NY Subpoenas Catholic Church on Probes of Abuse

ALBANY (CN) – On the heels of a grand jury report detailing 70 years of sexual-misconduct allegations involving six of the Pennsylvania’s eight Roman Catholic dioceses, New York launched a state probe Thursday into the church’s handling of abuse allegations.

Reported first by the Associated Press, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood subpoenaed all eight of New York’s Roman Catholic dioceses this morning as part of a broadening civil investigation.

Citing anonymous law enforcement sources, the article describes the subpoenas as seeking documents relating to abuse allegations, payments to victims or findings from internal church investigations.

Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, confirmed that they have received the subpoenas Thursday afternoon.

In conjunction with the subpoenas, Underwood issued a statement Thursday that calls on state legislature to pass the Child Victims Act, which would allow all victims to file civil suits until age 50 and seek criminal charges until age 28. Under current law, victims only have until age 23 to file civil cases or seek criminal charges for most types of child sexual abuse.

“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,” Underwood said in a statement.

“I urge all victims and anyone else with information to contact our hotline,” she added. “And make no mistake: the only way that justice can fully and truly be served is for the legislature to finally pass the Child Victims Act.”

The Pennsylvania report concluded that approximately 300 priests in the state had sexually abused more than 1,000 children over the span of 70 years.

Underwood said it “shined a light on incredibly disturbing and depraved acts by Catholic clergy, assisted by a culture of secrecy and cover ups in the dioceses.”

She encouraged any victim of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy to participate in this investigation, regardless of the statute of limitations for prosecution, noting that all victim information will be “helpful to understanding and reforming the institutional approach of the church.”

Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling called it unsurprising that New York would open such an investigation.”

“We look forward to … working with the attorney general,” Zwilling said in a statement, noting that the Archdiocese of New York has a history of sharing information with the state’s district attorneys in child sex-abuse investigations since 2002.

Zwilling predicted that Underwood “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.”

In addition to Archdiocese of New York, the Catholic Church has dioceses here in Albany, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Ogdensburg, Rochester, Rockville Centre and Syracuse.

The New York Archdiocese employs their own “Safe Environment” complaint system, which refers reports of “sexual abuse by a member of the clergy or anyone acting in the name of the Church, recently or in the past” to the appropriate District Attorney’s office in the state.

Catholics represent the largest single religious faith in New York, numbering approximately 7.3 million out of a population of 19.3 million, according to data from the New York State Catholic Conference.

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