There's an ugly irony in last week's release of a statewide grand jury report on decades of sex abuse of children, and its cover-up, by Catholic clergy.
Turns out the state with the fullest examination of the globally troubling problem is also the state offering some of the nation's weakest recourse for those who've been abused.
And you can guess why: Pennsylvania's legislature.
It has long lagged in helping victims ease at least some suffering endured at the hands of evil.
Just one more category in which we trail most states. And, in this case, not by a little.
After announcing the grand jury's horrific findings last Tuesday, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro pointed to grand jury recommendations on reforming state law, especially regarding statutes of limitations in child-sex cases.
That brought an immediate response from Child USA, a University of Pennsylvania-based nonprofit pushing public policy to fight child abuse. It monitors related laws in all 50 states.
Child USA issued a statement saying, in part, that the grand jury report "actually understates how far behind the rest of the country" Pennsylvania's statutes of limitations are.
It's a case of lack of aid in a state with no lack of victims.
The grand jury found detailed accounts of more than 1,000 abused children, but said 'the real number" likely was multiple thousands.
And since the report's release, an abuse hotline (888-538-8541) run by the AG's office has gotten hundreds of calls.
Yet Pennsylvania ranks among the worst states in allowing child sex-abuse victims – who commonly keep the abuse to themselves well into adulthood — to seek legal redress by filing criminal charges or civil suits against their abusers later in life.
Child USA's 2018 national report, for example, shows that 41 states have eliminated criminal statutes of limitations for at least some child sex-abuse felonies.
Pennsylvania is not among them.
In Pennsylvania, a criminal complaint of child sexual abuse must be filed by the time the victim is 50 years old.
If that seems reasonable, consider this: Child USA cites research showing that most victims who disclose they were assaulted as a child do so only in adulthood. And the average age of disclosure is 52.
It's almost as if those seeking to minimize complaints — in this case, the state's Catholic dioceses, and their lobbyists and insurers who, combined, spend millions of dollars in their efforts — were familiar with such research.
The state also has a statute of limitations for civil lawsuits. A bad one.
A victim of child sex abuse seeking to sue an abuser must file a suit by age 30.
Child USA's report says this about Pennsylvania: "The civil SOL (statute of limitations) at age 30 is increasingly short in comparison with the developments in the rest of the country."
There are nine states, for example, with no civil statutes of limitations for at least some claims. This includes Illinois and Maine, which have no civil statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse, period.
The report also notes, "Yet, with all the activity in states since 2002, no state has reached the pinnacle of SOL reform, which is to simply eliminate the civil and criminal SOLs backward and forward. Only Guam has done that."
Still, the report says our state lags in reforms, "despite the fact Pennsylvania has generated the most grand jury reports on child abuse in the country."
In other words, we know a lot but decline to act.
Child USA's founder, CEO and Penn law professor, Marci Hamilton, says "lobbying" keeps state statutes where they are, and adds, "For Pennsylvania to still be stuck on an age number shows it's well behind the curve."
State Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm agrees. She says the disconnect makes no sense: "We've had enough cases, seen the most evidence. We know the stories, the statistics. We've been through the [Penn State] Sandusky case, grand juries, now the dioceses." It's time, she says, to change the law.
She's right. Eliminate the criminal statute of limitations. End, or at least broaden, the civil statute.
After all the investigations and findings in every Catholic diocese, it's time the legislature concedes that it's done too little for too long and move to right its wrongs and complicity in the abuse of children – by anyone at any time.
Lawmakers will return to session next month in an election year for all the House and half the Senate. We'll see whether they continue to stand with monied interests.