Following weeks of pressure since the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood has answered the public outcry by issuing subpoenas for records from every Catholic diocese in New York related to sex abuse of minors and the subsequent cover-up. Many lay Catholics have been calling for a grand jury investigation in every state since learning the horrific details of criminal activity within the Pennsylvania diocese, where over 1000 minors were reportedly molested by priests while cardinals and the Catholic hierarchy covered it up. The Archdiocese of New York issued a statement about the current investigation.
While we have not yet seen a subpoena, it is not a surprise to us that the Attorney General would look to begin a civil investigation, and she will find the Archdiocese of New York, and the other seven dioceses in the state, ready and eager to work together with her in the investigation. Since 2002, the archdiocese has shared with its 10 District Attorneys all information they have sought concerning allegations of sexual abuse of minors, and has established excellent working relationships with each of them. Not only do we provide any information they seek, they also notify us as well when they learn of an allegation of abuse, so that, even if they cannot bring criminal charges, we might investigate and remove from ministry any cleric who has a credible and substantiated allegation of abuse. We look forward to receiving the subpoena, and working with the Attorney General.
Underwood says that any criminal activity will be prosecuted and has established a hotline and complaint form for abuse survivors posted on the attorney general’s website. Underwood released this statement today.
The Pennsylvania grand jury report shined a light on incredibly disturbing and depraved acts by Catholic clergy, assisted by a culture of secrecy and cover ups in the dioceses. Victims in New York deserve to be heard as well – and we are going to do everything in our power to bring them the justice they deserve. I urge all victims and anyone else with information to contact our hotline. And make no mistake: the only way that justice can fully and truly be served is for the legislature to finally pass the Child Victims Act.
The Child Victims Act is currently in the New York Senate Rules Committee and would “eliminate the statutes of limitation for prosecuting child sexual abuse crimes and filing civil lawsuits for damages against individuals, public institutions, and private institutions related to child sexual abuse.” This act also would create a one-year “revival period” for previous sexual offenses committed against a minor. The New York Daily News had previously reported on New York’s notoriously short statute of limitations for child sex abuse. “Under New York law, victims of sexual abuse have until the age of 23 to bring either criminal charges or file a civil lawsuit against their alleged abusers — one of the shortest windows in the country that activists say isn’t enough time for traumatized victims to come forward,” they reported.
The fact that some authority wants to hear from survivors of priest abuse in order to prosecute the predators is welcome news to Catholics and others who don’t believe the Church could ever investigate itself. “Victims and anyone with information about abuse can call the hotline at 1-800-771-7755 or file a complaint online at ag.ny.gov/ClergyAbuse. An investigator will review all allegations; the Attorney General and our law enforcement partners will seek to protect victims’ and witnesses’ identities,” says the AG’s website.
News that Nebraska has also opened its own investigation into the Nebraska diocese just surfaced this week also. That brings the total number of states investigating to five. Only 45 more to go.