NY, NJ attorneys general to investigate Catholic dioceses' handling of abuse

The New York Attorney General subpoenaed the eight state Roman Catholic dioceses as part of an ongoing civil investigation into how the church reviewed allegations of sexual abuse, a source familiar with the investigation said Thursday.

George Richert, the director of communications at the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, said that they had not yet received the subpoena but expected it to arrive later on Thursday.

"Our diocese will cooperate with any investigation initiated by the New York state attorney general or district attorney," he said.

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced Thursday that she had established a clergy abuse hotline and online complaint form, so that victims can share their experiences with investigators.

The office's Charities Bureau, a division that examines nonprofit organizations, has started a civil investigation into how the dioceses handled reported cases of sexual abuse of minors and whether the church attempted to cover them up.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This latest investigation comes on the heels of a bombshell report produced by a Pennsylvania grand jury that concluded that approximately 300 priests in the state had sexually abused more than 1,000 children over the past 70 years. The report also found that church leadership in the state worked to cover up the horrific abuse.

"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," Underwood said in a statement.

Underwood also encouraged the New York legislature to pass the Child Victims Act, a piece of legislation that allows victims to file civil suits until age 50 and criminal charges against their abusers until age 28. The law would mean that victims would not be hampered by New York's statutes of limitations, which kept Pennsylvania prosecutors from pursuing legal action against the vast majority of the accused clergy members.