Attorney Irwin Zalkin of The Zalkin Law Firm's takes on the editors of the Newsday Editorial Calling for State Legislature to abandon the principle of accountability to survivors
New York, NY (May 2, 2009) -- Irwin M. Zalkin, an attorney helping survivors of childhood sexual abuse across the country, has taken on the editors of Newsday. "The Newsday Editorial of April 24 2009, entitled "Keep the State out of the Church," calls for the State Legislature to abandon the principle of accountability to survivors of the historical scourge of childhood sexual abuse," stated Zalkin. As Zalkin explains: "While conceding that the Catholic Church harbored sexual predators, the Newsday editors argue that due to the passage of time survivors of this wrongful conduct should not be provided their day in court. Under the editors' reasoning, neither judge nor jury should be allowed to weigh the evidence of such wrongful harboring of predators and the damage it caused. Instead, due to the mere fact that one day has followed another, survivors, their families, their employers, and society at large must pay for the cost of the damage. Damage inflicted by religious corporations when they committed wrongful acts in their dealings with pedophiles, ephebophiles, and children."
The editors' objection to allowing civil actions for past abuse is grounded in the claim that: "Experience has taught us that memories fade, witnesses die and evidence can't be found." In response, Zalkin challenges that assertion: "If the passage of time has so damaged the claims of the survivors that they should be denied a fair and open hearing, then how is it that the editors can so boldly print as fact that Catholic Church harbored sexual predators? It is because sufficient evidence of these crimes still exists."
Zalkin offers the report of the Suffolk County Supreme Court, Special Grand Jury Report, released in February of 2003, as proof that the evidence of these crimes still exist. "In the Diocese of Rockville Center, average citizens, members of a grand jury, armed with subpoena power were able to uncover substantial evidence, both in the form of documents and percipient witness testimony, of the historical fact of childhood sexual abuse committed by religious leaders in their community," explains Zalkin. "The grand jury uncovered evidence that the local diocese had protected at least 58 abusive priests. The diocese engaged in aggressive tactics that purported to help victims and their families but that actually used intimidation, claims of confidentiality, hush payments, and other means to cover-up abusive conduct."
Zalkin asserts that "The citizens of the grand jury could not have been any clearer in their February 03 report stating: 'The Grand Jury concludes that officials in the Diocese failed in their responsibility to protect children. They ignored credible complaints about the sexually abusive behaviors of priests. They failed to act on obvious warning signs of sexual abuse including instances where they were aware that priests had children in their private rooms in the rectory overnight, that priests were drinking alcohol with underage children and exposing them to pornography. Even where a priest disclosed sexually abusive behavior with children officials failed to act to remove him from ministry,' and 'The grand jury concludes that the history of the Diocese of Rockville Centre demonstrates that as an institution they are incapable of properly handling issues relating to the sexual abuse of children by priests.'''
"Should everyone, other than the responsible parties, be left to pay for the damage caused by the manner in which the Diocese failed to supervise the 58 men identified by the Grand Jury?" asks Zalkin in response to the position advanced by the Newsday editors.
The editors conclude their analysis by warning that the Legislature risks permitting a secular legal system to decide what a religious community owes its aggrieved faithful. Zalkin responds to that conclusion by stating that: "The United States Supreme Court teaches that even religious conduct can be regulated for the protection of society. There is no valid argument that the sexual abuse of children is beyond review of civil courts simply because the offending hands and minds are otherwise ordained for the service of God. In crying against civil review of religious entities the editors miss the point that the offending entities have availed themselves of the privileges and benefits of civil incorporation under the laws of the State. Through those incorporations, the entities have chosen to operate under, and be subject to, the civil justice system. Rather than crushing the principle of accountability, the editors should express a bit more faith in the abilities of the members of their readership, local citizens serving as judges and juries, to do what is right in light of available evidence."
With offices in New York and San Diego, The Zalkin Law Firm is one of the premier sexual abuse and personal injury law firms in the country. The firm's lawyers have achieved groundbreaking results in numerous high-profile clergy abuse cases across the United States. Mr. Zalkin has negotiated over $200 million in settlements in Catholic clergy sex abuse cases.
Mr. Zalkin is available to speak to the media about clergy sexual abuse and the Child Victim's Act of New York (A2596). To speak to Mr. Zalkin about legal representation, please call The Zalkin Law Firm.