Senator Vitale Calls for Attorney General Grewal to Empanel Grand Jury to Investigate Sexual Misconduct in Catholic Dioceses in New Jersey
By Senator Joseph Vitale
August 30, 2018
In the wake of the release of a damning Pennsylvania grand jury report on six Catholic dioceses finding that 300 priests over more than 60 years sexually abused more than 1,000 minors and reporting that priests in New Jersey were involved in some of these crimes and allowed to continue in their ministries and have access to vulnerable children, I have requested a meeting with Newark Cardinal Joseph Tobin to review the cases with full transparency.
These disturbing revelations come on the heels of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former archbishop of Newark and former bishop of Metuchen, being removed from ministry by the Vatican because of credible accusations of sexual misconduct.
Today, I am also calling on state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to empanel a grand jury, as was done in Pennsylvania, to confirm whether the generations of hidden sexual abuse uncovered in that state also occurred here. Given the wide scope of abuse found in Pennsylvania and the Vaticanís action against McCarrick, we must investigate now. Victims should not have to wait any longer for accountability and for justice. In addition, I ask that the Attorney General immediately set up a clergy abuse hotline where victims can safely and privately report abuse. This will help inform the Attorney Generalís investigation and make sure victims know they are being heard in the short term.
As years pass from the time of abuse, it becomes harder for victims to achieve both accountability and justice. To do that, we have to pursue two separate tracks Ė one through the courts and the other through the Legislature.
I will be introducing legislation permitting the names of those credibly accused of sexual abuse to be released. This is legal in Pennsylvania, but not in New Jersey. This change will allow for greater accountability, transparency and justice.
I want to be clear that my work on behalf of victims has never been targeted at the Church. I am compelled to address them and request immediate action because of recent reports, but I know, and all of the advocates and victims out there know, abuse happens at the hands of many different types of perpetrators, and many different institutions, who should be held culpable. I am remaining steadfast in my work to bring full justice to all victims of child sex abuse who are pursuing a civil case against their abusers.
In this vein, my office has been working with victims and advocates for years in an effort to expand the civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse. Currently, a victim of child sex abuse has until they are 20-years-old or two years from the moment they connect the abuse and the trauma it has caused, called discovery, to bring their civil case against their abuser. This is a woefully inadequate amount of time.
It is far past due for New Jersey to do something. The only way forward is legislation that holds institutions and individual perpetrators responsible while giving victims more time to bring a case and face their abusers.
Many of the advocates my office has worked with are victims themselves. They are forced to relive their own abuse every time they push for this bill to move forward. We are re-traumatizing the very people who are working to help other victims. It is time for us to do all we can to help the victims, those who are able to advocate for themselves and others, and those who are not yet able to openly discuss their abuse and pain.
I look forward to working with my colleagues on this troubling and complex issue so that those children, who are now adults, and who have suffered so greatly, may finally gain justice.
Justice delayed is justice denied.