Following a high profile investigation currently underway in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey both announced they were launching investigations into child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, reports the New York Times.
The attorneys general of New York and New Jersey announced two separate investigations into the sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The investigation in New York is the biggest so far, with New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood issuing subpoenas to every Catholic Diocese in the state, looking into whether the church covered up the sexual abuse of children.
New York and New Jersey follow Pennsylvania's grand jury, which found that the church had covered up child sexual abuse in the state for decades, the Inquisitr previously reported, with hundreds of priests involved in the abuse and subsequent cover-up.
Since Pennsylvania's Grand Jury results, Illinois, Missouri, and Nebraska all launched investigations into the Catholic Church, and with the addition of New York and New Jersey, there are now five states looking into the scandal which has gripped the church. Overwhelmingly, the bishops of the dioceses involved are saying that they will cooperate with the investigations.
Both states made statements on Thursday that it was the findings of the Pennsylvania grand jury which inspired them to action, trying to hold the church accountable and provide justice for victims, with Underwood specifically referencing the grand jury in her statement.
"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. 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."There will not be a grand jury in New York, as the attorney general's office cannot call for one, so Underwood will be working with the local district attorneys on the prosecution of those that have committed any crimes.
New Jersey will be launching a special task force for the investigation, with New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announcing that the task force will have subpoena power and use a grand jury to get the evidence needed.
"We owe it to the people of New Jersey to find out whether the same thing happened here. If it did, we will take action against those responsible," said Grewal in a statement.
In addition to the investigations, special hotlines have been established for individuals to anonymously report allegations of sexual abuse by clergy.
The Catholic Church responded saying that they were eager to work together with Underwood in the investigation, asserting the full cooperation of all eight dioceses in New York.
One thing which will make prosecution hard in New York is that the state has a very strict statute of limitations on sexual abuse crimes. Under New York law, victims can only file charges until they are 23-years-old. Some of the most heinous offenses in the child sexual abuse domain have no time limit, but that rule only affects crimes that happened after 2000.
Underwood called on the New York legislature to change the law, which has repeatedly suffered failed attempts to pass the legislature, the current proposal would extend the civil limit to 50 years and the criminal limit to 28 years.
Anyone with information about clergy abuse can call the hotlines on 800-771-775 (New York) or 855-363-6548 (New Jersey). New York has also set up an online complaint form at ag.ny.gov/ClergyAbuse.