Authorities in New York and New Jersey have announced investigations into local Catholic dioceses and Church entities, to determine how allegations of sexual abuse of minors were handled.
On Thursday, the New York attorney general’s office issued subpoenas to all eight Catholic dioceses in the state, asking for documents related to sexual abuse allegations and the Church’s response to them, according to the New York Times.
Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced a civil investigation into Church entities and said the office’s criminal division is willing to partner with local district attorneys “to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute any individuals who have committed criminal offences that fall within the applicable statutes of limitations”.
The Archdiocese of New York told local media in a statement that they were “ready and eager to work together” with the attorney general in the investigation.
“Since 2002, the archdiocese has shared with its 10 District Attorneys all information they have sought concerning allegations of sexual abuse of minors, and has established excellent working relationships with each of them,” the statement said.
“Not only do we provide any information they seek, they also notify us as well when they learn of an allegation of abuse, so that, even if they cannot bring criminal charges, we might investigate and remove from ministry any cleric who has a credible and substantiated allegation of abuse.”
The other dioceses in the state echoed this commitment, saying they are cooperating with the investigation.
Also on Thursday, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the creation of a task force to investigate allegations of sexual abuse and cover up within the state’s Catholic dioceses.
“No person is above the law and no institution is immune from accountability,” Grewal said. “We will devote whatever resources are necessary to uncover the truth and bring justice to victims.
He appointed former acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino to lead the task force, which will have subpoena power to compel testimony and the production of documents.
Two New Jersey dioceses – the Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark – have drawn media attention in recent weeks, after it was revealed that they reached settlements in the mid 2000s with two men who claimed to have been sexually assaulted by former cardinal Theodore McCarrick while they were seminarians and young priests.
Questions have arisen over which former and current Church officials in these dioceses may have known about these settlements and failed to take action or speak out against McCarrick’s continued ministry.
The attorneys general in Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, and New Mexico have also initiated investigations into local Catholic dioceses, as the fallout from last month’s Pennsylvania Grand Jury report continues.
That report, the result of an 18-month investigation into abuse allegations and responses from Church officials, found more than 1,000 allegations of abuse at the hands of some 300 clergy members in six dioceses in the state. It also found a pattern of cover up by senior Church officials. The report has prompted questions nationwide on the Church’s response to abuse claims.