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All prosecutors can offer most clergy sex abuse victims is solace, DA says

(CNN) — A district attorney is lamenting his office’s inability to prosecute any sex abuse allegations against Catholic priests detailed in a Pennsylvania grand jury’s report this week.

In Tuesday’s report, the grand jury said internal documents from six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania showed that more than 300 “predator priests” were credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 child victims since 1947.

Ninety-nine of the 300 priests were in the Pittsburgh Diocese, and about a third of those 99 were in Beaver County, northwest of Pittsburgh.

But because of a variety of factors — such as the statute of limitations expiring, or the accused or accusers having died — none of those roughly 30 Beaver County cases can be prosecuted, District Attorney David Lozier said.

Often, he said, the most his office can do for victims is offer solace.

“These are hard cases,” Lozier said.

Out of all the priests accused in Tuesday’s report, two have been charged on suspicion of abusing minors — one in Pennsylvania’s Erie diocese, and another in the Greensburg diocese.

The statute of limitations blocks quite a few prosecutions. Although state law currently allows child victims of sexual crimes to pursue criminal charges against their abusers until age 50 and lawsuits until age 30, that’s only been the case in relatively recent years. Pennsylvania’s limits were increased in the 1990s, then again the 2000s. Before, the state’s limits for child sex abuse cases used to be five years for prosecution and two years for civil suits.

The problem for some victims is that they crossed their statutes of limitations before the extensions came. US Supreme Court precedent prohibits extending prosecution windows after a limit expires.

bill before the state House would eliminate the time limit for prosecutions and move the lawsuit ceiling to age 50. A state lawmaker who survived abuse also wants to give temporary leeway to victims whose window to sue already has shut.