New Jersey to investigate claims, handling of Catholic Church abuse
TRENTON, New Jersey, September 6, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – New Jersey is the latest state to announce a probe into alleged sex abuse by Catholic priests, as well as potential cover-ups of said abuse.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has appointed former Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert Laurino to spearhead a task force investigating allegations and possible mishandling of them, Grewal’s office announced in a press release. The task force will be able to issue subpoenas for testimony and documents, as well as present evidence to a grand jury for potential prosecution.
Like similar probes recently launched in Illinois, Nebraska, New York, New Mexico, and Missouri, New Jersey’s was motivated by a Pennsylvania grand jury report last month that identified 301 priests accused of hundreds of cases of sexual abuse, with six different dioceses hiding their crimes for several decades.
The “sophisticated” cover-up “stretched, in some cases, all the way to the Vatican,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said, with church leaders keeping “secret archives” of abuse “just feet from the bishops’ desk.” Numerous abusive clergy were not only protected but promoted, the report found.
In the 2018 book The Dictator Pope, author Henry Sire argues that Pope Francis signaled a “new direction” softer on abuse, first “by choosing to honor one of the most notorious of the enabling bishops,” then by “reducing the penalty for priest abusers to ‘a lifetime of prayer’ and restrictions on celebrating Mass.” Archbishop Carlo Viganò alleges that Francis was warned about abuse by disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, but helped cover up the allegations.
The Pennsylvania report also identified at least four alleged abusers who spent part of their ministries in New Jersey.
“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,” Grewal vowed. “No person is above the law and no institution is immune from accountability. We will devote whatever resources are necessary to uncover the truth and bring justice to victims.”
The press release also announced a toll-free, 24-hour hotline (855-363-6548) for receiving allegations of abuse, and a “comprehensive review of existing agreements between the Catholic dioceses of New Jersey and state law enforcement,” to ascertain whether diocese have complied with reporting procedures they’ve agreed to since 2002.
"We welcome the attorney general's investigation. We regret that in decades past, some in the Church failed in their responsibility to protect children," said New Jersey Catholic Conference executive director Patrick Brannigan. “However, today, no institution, public or private, has done more to prevent abuse than the Catholic Church in New Jersey. We will remain vigilant to ensure a safe environment for every child we serve.”