Brooklyn diocese agrees to major reforms in handling of clergy sexual abuse cases

Brooklyn Eagle [Brooklyn NY]

April 17, 2024

By Robert Abruzzese

The Catholic Church in Brooklyn has finally agreed to clean up its own mess. Attorney General Letitia James announced an agreement with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn on Tuesday, marking a significant step towards addressing the long-standing issue of clergy sexual abuse within the diocese.

This agreement, the second of its kind in New York, mandates comprehensive reforms and introduces independent oversight to ensure the diocese adheres to stricter standards in handling abuse allegations.

The settlement requires the Diocese of Brooklyn to overhaul its approach to managing sexual abuse complaints, including the implementation of a new system underpinned by an independent, secular monitor. This monitor will oversee the diocese’s compliance with enhanced policies and procedures and will issue an annual report assessing the diocese’s handling of sexual abuse cases.

Attorney General James highlighted the gravity of the diocese’s past failures and expressed confidence that the new measures would ensure all reports of abuse are handled ,with the urgency and transparency they warrant.

“The Diocese knew about this pervasive problem, but it did not adequately address allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct,” said Attorney General James. “Now, the Diocese has made a commitment to implementing holistic reforms that will ensure every report of sexual abuse or misconduct is handled quickly and transparently.”

Key components of the reform include:

  • The establishment of an independent monitor to oversee the Diocese’s adherence to updated policies and issue annual compliance reports.
  • Significant improvements to policies for handling sexual abuse cases, such as expedited review timelines and increased transparency throughout the investigation process.
  • The creation of new offices and committees dedicated to safeguarding minors and other vulnerable populations.
  • The appointment of a clergy monitor with expertise in law enforcement or counseling to develop and oversee abuse prevention plans.

These reforms were spurred by findings from an investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), which revealed that the Diocese had historically applied inconsistent standards in assessing abuse allegations, delayed investigations, and failed to adequately monitor accused priests.

The agreement also addresses the Diocese’s prior practice of transferring problematic clergy without adequate oversight, exemplified by a case where a priest accused of numerous abuse incidents was repeatedly relocated across parishes.

Moreover, the diocese id now required to publicly disclose outcomes of credible abuse cases, including the removal of clergy from their duties.