National Catholic Reporter

July 26, 1996

page 10


Under a strict interpretation of the statute of limitations, the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled July 11 that in any alleged case of sex abuse that occurred before 1993, victims can sue only the individual they say perpetrated the abuse.

The decision affects the dozens of current lawsuits filed against Bishop Louis E. Gelineau of Providence, R.I., and the Providence diocese as nonperpetrators in cases of alleged sexual assault by priests in the diocese.

The ruling applies to alleged assaults that occurred before July 1993, when the state expanded the statute of limitations from three years to seven years after the date of injury or after discovery of injury from sexual assault.

Virtually all existing cases in the courts are based on alleged assaults that occurred before 1993.

The decision said in such cases, the defendant "under the law can only be the person who actually commits the criminal sexual act, namely the perpetrator, and not his or her employer or supervisor, unless that employer or supervisor actually aids and assists in the commission of the criminal act."