By Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent
MANHATTAN — A new report has found that the Archdiocese of New York is fully compliant with the U.S. bishops’ policy of zero tolerance and that no priests or deacons in active ministry have had claims of abuse substantiated.
“I have found that the Archdiocese has complied with the Charter in all material respects. It has faithfully followed its policies and procedures and responded appropriately to abuse complaints, and is committed to supporting victims-survivors of abuse,” the report states.
The report, which was released on Sept. 30, was written by Judge Barbara Jones, who was commissioned by Cardinal Timothy Dolan to serve as an independent investigator into the archdiocese’s handling of cases of abuse.
Among its findings, the report said the archdiocese follows “strict” procedures of reporting abuse complaints to civil authorities immediately after receiving them and then afterward initiates its own investigation through a lay review board.
“If the allegation is substantiated, the Board recommends to the Cardinal that the cleric be permanently removed from ministry,” the report states. “Cardinal Dolan accepts the Board’s recommendation and has never returned a cleric to ministry against whom there has been a substantiated complaint.”
The report notes that the archdiocese has paid more than $67 million to 338 victim-survivors through its Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, a voluntary program where abuse claims are settled outside of court.
Jones recommends that the archdiocese continue to operate the program and to compensate other survivors of abuse who may come forward.
She also recommends that the archdiocese switch to an electronic document system within the Office of Priest Personnel to properly track cases and to digitize the files of priests.
“My recommendation was directed at the Office of Priest Personnel, but the Archdiocese has gone further: it has purchased a system for the entire chancery with implementation to begin in the Priest Personnel Office next month,” she notes in the report.
Among the other recommendations she made is the hiring of a full-time person to handle abuse complaints and another full-time compliance officer for the Office of Priest Personnel “to monitor its functions and oversee the new document management system.”
She also recommends that the archdiocese continue to work with the 10 New York-area district attorneys and to update its protocols to include reporting procedures for cases of abuse against nonconsenting adults and for that of abuse by other employees and volunteers.
In August, New York’s Child Victims Act took effect. It allows for a yearlong period for victims to file suit against the church and other institutions in which the statute of limitations for such cases had previously passed.
To date, more than 500 lawsuits have been filed as a result of New York’s look-back window. Experts predict that number will increase significantly over the next year.