Time’s Up !

Bertin Lefkovic, who has been on the outside of New Jersey politics looking in for almost two decades, likens Gov. Phil Murphy's current struggles to make a decision on what to do with the 2020 budget passed by the NJ Legislature to an episode of NBC's The West Wing.

“The trouble is, you think you have time.” -Buddha 

In a basketball game if you’re still holding the ball when the shot clock expires, the most jarring noise in the arena, the buzzer, sounds off loud and clear. Known as a turnover, the ball goes over to the other team.  

The Catholic Church in New Jersey is losing their match with the faithful. They’ve had more than ample time, decades actually, to do what is right for victims of sexual abuse. Having failed to police itself, the Church must know their time on the shot clock is about to expire.   

Otherwise, there is little recourse other than to send in the cops. The same can be said of the New Jersey Legislature. 

The New Jersey Attorney General has formed a task force to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by clergy members as well as alleged efforts by church leaders to cover up.  To aid their efforts, the abuse cases should be well documented both by the church and the local prosecutors.  

The credit for the task force, however, belongs to the Governor, not the Legislature. Legislative leaders, like the Church hierarchy, have had more than ample time to do what’s right.  

But, due to the glacial pace of bureaucracies, investigative agencies and legislative bodies the need for justice wears thin.  

While it’s now known that New Jersey’s five Catholic dioceses have shelled out more than $50 million dollars in the last ten years to settle abuse cases, that figure doesn’t tell the whole story. That huge sum does not accurately reflect the large amount of money spent by the Church on lawyers and lobbyists to stall legislation and thwart remedies for the abused.  

It bears repeating that for the Church it’s no longer about protecting children because that responsibility they clearly know can be ceded to the courts. As for protecting priests, they are now pointing fingers at each other.  

The justifiable and high profile case of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is a classic example of directing attention to one case while ignoring hundreds of other circumstances of priests and Church leaders gone rogue.  

It’s now a matter of protecting assets. That may very well account for the lack of progress on State Senator Joseph Vitale’s bill to suspend the statute of limitations for civil litigation and allow for the abused to get their day in court.  

It’s well past time for State Senate President Sweeney and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Scutari to post Senator Vitale’s bill for a review, a hearing and a vote.  

And, in the meantime, in this match between the Church leaders and the patience of the Church faithful, leaders like Cardinal Tobin of the Newark Archdiocese and his counterpart in Camden (who both claim to be for full transparency) should now do as promised and release the names of all priests “credibly accused” of abusing children and those who enabled them to do so. 

Take a shot at credibility, your Honors. Make it a buzzer beater, so to speak. Time’s up.

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