Listen to audio version of this article
Here in this place, new light is streaming
Now in the darkness vanished away…
Our fears and our dreaming
Brought here to you in the light of this day.
(Catholic Hymn)-“Gather Us In”
After nearly two decades and because of a relentless, heroic effort by State Senator Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex), his legislation, passed in March by both the New Jersey Senate and Assembly which expands the rights of those sexually abused to seek justice in civil courts, is finally scheduled to be signed into law.
Deemed to be one of the most comprehensive and impactful new laws of its kind in the country, Governor Murphy, on Monday morning, plans to sign Senator Vitale’s bill (S477) but apparently and inexplicitly, he plans to do so unceremoniously.
Given the hard-fought struggles and achievements of this legislation, one might have expected a more dramatic roll out, to say the least.
There is an expansive stone plaza that adorns the entryway to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark that might have served as the appropriate venue for a public signing ceremony.
A magnificent backdrop and a more fitting observance for this significant new law would be more fathomable for the church faithful who by far has been way ahead of the church hierarchy on the crisis issue of sexual abuse.
After all, Pope Francis just this week decreed that every diocese in the world would now be obliged to report abuse under Vatican law.
Senator Vitale, in response to the ‘private signing ceremony’ plans to host a conference of sorts on Monday afternoon at the Statehouse, a ceremony that shines a deserved light on his new law and he has invited some of the key figures in its successful passage to speak about it.
Those include Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union) along with Patricia Teffenhart of the NJ Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Mark Crawford of the NJ chapter of SNAP and Marci Hamilton of the advocacy group CHILDUSA all of whom deserve public recognition for their stalwart efforts for this pioneering new law.
Senator Vitale’s legislation now allows for upgraded safeguards and outright recourse in civil court for those who’ve been abused, regardless of when they filed their claims or at what age.
The Senator recently told the Star-Ledger “he always assumed his bill would be a public event…that sexual assault ranks number two behind homicide and that it’s necessary to talk about this publicly.”
Vitale always knew and steadfastly believed there was a desperate need for statute of limitation amendment. He was right and he, for one, is responsible for translating rhetoric into reform.
The Church was late with its promise to release the names of clergy members credibly accused of abusing children and those who enabled them to do so. They continue to have you believe they are capable of policing themselves.
But, It was the failure of the Church to police itself that necessitated sending in the cops and the prosecutors and for legislative reform.
Now, thanks to Vitale’s efforts, it’s up to the courts to decide on the merits of each and every case of abuse.
New Jersey’s Attorney General, who heads up a task force to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by clergy members, recently announced plans to publish a report similar to Pennsylvania’s. “The people of this state have a right to know,” he told the Star-Ledger.
Indeed they do and Senator Vitale is right to have expected a public signing of his legislation. To Senator Vitale we say, job well done.