F Rosa Rubicondior: New York Catholics Under Investigation

Friday 7 September 2018

New York Catholics Under Investigation

NY attorney general subpoenas state's Catholic dioceses in connection with sex abuse investigation - CNN

Following the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report into Catholic clerical sexual abuse of minors, which revealed a horrific catalogue of abuse by some 300 priests of over 1000 children over 70 years, New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood has announced a state-wide investigation and issued subpoenas against all eight Catholic diocese.

The investigation is to be conducted by the Charities Department because churches are registered charities in New York.

Under New York Law, District Attorneys are the only entities with the power to convene grand juries and pursue criminal charges for alleged abuse. Last month the Attorney General's office announced its intention to partner District Attorneys in investigating possible criminal actions by and in Catholic institutions.

A spokesman for the New York Archdiocese officially welcomes the investigation and said that the other seven diocese were 'ready and eager'.

The Attorney General's office has opened a hotline and launched an online form for victims and witness of sexual abuse by Catholic clerics in the diocese of New York.

The announcement came on the same day that New Jersey's Attorney General, Gurbir S. Grewal, also announced the setting up of a task force to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by clergy and any attempted cover-ups in New Jersey.

What hasn't been announced yet is the scope of the New York investigation. Will this be limited to an investigation into known complaints or will it include a trawl through all the records at all Catholic institutions, schools, homes, seminaries, etc? In order to protect the public fully, the investigation should, as a minimum, have access to all records of disciplinary actions and 'internal handling' of complaints, including those of trainees and novices found to have shown any predatory paedophilic interests, especially where the activity was itself criminal in nature.

It was revealed in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report that it is a matter of policy that all Catholic diocese and institutions have a locked file specifically for these sorts of allegations to which only a few individuals have access. All of these should be made available to any official investigation and tempering with, removing or destroying the records should be a criminal offence.

It should not have been possible for a seminarian, for example, to have been caught in a criminal act and for the seminary's heirarchy to conceal the fact from the police and child-protection agencies to avoid a scandal and to protect the criminal, even as part of a deal. The public have the right to know if there are individuals known to the Church who could still pose a threat. The Church does not have a right to conceal that information simply to protect itself and the individuals concerned and to take the law into its own hands as though they are above it.

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