The Catholic Church spent more than half a million dollars trying to stop lawmakers from extending the statute of limitations on sex abuse cases, a new report reveals.

From 2011 to 2018, the church spent $633,000 on lobbying efforts in the Garden State alone. They spent more in neighboring states: $5.32 million in Pennsylvania, $2.9 million in New York and $875,000 in Connecticut.

The lobbying expenses could pale in comparison to what the church might pay if more victims of clergy sex abuse come forward and seek compensation.

The report commissioned by the law firms of Seeger Weiss, Williams Cedar, Abraham Watkins, and Simpson Tuegel tracked lobbying efforts across the country. It found that the church spent the most in Pennsylvania, where a grand jury report last year named more than 300 priests accused of molesting 1,000 children. Several of those priests had ties to New Jersey.

The lobbying efforts were not entirely successful in New Jersey. Last month, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law that extends the statute of limitations for lawsuits involving child sex abuse until the victims are age 55. The law also gives all survivors a two-year window of opportunity beginning in December to bring forward a claim.

For criminal charges, the state ended its statute of limitations in 1996.

Both the church and the Boy Scouts opposed extending the civil statute of limitations saying that their respective organizations were cooperating and supporting victims and had taken steps to improve its policies on preventing, identifying and reporting abuse.

“This report lays out what we have known all along – that the Catholic Church refuses to take responsibility for the decades of abuse that took place knowingly under its watch,” said Stephen A. Weiss, founding partner of Seeger Weiss. “All survivors should have access to justice and the opportunity to demand reforms from the Church and any other institution that has allowed such insidious abuse.”

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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