News that the New York Attorney General’s office, headed by Barbara Underwood, has issued subpoenas to every Catholic diocese in the state with regard to Catholic sex abuse, has drawn a stinging rebuke from Bill Donohue, President the Catholic league.
In a letter dated September 6, Donohue wrote:
Your decision to launch a grand jury investigation of Catholic dioceses – to the exclusion of all other religions, private non-sectarian institutions, and public sector entities – is manifestly unjust and indefensible. Are you saying that the sexual abuse of minors is peculiar to Catholic institutions?
Would you convene a grand jury on criminal behavior, focusing exclusively on black neighborhoods? Then why are you singling out the Catholic Church for an investigation of sexual misconduct?
Because a grand jury probe of Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania turned up old cases of abuse? Imagine what a grand jury investigation of the public schools would find about current cases of abuse! Will you launch one?
Are you aware that the New York Archdiocese has an Independent Compensation and Reconciliation Program that is designed to deal with such issues? Are you aware that it was Cardinal Timothy Dolan who employed this initiative to uncover allegations against Theodore McCarrick, resulting in his resignation as a cardinal? Do you know of a
single minister, rabbi, or public school official who ever outed one of his own colleagues for such offenses.
I look forward to your response.
The brilliant Stephen Fry labels Catholic priests “extraordinarily sexually disfunctional people” in this video at around 9:05.
New York is the latest US state to embark on an extensive investigation of sex crimes committed and covered up by Catholic priests.
The Church faces a major test over the next several months, as the Attorneys General of at least five states conduct investigations and several more consider opening up the decades-old secret files of the dioceses in their states. Millions of Catholics nationwide now must grapple with attending a church that is under criminal investigation.
After New York’s subpoenas were issued, New Jersey quickly followed, announcing a criminal task force. New Mexico launched an investigation this week, and Nebraska and Missouri have inquiries underway.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro set off this wave when he announced last month the results of a massive grand jury investigation, alleged that more than 1,000 children were sexually abused by more than 300 priests in six of the state’s Catholic dioceses, over a period spanning more than 70 years. The report began a storm across the country, with many Catholic faithful demanding that their own dioceses open their files to criminal investigators to examine whether a similarly extensive cover-up took place.
Shapiro said on Thursday:
Our work in Pennsylvania has spurred a movement.
Marci Hamilton, a professor of religion and law at the University of Pennsylvania who is an expert on child protection laws, said these state investigations signal a totally new phase in the US government’s treatment of clergy abuse. While several other countries have had government-led national probes of child sexual abuse, in the United States, Pennsylvania’s is the very first state-wide investigation.
Previously, Hamilton believed, US politicians like attorneys general didn’t want to touch the church.
Since 2002, I’ve been waiting to hear three words: ‘Clergy sex abuse’. It’s see no evil, hear no evil. They are terrified in this hyper-religious liberty environment of offending an organized religion like the Catholic Church.
She thinks state officials changed their minds when they saw Shapiro:
Did it with no political peril.
State probes could cause many US Catholics to leave the church, as happened after a national investigation in Ireland, where the Catholic Church was literally part of the government. Hamilton noted that Scotland’s government also ran a national probe, as did Germany, Sweden, Japan. A commission by the Australian government ran a years-long investigation that just ended this year.
Michael Merz, a federal judge in Ohio said:
People are much less inclined to belong to institutions that are suspect. There’s no doubt that a lot of people have left because of doubting the integrity of this particular institution.
Hat tip: AgentCormac