AG Agreement An Opportunity to Improve

The New York state Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday, April 16, the results of an investigation into the initiatives taken by the Diocese of Brooklyn in its handling of clergy sexual abuse allegations over the past 22 years, while also announcing that her office had come to an agreement with the diocese on measures to take going forward.

While the faithful may find many of the details of the investigation difficult to read, the document has the framework to move the diocese forward in its long-time commitment to heal the damage caused by the Church to the many victim-survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

In fact, the agreement may be a blessing in disguise. It was a balanced report that also highlighted many of the initiatives taken by the diocese under Bishop Emeritus Nicholas DiMarzio’s ministry, as well as new measures put in place by Bishop Robert Brennan.

First and foremost, attention should be paid to the victim-survivors of abuse. The diocese has provided many services to the victim-survivors and will continue in its efforts to help with the healing, which includes the annual Mass of Hope and Healing. All victim-survivors are given the opportunity to access counseling at the diocese’s expense, and they can meet with the bishop to discuss their own experience and to give advice on how to move forward.

In April 2022, Bishop Brennan made effective the diocese’s new “Policies and Procedures Regarding Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons,” or what’s commonly known as the “Diocesan SAP Policy.”

These initiatives built on earlier policies that codified that reporting of sexual abuse of minors must be referred to appropriate law enforcement officials as quickly as possible. The provision of bringing in a monitor to ensure that all these measures are carried out in a timely manner is a very important tenet.

It will allow for an independent layperson to monitor all manners of the agreement. Now the diocese can take a fresh look at all it has done and what it can do in the immediate future to continue on its path of reconciliation.

In regards to the agreement, James’ press release gave the impression that the diocese hasn’t done anything and only grudgingly cooperated with the state investigation. However, the full report clearly states the diocese has made many strides in this area and turned over all pertinent documents for the probe.

Most secular news outlets focused solely on the AG’s press release. They obviously did not take the time to read the full report. If they did, their reporting would likely be more balanced and not read like the AG’s press release. Beyond this, once again, concern for the victim-survivors is paramount. With the settlement, the diocese can move forward with its mission, while always reamining committed to the faithful.