New Jersey to investigate claims, handling of Catholic Church abuse

St. Patrick's Cathedral the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York is viewed

St. Patrick's Cathedral the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York is viewed

In New York, the state's attorney general issued subpoenas to all eight of the state's Catholic dioceses seeking any and all documents pertaining to allegations, findings from internal church investigations and payments to victims, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation but not authorized to speak publicly.

Many lay Catholics have been calling for a grand jury investigation in every state since learning the horrific details of criminal activity within the Pennsylvania diocese, where over 1000 minors were reportedly molested by priests while cardinals and the Catholic hierarchy covered it up.

The New York attorney general's office has issued subpoenas to every Catholic diocese in the state, becoming the latest US state to embark on a major investigation of sex crimes committed and covered up by Catholic priests.

The Archdiocese of NY and the Diocese of Rockville Centre were the subjects of previous grand jury investigations in 2002.

Attorney General Hector Balderas called his state a "dumping ground" for abusers.

"I'm elated, but my elation is tempered by how long it has taken to get here", said Steve Jimenez, a leading advocate for survivors in NY who says a Roman Catholic brother repeatedly assaulted him when he was a child attending Catholic school in Brooklyn. "The report revealed that sexual assaults on children - and efforts to cover up such assaults - were far more widespread in Pennsylvania than we ever thought possible". That's because the state now has one of the strictest laws in the nation when it comes to allowing victims to sue or press criminal charges.

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That investigation shined a light on truly disturbing and depraved acts by Catholic priests against hundreds of children, assisted by a culture of secrecy and cover-ups in dioceses across that state.

A clergy abuse hotline and an online complaint form are also now available for victims and anyone with information about abuse. One version of the act would also open a temporary window for victims to revive old cases that fall outside the existing statute of limitations. "Victims in NY 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, NBC News reported.

Due to the statute of limitations on sex crimes, nearly all the abuses documented by the Pennsylvania grand jury can not lead to criminal prosecutions, and Underwood's office warned that any victims who report abuse in NY might also find that the crimes are no longer prosecutable under state law.

"I can also imagine that priests and lay theologians, before they are hired - for prospective priests before ordination - should undergo an assessment that evaluates how they feel to deal with the topic of one's own sexuality", Giorgio Prestele, a consultant for the conference told local media last week.

The office of Ohio's attorney general said that local law enforcement, not the state office, has the jurisdiction to initiate this kind of investigation.

New Jersey Catholic Conference executive director Patrick Brannigan says the group welcomes the investigation and will "cooperate fully".

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