The New York Attorney General’s office has issued subpoenas to the eight dioceses in the state as it launches an investigation of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and the cover-up of such crimes.
“We have received a subpoena and we are in the process of reviewing it with counsel,” said Diocese of Rockville Centre spokesman Sean Dolan. “The Diocese of Rockville Centre has long cooperated with local law enforcement authorities in reporting and investigating child sexual abuse and we anticipate that such cooperation will continue.”
New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood announced on Sept. 6 the establishment of a clergy abuse hotline and online complaint form through which victims and anyone with information can share what they know. Such individuals can call the hotline at (800) 771-7755 or file a complaint online at ag.ny.gov/ClergyAbuse. An investigator will review all allegations. The Attorney General and its law enforcement partners will seek to protect victims’ and witnesses’ identities, according to a news release.
As announced last month, the Attorney General’s Criminal Division is also seeking to partner with district attorneys — the only entities with the power to convene grand juries to investigate these matters — to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute any individuals who have committed criminal offenses that fall within the applicable statutes of limitations.
“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,” Underwood said in a statement. “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 noted that she has repeatedly urged the 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 state law, victims 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.
The subpoena comes as the Diocese of Rockville Centre continues to pay settlements to victims of clergy sexual abuse through its Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Fund. In all, 292 claims were filed, according to Camille Biros, an administrator for the program. More than half have been paid so far. According to two lawyers that represent dozens of victims in the program, settlement amounts have ranged from $25,000 to $500,000.