allows for “unsubstantiated claims.” Not a single survivor expects to receive an award without substantiating their claim to the legal standard. These survivors — and it is conservatively estimated there are thousands in our state — only ask that the doors of justice remain open so they can file claims and present their case before a judge and jury; nothing in the bill makes them the judge and jury.

Yet almost all claims are unsubstantiated in the Church’s eyes. The Church believes the allegation is substantiated only when the priest confesses. Allegations have even been called unsubstantiated when the accused priest died, regardless of how much evidence of abuse was documented. In some instances, pedophile priests were even used to judge the conduct of accused priests. That’s just ludicrous. The Church also has used phrases like “inappropriate touching” when in fact, the victim was raped — orally, anally or vaginally. This included rape of girls as young as 3.


The Church knowingly redefines words and phrases to meet its objective of covering up and minimizing child sexual abuse. Last November we learned about the rampant sexual abuse of children in the Baltimore archdiocese from the Maryland Attorney General’s investigation. More than 600 children were abused (though the report indicates this probably represents one-fifth the actual number), and no parish was safe. The investigation found 43 priest pedophiles that the diocese had not previously identified. When questioned, the diocese stated that 30 of the 43 were deceased and did not need to be named — in other words, they still believe that if a priest is deceased, you can’t substantiate a claim.

Despite claiming it’s a new day, the Church still deals in deception and lies when testifying before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and in public statements. That is how the Church can state in opposition to real change: “The devastating impact … to unsubstantiated claims of abuse, cannot be ignored.” Don’t fall for it.

David Lorenz, Bowie

The writer is director of the Maryland Chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).