New York prosecutor, Brooklyn Diocese reach agreement over sex abuse mishandling

Catholic News Agency - EWTN [Denver CO]

April 17, 2024

By Daniel Payne

New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced that the Diocese of Brooklyn has agreed to “significant action” to address shortcomings in how it handles sexual abuse complaints. 

The diocese “knew about this pervasive problem” for years, James said upon making the announcement, but “did not adequately address allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct,” leading the organization to fail to “consistently comply with its own policies and procedures for responding to sexual abuse.”

In 2018, James’ office launched an investigation into the diocese. Among the failures highlighted by the investigation include an instance in which the diocese for more than a decade neglected to inform parishioners after a priest admitted to sexually abusing minors. 

In another case, the diocese “repeatedly transferred [a] priest from parish to parish” in order to avoid complaints of inappropriate conduct. 

Overall, the attorney general’s report on the inquiry cited nearly a dozen “clergy case histories” in which the diocese failed in various ways to investigate or address abuse claims against priests. 

Among the terms to which the diocese agreed include the installation of an “independent, secular monitor,” one who will both oversee the diocese’s compliance with its abuse reporting procedures and who will also “issue an annual report” on its handling of sex abuse claims. 

The diocese will also strengthen its current abuse reporting and monitoring policies, create new safety offices and committees, and hire a “Clergy Monitor” with “law enforcement or counseling experience” who will “develop and oversee abuse prevention plans for priests who have been accused of sexual abuse.”

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,” James said in the press release.

“New Yorkers deserve to trust their faith leaders, and my office will continue to support the diocese’s efforts to rebuild that trust with their community.”

Brooklyn Bishop Robert Brennan said in a statement on Tuesday that the agreement “concludes a difficult period in the life of the Church.”

“While the Church should have been a sanctuary, I am deeply sorry that it was a place of trauma for the victims of clergy sexual abuse,” said Brennan, who was installed as the eighth bishop of Brooklyn in November 2021.

“I pray God’s healing power will sustain them. Today, we move forward with the strongest policies in place for the protection of children and adults.”

In addition to its updated reporting and monitoring policies, the Brooklyn Diocese will in the future also “publicly announce any decisions to remove priests or other clergy members from active ministry” by “issuing a press release and adding the offender’s name to a published list of credibly accused clergy.” 

The bishop in such cases will also inform the parishes at which the accused priest previously served. 

This is not the first New York state diocese with which James’ office has struck an agreement over sex abuse policies. 

In October 2022 the Diocese of Buffalo settled a two-year-old lawsuit with the prosecutor’s office over charges that the diocese covered up sexual abuse cases involving priests. 

That agreement directed the diocese to appoint a child protection policy coordinator whose responsibilities include making sure the diocese abides by its child protection rules. It also required the diocese to submit to an outside audit. 

Additionally, the deal limited the organizational privileges of Bishop Richard Malone and Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz, both of whom faced allegations of covering up sexual abuse in the diocese. 

James on Tuesday noted that investigations into the Archdiocese of New York, as well as into the Dioceses of Albany, Ogdensburg, Rochester, Rockville Centre, and Syracuse, remain ongoing.