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Catholic Church Confronts Significant Revisions To Statute Of Limitations

Exclusive report by Joe Holden

HARRISBURG, Pa (CBS) – Priests gathered in Montgomery County for a private meeting on Tuesday, May 17.

The meeting dealt with how the church might be confronting significant revisions to the statute of limitations.

In what the archdiocese billed as a private gathering between Archbishop Charles Chaput and scores of priests, sources inside St. Helena in Blue Bell say Chaput, the leader of the church and its 1.4 million Catholics addressed statute of limitations reform in Harrisburg.

"We've had so many secret meetings in secret agendas, all we are asking for is transparency," said Karen Polesir of SNAP.

Outside the archbishop's meeting - with police patrolling the property - protesters from victims advocacy organizations called fouls on the church over the perceived opposition to House Bill 1947.

Experts say the legislation would considerably reverse how victims can come forward to police and the courts.

"He's going to claim any bill allowing victims access to the courts is going to bankrupt the church. It's not going to happen, it's nonsense," said Robert Hoatson of the Catholic Whistleblowers.

Mayor Kenney released a strongly worded statement, saying enough is enough. He called on lawmakers to pass the bill.

"It will hold our parishes and organizations accountable for their actions in mishandling or concealing crimes against children."

Sources in the church claim changes to the statute of limitations would be drastic enough to financially crush the archdiocese. A spokesman for the archbishop wouldn't comment except to say meetings like this are routine.

Critics outside say the meeting sets a bad tone.

"I don't think they've gotten the message... this would be over if they can grab the bull by the horns early on, years ago," said Maureen Paul Turlish, another member of the Catholic Whistleblowers.

State representative Mark Rozzi from Berks County said that in his urging of the passing of House Bill 1947, he's hoping the church understands the problem because, "it is not going to go away, and it is only going to get worse for them."

There is another meeting set for 7.p.m Tuesday at St. Helena's Catholic Parrish.

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