Too Late to Sue Bishop Over Abuse, Judge Says

     CHICAGO (CN) – An inmate who claims he was sexually abused by Catholic priests in the 1950s and ’60s waited too long to sue the Bishop of Chicago for $6.5 million, a federal judge ruled.
     Charles Anderson, 62, an inmate at Shawnee Correctional Center, grew up in two Roman Catholic institutions, the Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, Ill., and St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Lisle, Ill.
     In a federal class action, Anderson claims he was sodomized by former priest Thomas Windham at Maryville when he was younger than 10, and was sexually abused by Father Cosmo at St. Joseph’s.
     The Archdiocese of Chicago launched an investigation in 2005, but two years later said the investigation was still incomplete. It noted that Anderson’s claims were barred by the statute of repose, which prevents alleged childhood abuse victims from suing after they turn 30, but said it was “interested in learning what [Anderson] needs in order to heal.”
     Anderson responded with a demand for $6.5 million.
     The archdiocese offered him “support services” in 2010, but did not respond to his request for financial compensation.
     In his federal lawsuit against the Bishop of Chicago and the Holy See, Anderson claimed the abuse led to his “spending nearly his entire adult life in various penal institutions, requiring chronic psychological and psychiatric counseling.”
     He pointed out that the Catholic Church has paid nearly $1.5 billion to settle more than 2,000 similarly time-barred claims, evidence that the Holy See selectively enforces the 1991 statute of repose.
     As a result, Anderson argued, the Holy See “has waived its right to interpose the statute of limitations and/or repose in Catholic Church sex abuse claims throughout the United States.”
     U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo disagreed, finding that “Anderson’s claims are clearly barred by the 1991 statute of repose.”
     The 1991 statute, which barred anyone over the age of 30 from bringing lawsuits based on childhood sexual abuse, was repealed in 1994 but still applies to Anderson’s case under Illinois law. Anderson turned 30 in 1981.
     Castillo said the church’s previous settlements do not prevent it from asserting the statute of repose in Anderson’s case.
     “Anderson does not point to a single case or allege a scenario in which the Bishop has prevailed after taking the position before the court – in his case or in prior cases – that the statute of repose does not apply or that it has waived its right to raise it,” Castillo wrote, granting the bishop’s motion to dismiss.
     “Anderson is understandably frustrated with the Bishop’s offer of ‘support services’ here when the Bishop has paid several large monetary settlements to other parties in the past. Nevertheless, he has failed to point the court to any legal support for his claim that the Bishop cannot assert the statute of repose because it has settled with parties whose claims were time-barred in the past. Although the result may seem ‘unfair’ to Anderson, the situation does not fit the rubric of any of the doctrines he has asserted in seeking to avoid the dismissal of his complaint against the Bishop.”

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