Cardinal Timothy Dolan leaves a meeting with New York Gov....

Cardinal Timothy Dolan leaves a meeting with New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo at the New York State Capitol in Albany. (March 12, 2012) Credit: AP

ALBANY -- Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and archbishop of New York, urged Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state lawmakers yesterday to reject pending bills to codify abortion rights and open a window for victims of child sex abuse to sue for old incidents.

Joined by other Catholic bishops from around the state, Dolan said they were "bolstered" by Cuomo's assurances yesterday that following last year's legalization of gay marriage, he'll protect their religious freedom to not sanction such marriages.

In retrospect, the bishops would have been "more vigilant" if they had thought there was a distinct possibility that the same-sex marriage bill would pass, Dolan said.

Regarding abortions, Dolan said that rather than expanding that legal right, they want to see more restraint. He said Cuomo listened attentively on that but gave them "no assurances."

"We feel a high responsibility to speak up for the baby in the womb," Dolan said, adding their lawyers raise concerns that Catholic hospitals or providers might be forced to participate.

The pending legislation in the Senate and Assembly contains "conscience clauses" saying it will not alter existing protections in state or federal law that permit providers to refuse to provide abortions on moral or religious grounds.

Sponsors say the bill establishes the "affirmative" right of an individual to choose or refuse contraception, including abortion of a fetus that can't survive outside the uterus.

Dolan said opening a one-year window for sex abuse suits now barred by a statute of limitation would devastate parish finances for ongoing programs. He didn't have a cost estimate but said that was the experience in other states that did it.

Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto said the governor has always and still supports the reproductive rights bill, and he is still reviewing various legislative proposals to change the statute of limitations on claims of child sex abuse.

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