limits for future victims or victims who have not reached the age of thirty. 175 The bill would also
abolish criminal prosecution time limits on future sexual abuse cases. 176 The bill is ultimately
seeking to eliminate the criminal and civil statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse crimes
moving forward. 177 The amended version of S.B. 261 proposes a two-year retroactive window in
which victims, who have surpassed the age of thirty can file civil complaints against their alleged
abuser and his or her employer. 178
On October 17, 2018, the last day of the 2018 Pennsylvania Senate session term,
discussions and negotiations regarding S.B. 261 were taking place. 179 However, critics of the bill
were not willing to vote on the matters proposed in the amended version of S.B. 261.180 Opponents
of the bill argue that the two-year retroactive window violates the Remedies Clause of the
Pennsylvania State Constitution. 181 As such, S.B. 261 remains on the docket for review and was
expected to be addressed in January 2019; as of the time of this writing, after January 2019, it has
not yet been addressed. 182 In addition to disagreement between senators, there was extreme
opposition by lobbyists for the Church arguing that retroactive lawsuits would be a colossal
financial blow to the community and the Church itself. 183 For example, the President of the
Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg, contended that the
proposal “would force the people who make up an organization like the Catholic Church today to
defend themselves against a crime that was committed in their parish, school, or charitable
program years ago.” 184
VI. RECOMMENDATIONS TO PENNSYLVANIA LEGISLATORS
Pennsylvania House representatives lobbying to add the two-year window amendment to
S.B. 261 are moving in the right direction. But, as the last attempted Senate vote demonstrated, it
may not be the appropriate time to lobby for retroactive justice. Perhaps the House should follow
the Senate’s recommendation and leave the retroactive window clause behind for now. Legislators
should focus on specifically eliminating or extending the statutes of limitations and not on
retroactive retribution. The primary purpose of the proposed changes should be to stem the tide of
child sexual abuse and prevent future abuse from occurring—retroactive punishment should be a
secondary goal. The two-year window, in theory, sounds just and fair to those who have missed
20180924-story.html; see also Ivey DeJesus, Reform to aid child sexual abuse victims comes down to Senate’s last
day, PENN LIVE (Oct. 16, 2018), https://www.pennlive.com/news/2018/10/reform_to_statute_of_limitatio.html.
175 Esack, supra note 174.
177 Russ O’Reilly, Sen. Bill could waive statute of limitations, ALTOONA MIRROR (Sept. 30, 2018),
179 See DeJesus, supra note 174.
180 See id.
181 Esack, supra note 174.
182 Ivey DeJesus, Measure to aid child sex abuse victims appears stalled until January, PENN LIVE (Oct. 18, 2018),
183 Joe Messa, PA Senate Has Opportunity to Provide Civil Justice to Long-Silenced Victims of Child Sexual Abuse,
Messa & Associates (Oct. 17, 2018), https://www.messalaw.com/pa-senate-has-opportunity-to-provide-civil-justice-to-long-silenced-victims-of-child-sexual-abuse/; DeJesus, supra note 182.
184 Levin, supra note 32.