New York and New Jersey have launched new probes into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in light of Pennsylvania’s recent grand jury report.
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, moved by the Pennsylvania report on child sexual abuse, subpoenaed all eight dioceses in the state for information and documents regarding any allegations of sexual abuse, payments to alleged victims, and church investigation findings. Gurbir Grewal, the attorney general of New Jersey, meanwhile, announced the formation of a special task force assigned to investigate the way seven dioceses have handled sexual abuse allegations. (RELATED: Main Org For Catholic Business Owners Cut Vatican Off From Tithes)
Catholic Church officials in New York affirmed they were “ready and eager” to assist the authorities in their investigation.
“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,” said New York archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling, according to The Associated Press.
Underwood’s office has reached out to local New York prosecutors and requested their involvement since they have the authority to convene grand juries and pursue criminal investigations while the New York attorney general does not.
The Catholic Conference of New Jersey also said it would “fully cooperate” with the investigation, though conference executive director Patrick Brannigan stressed the state’s church has forwarded every sexual abuse complaint to law enforcement since 2002.
“One thing I want to emphasize is that New Jersey is not Pennsylvania – more than the Delaware River separates us,” Brannigan said.
Underwood and Grewal, both Democrats, also announced services by which individuals can report alleged clergy sexual abuse. The number for New York’s hotline is 800-771-7755 while the number for New Jersey’s is 855-363-6548. New York also provided the option of filing an anonymous report online.
Survivors of sexual abuse lauded the investigations but said that they wished the investigations could have come sooner.
“I’m elated, but my elation is tempered by how long it has taken to get here,” Steve Jimenez, a sexual abuse survivor advocate, told AP. Jimenez claims that a Catholic brother assaulted him multiple times in a Catholic school in Boston.
Michael Dolce, a Florida attorney, expert on sexual abuse cases and sexual abuse survivor, also said the investigations were “huge and welcomed.”
“It shows a determination to see if what happened in Pennsylvania also happened in New York,” he said. “I shudder to think about what they will find.”
Underwood said that her office will do everything it can to allow New York victims a voice and a path to justice.
“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,” she said. “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.”
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