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Document shows archdiocese spent heavily to oppose child abuse reporting law

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The Star Tribune reports that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis led lobbying efforts to shoot down a new state law extending time limits for reporting child sexual abuse.

The Child Victims Act, which passed both houses last session with only three votes against, eliminated the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases. It also created a three-year window for some previously barred claims to be litigated. At least 18 cases against Catholic clergy and leaders have been filed since the law took effect last May.

The Star Tribune said it obtained a document from the archdiocese that detailed $830,145 in church spending to support the Minnesota Religious Council from mid-2001 to mid-2008. The newspaper quoted a source who said said nearly all of the money went to pay lobbyists opposing the law.

Lobbying records show the Minnesota Religious Council added three lobbyists in the weeks before its passage. Among those hired were Cullen Sheehan, who ran Norm Coleman's last U.S. Senate campaign and veteran lobbyist Ted Grindal.

Opponents of the bill said the Child Victims Act would be unfair to organizations who "don't know the facts," unlike the perpetrators themselves, who do. Opponents expressed concern that vague levels of proof could be used to bring claims against defenseless institutions.

But proponents argued successfully that the law was intended to stop institutional coverups of child abuse.

Archdiocese spokesman Jim Accurso said the Minnesota Religious Council was formed so that faiths could work together on issues that affect them. But a spokesman for ELCA - the largest non-Catholic member of the Council - said its bishops were never consulted about lobbying or the associated costs.

“We’ve never received a bill,” said Rev. Peter Rogness. “None of us have it in our budget.”

Several priests and archdiocesan leaders resigned their posts in the past month after a whistleblower told Minnesota Public Radio News that the archdiocese had been covering up clergy misconduct for many years.

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