On Feb. 28, Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, proposed an amendment to keep the six-year statute of limitations, unless the victim had reported the claim to law enforcement or had physical evidence (like DNA).
“I want the plaintiffs to have their day in court,” Ortman said at the hearing. “But I also want the defendants to have some certainty to when the claim can end. They have a business to run.”
Latz opposed the proposal. “No 5-year-old or 6-year-old says I better save my underwear for years later when I am psychologically ready to deal with this,” he said.
Ortman, now a GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, withdrew the amendment. The Senate passed the final measure unanimously and the House by all but three votes.
In addition to the Minnesota Religious Council, House members say the Rev. Kevin McDonough, the former vicar general of the archdiocese, personally lobbied them to maintain the statute of limitations. McDonough, who has come under fire for his handling of clergy sex abuse investigations for the archdiocese, resigned from the board of the University of St. Thomas last month in connection with a suit filed against a Catholic studies professor there.
“He was forceful in trying to kill this piece of legislation,” Simon said.
Some of those meetings occurred in 2007 or 2008, when McDonough was Senate chaplain. At one of those meetings, Simon remembers McDonough telling him that an expanded statute of limitation would expose victims to the additional emotional pain of retelling their story of abuse.
“I thought it was totally inappropriate and borderline offensive,” Simon said.
Accurso said McDonough disclosed his “long history of involvement with the Minnesota Religious Council” in 2007, when he was nominated to serve as Senate chaplain. At the time, McDonough agreed not to lobby any senators while he was chaplain, and McDonough stuck to that, Accurso said. His term expired in 2010.
In the weeks before the Child Victims Act passed this year, McDonough tried to persuade Rep. John Lesch, D-St. Paul, to vote against it.
“He just said it would be very problematic for what they were trying to do [to help victims],” said Lesch, a prosecutor for the city of St. Paul who once studied to be a Catholic priest.
Lesch said he told McDonough that he couldn’t support the church’s position because he saw institutional coverups of child abuse while in the seminary and manipulation of young people by adults.
“This is how the church has been since I’ve been alive,” Lesch said.
Money funded lobbying
A document from the archdiocese detailed $830,145 in church spending to support the Minnesota Religious Council from mid-2001 to mid-2008. A source close to the archdiocese said nearly all of the money went to pay lobbyists working to block the expansion of the statute of limitations.
A footnote on the document said the archdiocese expected 50 percent of the total $830,145 to be reimbursed by non-Catholic partners in the council. Another reimbursement covering 25 percent of the expense was expected to come from five Catholic dioceses in greater Minnesota — Winona, Crookston, St. Cloud, New Ulm and Duluth, the footnote said.
The analysis showed that reimbursements lagged in every year. By June 30, 2008, the non-Catholic partners owed $201,600 and the outstate dioceses owed $92,100, according to the document. The only documented payment from a non-Catholic partner was $5,000, made by “Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod,” not the ELCA, in October 2003.