The editorial “Seeking Justice” (May 8) was insightful as far as it went, but there is far more to the story of justice and statutes of limitation as applied to claims of misconduct against Catholic dioceses and institutions. The bishops are entirely justified to rally against retroactive application of revised civil statutes of limitation. As has been written by at least one bishop, “Statutes of limitations exist to promote justice, not hinder it.”
However, the U.S. bishops as a body have also aggressively lobbied the Holy See since 2002 to grant a blanket dispensation from prescription—the statute of limitations for the prosecution of a delict (a crime) in canon law—so that accused priests can face penal processes, including forced laicization, years or decades after the period of prescription in church law has expired. The bishops should not have it both ways. Retroactive application of new statutes of limitations is as unjust and immoral in canon law as it is in civil and criminal law.