A man who’s suing the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, alleging a priest sexually molested him more than 30 years ago, wants the state to change the statute of limitations in such cases.
Stephen Marlowe, of Hoboken, and members of a sexual assault victims advocacy group on Tuesday called for passage of a state Senate measure aimed at rolling back the state’s two-year statute of limitations in civil lawsuits involving sex assault.
“People are very forgiving, but you need to show acts of contrition, that you’re sorry and that you’re not attacking victims,” Marlowe, who’s 48, said before a news conference on the steps of the statehouse.
His lawsuit, which was filed last month in state Superior Court, seeks a ruling against the defendants and unspecified punitive damages.
The Associated Press generally doesn’t name people who say they’re the victims of sex crimes, but Marlowe said he wants to be identified in the hope that it gives a voice to many victims who might never come forward.
“I’m no longer afraid,” he said. “I know that I have a strong voice to represent those who are silent.”
Marlowe, who first came forward in 2010, said he supports the bill in part because he’s concerned his case could be dismissed due to the statute.
According to the suit, the Rev. David Ernst sexually abused Marlowe numerous times between 1978 and 1980 at St. Mary’s Church in Rutherford. Ernst died in 1988.
Marlowe said that he sought to settle with the church in 2010 and asked for the release of certain documents but that officials declined.
He wants transparency, his attorney Gregory Gianforcaro said.
“One thing that’s really important to Steve – obviously he’s been damaged severely by this – but he really wants openness and transparency,” Gianforcaro said. “That’s really what he’s all about.”
The lawsuit also names as defendants former archbishops Peter Gerety and Theodore McCarrick, who later served as archbishop of Washington, D.C. A secretary for Gerety, who’s 102, said she didn’t know about the lawsuit. A phone message left for McCarrick, who’s 84, wasn’t immediately returned.
The Archdiocese of Newark doesn’t comment on litigation, spokesman Jim Goodness said.
The bill’s fate in the Legislature is uncertain. The bill’s sponsor, Democratic state Sen. Joseph Vitale, said he’s “somewhat optimistic” it could pass but some lawmakers have raised concerns with him about ending the civil statute of limitations outright.
The biggest hurdle, he said, is church opposition to changing the law.
“This is a process where I think most members have evolved in their thinking about his,” he said. “It’s taken years to get where we are.”
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