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Justice lies in their hands: Pa. Senate must vote on sex-abuse bill | Opinion

Our family is calling for sweeping reform after Attorney General Josh Shapiro's grand jury report on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Patty Fortney-Julius, Carolyn Fortney, Teresa Miller, and Lara McKeever in Hummelsburg, Pa. Five of the Fortney sisters, shown in this photo, were abused by the same Catholic priest.
Patty Fortney-Julius, Carolyn Fortney, Teresa Miller, and Lara McKeever in Hummelsburg, Pa. Five of the Fortney sisters, shown in this photo, were abused by the same Catholic priest.Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

When Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro shared the details of the grand jury report on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, it was a bittersweet moment for our family. We were happy our daughters were finally able to be heard, and we were heartbroken to relive what happened to them years ago. The report made public the fact that Father Augustine Giella, a priest we trusted and welcomed into our home, sexually abused five of our daughters.

On the day the report was released, we saw the pain of our children's abuse being forced back into the forefront of their hearts and minds and into the national spotlight. As we watched our daughters that day, we didn't see them as the adults everyone else saw, but as the children they once were. As parents, we were in awe of their strength. We don't want anyone else to have to endure the broken trust or innocence we saw on that stage and continue to endure as a family.

>> READ MORE: Catholic Church sex abuse: How one Pennsylvania priest terrorized five sisters

When you realize that the whole dynamic and legacy of your family and grandchildren has been altered dramatically because of the actions of another, then and only then, do you grieve the loss of what could have been. Finding out that our daughters were abused was life changing for us. Something like this alters the very fabric of your family and your family's legacy for years to come. We have experienced grief at its lowest depth.

How do you survive that? How do you come to terms with the guilt as a parent? How do you grasp the failure of protecting your own children?

We know that this is not just a Catholic problem. This evil has infested many institutions. Knowing that there are still perpetrators out there makes it very hard for us to sleep at night. We know that what happened to our family can happen and, is happening right now, to others. We don't have all the answers, and we certainly don't intend harm or ill on any person or institution.

>> READ MORE: Pa. Catholic Church sex abuse report names hundreds of priests, accuses leaders of cover-up: 'They hid it all.'

Our hope is that this horrible ordeal is not in vain and that change occurs. We hold onto our faith in God that he will move the mountains in the minds of Pennsylvania's legislators, who have the ability to reform both the criminal and civil statutes of limitations for victims of childhood abuse, including opening a two-year window for civil complaints already expired under the current statute. A bill, which Gov. Wolf is said to support, already passed in Pennsylvania's House of Representatives. Its fate in the Senate remains unclear as we wait for a vote to come this month.

Lawmakers are our last hope. Justice for all victims lies in their hands.

We ask those in power: What would you do if this were your child or grandchild? Imagine for one minute what it would feel like.

Our family is calling for sweeping reform. We ask for justice for those who have lost their battle and. as a result, lost their lives because of the shame and re-victimization at the hands of their oppressors. We ask for justice for those who don't have a voice.

>> READ MORE: Philly-area lawmakers emerge as key votes in battle over Pa. child sex-abuse bill

We hope that Pennsylvanians will stand with us as we ask for the statute of limitations to be voted on for the sake of all abuse victims in and outside of the Catholic Church. The victims deserve their day in a court of law. They deserve to be free from the silence. They deserve to be legitimized.

We stand beside and on the side of the victims. Will you stand with us?

Pat and Ed Fortney raised nine kids in their home near Harrisburg, Pa. They were raised as devout Catholics and each enjoys spending time with their big family.