Of canon and secular law in the abuse crisis

I would seem that the distinction between what Church and state can do in the abuse crisis is still hard to understand for many, including professors.

Fokko Oldenhuis, professor in religion and law at the University of Groningen claims that Cardinal Wim Eijk has been misleading victims by saying that the Church would not to apply the statute of limitations in abuse cases, RTV Noord reports. Professor Oldenhuis now claims that this only happened for victims who have claimed compensation from the Church. And that makes sense. How can the Church decide on matters which do not fall under her jurisdiction. A victim can choose to go to court, and let a judge decide on the matter. The Church has little to say on the proceedings then.

The statute of limitations is a legal construct laid down in law. The Church has long since decided not to apply this in cases where the perpetrator of the abuse is a cleric, even though canon law prescribes it be applied ten years after the victim has turned 18. This is canon law, quite a separate entity from civil law, but which also knows the statute of limitations. A civil judge is under no obligation to follow canon law, even if the reverse is strongly encouraged.

Professor Oldenhuis’ comments are presented as statements of fact, without any source or explanation. I think it would be good to clearly separate canon and secular law, which each have their own areas of jurisdiction and which are both wholly separate and independent.

Edit: Although it is still unclear exactly when a Church representative requested the statute of limitations to be applied, a further reading of the full interview with Professor Oldenhuis indicates that there has at least been a miscommunication and at worst an error on the part of the Church. Professor Oldenhuis, in my opinion, is correct in claiming that the Church should waive the statute of limitations on all cases of abuse. When and if this happened, and under which circumstances, remains unclear.

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