This editorial was first published in The Washington Post. Guest editorials don't necessarily reflect the Daily Messenger's opinions.

The all-but-impregnable wall of power and influence that for decades blocked victims of child sex abuse from seeking justice and compensation from pedophiles and their enablers has started to crumble — not a moment too soon. Stunned by revelations in Pennsylvania and elsewhere documenting the scale of abuse by priests given cover by the Catholic Church, state lawmakers are starting to tear up laws that set strict limits on the number of years that victims are given to bring lawsuits.

Until now, the church, along with insurance companies and a few other private organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America, has had the lobbying muscle to impede such measures, especially in states with sizable populations of practicing Catholics. In New York, for instance, people molested as children by pedophiles had until age 23 to press criminal charges or file civil lawsuits against their abusers. Repeated efforts to loosen that law were blocked by Republicans in the state Senate.

The dam of opposition to reform in Albany broke after Democrats took control of the upper house in last fall's elections. In January, the church dropped its long-standing opposition to a more open system — allowing criminal charges until childhood victims turn 28 and civil suits until they turn 55 — when lawmakers agreed to apply the new law to public schools, as well as private entities such as the church. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation into law last month.

A similar bill has advanced in New Jersey; a push for reform is underway in Pennsylvania.

In Maryland, the House of Delegates has approved a measure that would eliminate any deadlines on civil suits by future childhood sex abuse victims; the state already has discarded its statute of limitations on criminal prosecutions. Moreover, the legislation in Annapolis would open a two-year "window" for past victims to file lawsuits for abuse that occurred years ago.

Until now, opponents of the legislation, most prominently archdiocesan lobbyists, have argued that retroactive lawsuits pose a threat to the donations that underwrite the church's educational and charitable projects; that it is unfair to expose the church to lawsuits without doing the same to public schools, where abuse also takes place; and that, at the Vatican's direction, the church has already adopted reforms, including a zero- tolerance policy for pedophile priests.

But donors are within their rights to redirect giving to other charitable organizations. It's true that the liability of public schools is limited by many states' laws, but they also are more accountable in that school board members can be voted out of office and school superintendents can be fired. And while the Catholic Church has implemented some reforms, many in its hierarchy seem to barely acknowledge the scale and scope of the church's problems with coming to terms with abuse.

The message is getting through to state lawmakers that victims of abuse, past and present, need and deserve their day in court. No one and no institution should be immune.