NY Archdiocese 'most secretive' on priest abuse: Report

By Jorge Fitz-Gibbon
March 27, 2018

The Archdiocese of New York has now paid more than $40 million to 189 victims of priest abuse through the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program.

                Defrocked former priest Francis Stinner, who died last year, has at least three new claims of sexual abuse against him.                 Former Archdiocese of New York Cardinal Edward Egan announced a "zero tolerance" policy in 2002 after the Catholic priest sex scandal broke.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of Archdiocese of New York, announced a compensation program for victims of sexual abuse by priests in 2016.
Photo by Ricky Flores

[with video]

The Archdiocese of New York is among the "most secretive" Catholic districts in dealing with sex abuse allegations against priests, a new report alleges., a Massachusetts-based clergy abuse watchdog group, said this week that the nation's second largest diocese has done so poorly exposing sex abuse by priests that it has exposed fewer than one of the nation's smallest dioceses. 

The Archdiocese of New York, with more than 2.5 million members, has had 84 Catholic clergy members identified as sexual abusers of children, compared with 92 in the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, which has 316,000 members, the report said.

The release of the data comes as advocates of abuse victims are back in Albany pushing for the Child Victims Act, a long-lingering bill which would extend the statute of limitations for children who are abused by adults, including clergy. "Given the number of accused clergy who remain hidden, it's sad but not surprising that Cardinal (Timothy) Dolan again is lobbying hard to defeat the Child Victims Act," Bishop Accountability Co-Director Anne Barrett Doyle said in a statement. "The cardinal is able to withhold information because New York's unusually short civil statute of limitations renders victims powerless."

Archdiocese response

Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, challenged the claims by Bishop Accountability, calling the group "unreliable and scurrilous."

"The numbers in this press release are made up numbers, with no basis in fact," Zwilling said Tuesday. "The Archdiocese of New York has reported all cases of abuse to law enforcement." 

Zwilling did not immediately respond when asked for more accurate numbers.

"If anyone has an allegation of abuse against a member of the clergy of the archdiocese, we encourage that person to come forward, to report the allegation to law enforcement, and then to the archdiocese," he said. "There is nothing prohibiting a person from coming forward; there does not need to be a change in the law for anyone to report abuse."

The archdiocese, second in size only to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, took several steps to address abuse by clergy after the priest sex scandal erupted in 2002. The controversy was revealed in investigative reports by The Boston Globe, which exposed decades of abuse of children by Catholic clergy. 

The investigation was the subject of the Oscar-winning movie "Spotlight." 


In April 2002, Cardinal Edward Egan, then-archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, came under pressure to report abuse in his archdiocese. Egan turned over a list of alleged abuse cases to then-Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau for review. 

Two months later, Egan announced a "zero tolerance" policy during a meeting of Catholic leaders in Dallas, Texas, and vowed that any priest who sexually abused a minor would be laicized, or permanently removed from the ministry.

However, in 2004, the New York archdiocese was among 20 out of the nation's 195 dioceses that were deemed not to be in compliance with an audit ordered by Roman Catholic leaders. New York was deemed to be "very close" to compliance. 

In 2016, the archdiocese launched the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, which offered victims of sexual abuse by priests financial compensation if their claims could be confirmed. 

The church has twice asked victims to file for compensation, with the most recent deadline on Nov. 1. 

Their settlements under the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program now bring the amount paid to victims of Catholic priest abuse in the archdiocese to more than $40 million. In all, 189 abuse victims received compensation. 

But the compensation program and the early steps taken by the archdiocese have not quelled the criticism from victims and victims' rights advocates. 

'Church's own data'

Barrett Doyle, Bishop Accountability's co-director, said during a telephone interview that the group is run by practicing Catholics "who hope and pray that their work will help the church they love."

She also defended the statistics they provided.

"It's actually based totally on the church's own data," Barett Doyle said. "It's not our facts. It's the church's facts. We would be more than happy to sit down and take (Zwilling) through our calculations." 

According to the group, the New York archdiocese has failed to identify "hundreds of child molesters." The report maintains that if the archdiocese had an accused priest rate of 5.8 percent, the national average, an additional 316 clergy members would be identified, although the number is speculative. 

Were lawmakers in Albany to pass the Child Victims Act, Bishop Accountability claims, hundreds of victims of abuse would be eligible to file civil claims in state courts.

"The state Senate must support inclusion of the Child Victims Act in the state budget, or take responsibility for continuing to cover up an epidemic of child sex abuse across New York State," said Marci Hamilton, co-founder of New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators. "This research shows that hundreds of predators from the Catholic Church are hiding in our midst."



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