New York attorney general Barbara Dale Underwood has subpoenaed all New York Roman Catholic dioceses as part of a state-wide investigation into sex crimes committed by the church, according to reports.
A law enforcement source familiar with the investigation, but not authorized to speak publicly, said the subpoenas were issued Thursday. The subpoenas reportedly 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 Attorney General’s office has not issued a statement on the matter.
In addition, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced Thursday that his office will form “a task force to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy within the Catholic dioceses of New Jersey, as well as any efforts to cover up such abuse.”
“I was deeply troubled to read the allegations contained in last month’s Pennsylvania grand jury report,” Grewal said in a statement. “The report revealed that sexual assaults on children – and efforts to cover up such assaults – were far more widespread in Pennsylvania than we ever thought possible. We owe it to the people of New Jersey to find out whether the same thing happened here. If it did, we will take action against those responsible.”
MORE: New Jersey attorney general "forming a task force to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy within the Catholic dioceses of New Jersey, as well as any efforts to cover up such abuse." https://t.co/4YfYuuE2CT pic.twitter.com/MXoGcZCzRc
— ABC News (@ABC) September 6, 2018
Reports of the subpoenas come as the church faces increased scrutiny of its handling of rampant child sex abuse dating back decades. As Breitbart News extensively reported, at least 1,000 children were found to have been molested by over 300 Roman Catholic priests across six Pennsylvania dioceses, as senior church officials took steps to cover it up, according to a landmark grand jury report released in August. “The cover-up was sophisticated. And all the while, shockingly, church leadership kept records of the abuse and the cover-up,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told reporters. “These documents, from the dioceses’ own ‘Secret Archives,’ formed the backbone of this investigation.”
As a new wave of abuse scandals rock the Roman Catholic church, critics say the Diocese of Lincoln is now paying the price for its unwillingness to change and lack of transparency.
Accusers have been coming forward in recent weeks with allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct by clergy in Nebraska, and the diocese is facing a potential criminal investigation and criticism that it mishandled abusive priests even as it should have been subjected to increased scrutiny after the Boston scandal.
From 2002 to 2015, leaders of the Lincoln diocese refused to participate in annual audits designed to uncover sex abuse allegations and gauge how well church officials were complying with child-protection policies. Church leaders called the audits a pointless endeavor that assumed wrongdoing by the diocese and its priests, but one of the bishops during that period knew of at least two allegations against priests, according to interviews and a letter obtained by The Associated Press.
In wake of the scandal, Pope Francis has been met with fierce criticism from inside and outside the church for response to the explosive allegations. In what many perceive to have been a tone-deaf message to parishes, the embattled Pope Monday recommended silence and prayer to counter those who “only seek scandal,” division and destruction in response to allegations that he had covered up for a U.S. cardinal embroiled in sex abuse scandals.
“With people lacking good will, with people who only seek scandal, who seek only division, who seek only destruction, even within the family — silence, prayer” is the path to take, Francis said in his homily during morning Mass at the Vatican hotel where he lives.
One of Pope Francis’ leading critics said Thursday he was “deeply shaken” by accusations of a sex abuse cover-up against the pontiff and wants an investigation, but is still pressing Francis to respond to an earlier set of questions about his views on marriage.
American Cardinal Raymond Burke denied Thursday he had any prior knowledge of the accusation penned by the former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. The two are like-minded conservatives and have shared the podium at traditionalist conferences before.
Burke said he read Vigano’s 11-page accusation that Francis was complicit in a nearly two-decade cover-up of sexual misconduct allegations against ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick when it was published Aug. 26. He said he was “deeply shaken” by what he read, and has called for an investigation.
But he said more importantly, Francis needs to respond to a set of questions that he and three other conservative cardinals posed over a year ago about Francis’ opening to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics — questions he said are at the heart of the Christian faith.
Burke spoke at a conference Thursday marking the first anniversary of the death of one of the questions’ co-authors, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, the retired archbishop of Bologna.
Burke, Caffarra and two others formally asked Francis to clarify certain questions, or “dubia,” raised by his 2016 document “The Joy of Love,” in which he seemed to open the door to letting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion.
Francis yet to respond.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.