Attorney General Launches Statewide Investigation into Clergy Abuse
September 6, 2018
The New York State Attorney General's Office has launched a civil investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by clergy in the Catholic Church.
Attorney General Barbara Underwood has subpoenaed all eight Roman Catholic dioceses in the state as part of the probe. A law enforcement source familiar with the investigation but not authorized to speak publicly told The Associated Press the subpoenas went out Thursday.
The subpoenas seek documents relating to abuse allegations, payments to victims or findings from internal church investigations.
The attorney general's Charities Bureau is conducting an investigation into "how the Catholic diocese and other church entities, reviewed and potentially covered up allegations of sexual abuse."
A clergy abuse hotline and an online complaint form are also now available for victims and anyone with information about abuse. The hotline can be reached at 1-800-771-7755 and a complaint can be filed online at ag.ny.gov/ClergyAbuse.
A grand jury concluded that some 300 Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania molested more than 1,000 children in six Pennsylvania dioceses since the 1940s. The report accused senior church officials of orchestrating a systematic cover-up to protect the church from scandal.
“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," said Attorney General Underwood. "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."
Under current state law, victims only have until age 23 to file civil cases or seek criminal charges for most types of child sexual abuse; some of the most serious child sex crimes have no time limit on the bringing of criminal charges, but only for conduct that occurred in 2001 or later.
Last month, the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo said a priest had resigned as pastor of his church after a sexual abuse complaint.
Back in June, the lawyer who helped break the abuse scandal in Boston and whose role was portrayed in the movie "Spotlight," named eight priests in the Diocese of Rochester, including five never before published, who allegedly sexually abused children.
Getting a call into her office Thursday morning, Monroe County DA Sandra Doorley was asked to help prosecute any cases that may come forward from the hotline.
Here's the good news.
Doorley says there's no active case within Monroe County involving Catholic churches, but the AG's office is serving New York State Catholic churches with a subpoena to get access to their records dating back to the 1950s to see if there is any evidence of a cover up or mishandling.
"Here in Monroe, we have a great relationship with the diocese," stated DA Doorley."Any time there's been an allegations the diocese has reached out to me, we've discussed it, and we've been handling them. But if there's anything new that turns up on this hotline, we'll sit down with the diocese, with the victim, prosecute it like any other case."
The Diocese of Rochester tells News10NBC that it has received the attorney general's subpoena.
"We have a longstanding policy of cooperation with law enforcement and certainly it will continue in this process. We encourage all victims to report to civil authorities. We report to civil authorities' allegations of the sexual abuse of a minor."