NY AG launching investigation into clergy abuse at Catholic dioceses

The New York Attorney General's Office will be investigating claims of child sex abuse within the New York dioceses of the Catholic Church. (WSTM file photo)

NEW YORK (WHAM/AP) - The New York Attorney General's Office will be investigating claims of child sex abuse within the New York dioceses of the Catholic Church.

AG Barbara Underwood announced Thursday that her office has created a hotline. The hotline number is (800) 771-7755; the website to file a complaint online is here.

All eight Roman Catholic dioceses in the state have been subpoenaed as part of her office's investigation into the church's handling of sex abuse allegations. A law enforcement source familiar with the investigation but not authorized to speak publicly told The Associated Press the subpoenas went out Thursday.

The subpoenas seek documents relating to sexual abuse allegations, financial payments to possible victims or the findings from internal church investigations.

Underwood's office is pursuing a civil investigation into how church leaders responded to reports of abuse.

The announcement comes three weeks after a grand jury investigation found rampant sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children by about 300 priests in Pennsylvania.

In a statement, the Diocese of Rochester said they have received the Attorney General’s subpoena and are reviewing it.

We have a longstanding policy of cooperation with law enforcement and certainly it will continue in this process. We encourage all victims to report to civil authorities. We report to civil authorities allegations of the sexual abuse of a minor.
A detailed list of our initiatives to protect children can be found here.

The Archdiocese of New York released a statement regarding the announcement.

While we have not yet seen a subpoena, it is not a surprise to us that the Attorney General would look to begin a civil investigation, and she will find the Archdiocese of New York, and the other seven dioceses in the state, ready and eager to work together with her in the investigation. Since 2002, the archdiocese has shared with its 10 District Attorneys all information they have sought concerning allegations of sexual abuse of minors, and has established excellent working relationships with each of them. Not only do we provide any information they seek, they also notify us as well when they learn of an allegation of abuse, so that, even if they cannot bring criminal charges, we might investigate and remove from ministry any cleric who has a credible and substantiated allegation of abuse. We look forward to receiving the subpoena, and working with the Attorney General.

Carol Dupre of Spencerport believes her name will be found among the documents collected from the Diocese of Rochester. She claims the priest at the church she attended in Marion abused her in the 1960s.

"I remember him fondling me in a way that was uncomfortable, and I think that I finally told my mom when I got the full kiss on the lips," said Dupre. She said her mom contacted the Diocese of Rochester but never heard back.

Dupre was surprised but pleased to learn of the attorney general's investigation. She says, for her, it's validation.

"It is painful, and you carry it around," she said. "And I've said before, when you grow up as a Catholic, you're pretty much told the priests represent who Jesus is on the earth, and I got a very distorted view of God because of that - one that I'm still getting healed of."

Her attorney, Mitchell Garabedian, who is also representing more than 35 other alleged victims in the Rochester area, believes this could help pass proposed legislation that would change the statute of limitations for sex abuse victims in New York State and give accusers their day in court.

"It’s part of the answer," said Garabedian. "Documents are going to be obtained by an independent organization, and I think it may influence legislatures with regard to statute of limitations vote, so I think we're on the right road."

AP-WF-09-06-18 1705GMT

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