Across the country, attorneys general are opening investigations into misconduct (and worse) at the hands of the Roman Catholic clergy. In fact, last week the attorney general for the state of New York issued subpoenas to every Catholic diocese in the state, eight in total. Such sweeping investigations into sexual abuse of children and allegations of church cover ups come in the wake of a shocking grand jury report out of Pennsylvania. The report announced the discovery of the abuse of more than 1,000 children by hundreds of Pennsylvania priests, and the steps the Church took to hide it.
Since the release of the explosive Pennsylvania report, attorneys general in New York, Nebraska, New Mexico, Missouri, and Illinois have announced they will open their own investigations. New Jersey has announced a criminal investigation. And abuse at the hand of Catholic clergy isn’t unique to the U.S. Allegations of clergy sexual abuse have reached global proportions—from Honduras and Chile to Ireland and Australia.
“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 New York’s attorney general, Barbara 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.”
Gurbir S. Grewal, New Jersey’s attorney general, has created a test force to investigate abuse and cover ups.
“I was deeply troubled to read the allegations contained in last month’s Pennsylvania grand jury report,” said Grewal. “We owe it to the people of New Jersey to find out whether the same thing happened here. If it did, we will take action against those responsible.” A Boston clergy sexual abuse attorney can help you determine how to proceed.
Will they Cooperate?
Thus far, church officials have been relatively compliant with subpoenas and requests to provide documentation. In fact, Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for New York’s Archdiocese, said that every NY diocese will cooperate.
“It is not a surprise to us that the attorney general would look to begin a civil investigation, and she will find the Archdiocese of New York, and the other seven dioceses in the state, ready and eager to work together with her in the investigation,” said Zwilling. A MA injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been the victim of clergy sexual abuse.
Statute of Limitations
In New York, victims of most forms of child sexual abuse only have until the age of 23 to file charges. When the case involves rape, there is no time limit, as long as the conduct didn’t occur prior to 2001. In MA, the statute of limitations is slightly more in favor of the victim—28 years after the incident occurred, or 28 years after age 16. A bill to change New York’s restrictive timeline—known as the Child Victims Act—has failed to pass for years. Last week, the bill was again presented. If passed, it would allow victims to file criminal charges until age 28 and to file civil suits until age 50.
“Little is known about clergy abuse of children in New York, because of the state’s antiquated and predator-friendly statute of limitations, and because the church has kept the evidence secret all these years,” said Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org.
“Finally we will learn the truth in New York.” Continue reading