New Jersey Lawmaker Calls for Sex Abuse Investigation into Catholic Church

Joseph Cardinal Tobin gives the homily during a Mass ceremony installing him as the new archbishop of Newark, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, in Newark, N.J. Tobin succeeds Archbishop John Myers, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 in July. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
AP Photo/Julio Cortez

A state senator called on the attorney general to investigate if “generations of hidden sexual abuse” in the Catholic Church occurred in New Jersey, reports

The call for a local investigation comes in the wake of a grand jury report out of Pennsylvania that uncovered decades of child sexual abuse and a cover up that reached all the way to the Vatican.

Over the course of seven decades, the grand jury found that some 1,000 children were sexually abused by 300 priests and Church officials as the Church itself engaged in a system-wide cover up to protect those priests and keep a lid on the scandal.

Referencing Theodore McCarrick, the cardinal removed from ministry over countless allegations of sexual abuse, State Senator Joseph Vitale, a Democrat, said, “Given the wide scope of abuse found in Pennsylvania and the Vatican’s action against McCarrick, we must investigate now. Victims should not have to wait any longer for accountability and for justice.”

Patrick R. Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, responded to Vitale’s request with an anodyne statement. “The Catholic Church in New Jersey looks forward to continuing dialogue with Senator Vitale in his efforts — and our own efforts — to ensure the safety of our children and to help victims of abuse to heal,” he said.

He added, “However, New Jersey is not Pennsylvania.”

The state’s attorney general office says they have not yet made a decision to open an inquiry.

Vitale is also seeking to extend the civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse from two to 20 years, something the Church has always fought against.

“New Jersey’s two-year rule is woefully inadequate and the lowest in the nation,” Vitale said. “I’m sure it wasn’t designed this way, but by default it really is a barrier to justice for a victim. It takes a long time to reconcile what happened to you.”

Two New Jersey Catholics priests — Rev. Gerard Sudol and Rev. Jim Weiner of St. Andrew’s Church in Westwood — were forced to step down just last month due to allegations of sexual misconduct.


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