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God Bless California!

New legislation in California permits the children of a deceased alleged victim of a predator priest to sue the Catholic Church regardless of the fact that the abuse happened decades earlier.

A lawsuit has been filed in Alameda County Superior Court by the children of the late Jim Bartko, who claimed he was sexually abused by former priest Stephen Kiesle between 1972 and 1975 at a parish in the city of Pinole, northeast of San Francisco. Bartko’s own case against the Church was dismissed shortly after he died.

Under previous law, survivors of deceased plaintiffs in California were limited to economic damages only (wages or medical expenses). Descendants were not permitted to seek damages for their deceased loved ones’ pain & suffering. But California Senate Bill 447 changed all that—the new law permits survivors like the Bartko children to piggy-back on their father’s claims for emotional anguish suffered at the hands of the predator priest.

Most of my readers know that the Church has often concealed/covered up incidents of clergy/child abuse and used state statutes of limitations to prevent claims from being successfully pursued.

Other defense tactics have included victim shaming, public official intimidation, concealing records, transferring offending predators across state lines (without notifying the new parish of the priest’s predatory behavior), and various other delay/stonewall/stall tactics.

Bartko concealed his own abuse for four decades. His death resulted from cirrhosis of the liver caused, of course, by a drinking problem which began when Kiesle gave him communion wine prior to sexually assaulting him as a child.

In 2020, Bartko filed his lawsuit under California’s ‘lookback window’ a statute of limitations ‘work-around’ that is unavailable in most states. Upon Bartko’s death, that same new law permitted his children to continue the litigation to hold the Church accountable, a tactic not permitted under previous law.

There are over 10 million Catholics in California. Thanks to this new ‘lookback window’ law, the Church may no longer rely on the statute of limitations or a victim’s death to avoid liability.

To this, I say: God Bless California!

Mark M. Bello is an attorney and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Series, ripped-from-the headlines, realistic fiction that speak truth to power and champion the rights of citizens in our justice system. These novels, dedicated to the social justice movement, are not only enjoyable, they educate, spark discussion and inspire readers to action. For more information, please visit Mark also hosts the Justice Counts podcast with Not Fake News editor & publisher Bob Gatty, presenting bi-weekly interviews focused on social justice.

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Fabulous news! Sexual abuse if a life changing event from which one never really recovers.

While I do not believe that this will be a deterrent. it will help validate victims and children of victims that this is a crime and there are consequences. Maybe, just maybe, there will be better education and more supervision, Perpetrators should have the opportunity to seek counseling without fear as well.

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