Catholic Archdiocese of New York removes all priests accused of sex abuse, report says

Cardinal Timothy Dolan asked a former judge to review how the New York Archdiocese handled allegations of sexual abuse by the clergy.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan asked a former judge to review how the New York Archdiocese handled allegations of sexual abuse by the clergy.

NEW YORK – Every priest in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York who has a substantial sex-abuse accusation against him has been removed from ministry, according to a report released today.

That finding was revealed in a report by former federal judge and prosecutor Barbara Jones, who was tasked by Cardinal Timothy Dolan with studying the archdiocese's handling of sex-abuse complaints.

Her findings show a near stop to all abuse in the archdiocese since the early 2000s.

"Almost all the complainants received over the last several years are not complaints of current conduct, but rather they are complaints about conduct which occurred sometimes decades ago," Jones said.

Jones, who is serving as special counsel and independent investigator for the archdiocese, looked at its policies, procedures, and protocols related to the problem. She shared her findings and recommendations at a news conference at the Catholic Center in New York City.

Jones said the current processes for dealing with sex-abuse complaints are "working very well."

"There have only been two substantiated claims of sexual abuse of a minor since 2002," Jones said.

The archdiocese – which covers Westchester, Rockland, and Putnam counties, along with parts of New York City and the Hudson Valley – faces a bevy of lawsuits amid accusations of sexual abuse.

Cardinal Dolan was pleased with the results, which showed the system has been working for the most part.

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For Dolan commissioning the report was about rebuilding trust he believed the church lost in the wake of the child sex abuse scandals.

"I've had people tell me that they didn't trust the bishops or the church," Dolan said.

Among the chief recommendations in the report is that the archdiocese upgrade its technology to better track priests' backgrounds and monitor their training.

The archdiocese should also hire someone whose sole responsibility would be to oversee sex-abuse complaints, according to the report.

Jones emphasized converting the archdiocese current paper filings into digital ones is the first step to preventing any more abuse.

"The real focus here is on prevention and converting to digital records can help with that," Jones said. "Data is vital in the protection of children."

Jones also mentioned Safe Environment training that the archdiocese requires anyone working with children to undergo. That training is currently required once, but she suggested that it be an annual mandate, particularly in archdiocesan schools.

The Lay Review Board should also add new members who have more areas of expertise, Jones said. The board, which includes judges, lawyers, parents, a priest, a psychiatrist, and a religious sister, decides whether an allegation is substantiated. If it is, the board would recommend that the cardinal remove the priest from ministry.

Jones also is assisting in developing new protocols for dealing with allegations of abuse against adults in positions of power. She will summarize her findings and recommend how the archdiocese should respond to the sexual abuse crisis.

Some 290 lawsuits were filed against the eight dioceses of the Catholic Church in New York state, 110 of which were filed against the New York Archdiocese on the first day that suits could be filed, The Journal News/lohud previously reported.Jones said more than $67 million has been paid to 338 people who have been abused.

Contributing: Matt Spillane

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York removes accused priests