Just months after the New York Child Victims Act became law, the state’s largest Roman Catholic Archdiocese eleased a list of 120 priests and other clergy credibly accused of child sexual abuse.
“I write to ask forgiveness again for the failings of those clergy and bishops who should have provided for the safety of our young people but instead betrayed the trust placed in them by God and by the faithful,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote in letter to the estimated 2.8 million members of the New York City Archdiocese.
The list names 115 priests and 5 deacons, including 53 who faced credible abuse accusations, criminal convictions, admitted to abuse, or were involved in a civil settlement. According to The New York Times, the remaining died or left the ministry before accusations came to light through the archdiocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program.
The most prominent name on the list is that of Theodore E. McCarrick, the now-defrocked Cardinal and one of the highest-ranking Roman Catholic clergy members ever accused of child sexual abuse.
Most of the abuse allegations referenced in the New York City Archdiocese letter occurred between the 1950s and 1990s.
More than 120 U.S. Catholic Dioceses have published similar lists in a bid to calm outrage over a widespread worldwide clergy abuse scandal that has plagued the Church for decades. However, the New York disclosure did not go as far as many of its counterparts.
“It’s good (the New York Archdiocese) finally put out a list. There are only two other archdioceses in the country that have not,” Terry McKiernan, president and co-director of the watchdog website BishopAccountability.org., told CNN. So they were long overdue.”
“The downside is that it’s a bad list,” he continued. “It leaves off religious order priests. It leaves off so called ‘externs,’ which are priests officially incardinated as they call it in a different diocese but working and sometimes abusing in New York.”
The release of the New York City Archdiocese list comes nearly three months after Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act, which, among other things:
The Roman Catholic Church and other powerful interests had successfully blocked passage of the New York Child Victims Act for over 10 years.
The bill began to move forward following the Democratic takeover of the state legislature last November. The Church finally dropped its opposition when lawmakers agreed to allow civil lawsuits against public entities, as opposed to just private institutions, during the year-long look-back period.
The New York City Archdiocese Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program began processing clergy sexual abuse claims in the Fall of 2016 and paid roughly $60 million to 278 claimants in its first two years of operations. That’s an average payout of nearly $216,000.
Many of those compensated through the program were previously barred from filing civil clergy sexual abuse lawsuits under the old New York law. Because the archdiocese required anyone accepting compensation to waive their right to sue, those claimants won’t be able to pursue civil lawsuits in accordance with the Child Victims Act.
Dioceses throughout the state have established similar programs with identical stipulations.
Some New York state clergy abuse survivors in New York have sought to void their Compensation Fund settlements in the wake of the Child Victims Act’s passage, insisting that the process was unfair. These individuals claim, among other things, that diocesan officials discouraged them from hiring their own attorneys and provided inaccurate information about the pending legislation.
State Sen. Louis Sepulveda, D-Bronx, recently announced that he would introduce legislation to void any settlement agreements between institutions and victims who didn’t have adequate legal representation during negotiations.
“It could be a Boy Scout leader, a rabbi, or any organization where they had this level of a child sexual abuse. If they entered into an agreement with a party, who at the bargaining table was improperly represented by counsel, the matter could be reopened,” Sepulveda told the Albany Times-Union.