More Than 300 Catholic Clergy in New Jersey Have Been Accused of Sex Abuse, Report Says
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The names of 311 members of the Catholic clergy accused of sexual abuse in New Jersey were released Monday, in a report compiled by lawyers who represent abuse survivors.
The report, by the Minnesota-based law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates, names priests, deacons, nuns, and other religious figures associated with the five Roman Catholic dioceses in New Jersey — including members of religious orders. The report’s breadth far outstrips the list that the dioceses released last February that named 188 diocesan priests and deacons credibly accused of abusing children.
“Back in February, Cardinal Tobin and the other bishops in New Jersey made a conscious effort to release the name of certain priest abusers,” said Greg Gianforcaro, an attorney who helped release the list, according to NJ.com. “They have claimed to be open and transparent. Their list was horrendously inadequate.”
Jeff Anderson & Associates’ report comes weeks after the law firm held press conferences in New Jersey and New York to accuse the Boy Scouts of America of hiding child abusers. Naming the New Jersey clergy also coincides as the governor mulls signing a bill into law that would open up a two-year window when survivors of sex abuse could sue their attackers and the institution they represented, no matter how long ago the abuse took place.
That could open up the Catholic dioceses in New Jersey to massive liability. Last year, they announced that they planned to open up a program to independantly compensate survivors of clergy sex abuse. People who were abused by members of a religious order, as opposed to diocesan officials, would not be eligible for that program.
The legislatures of Montana and Washington, D.C., have also passed similar bills this year, according to the anti-child abuse advocacy group Child USA. New York’s governor already signed his state’s version into law.
The law firm derived the accusations and details in the report released Monday from lawsuits, settlements, claims to the dioceses, and other public records. Most of the allegations were settled or not fully evaluated in court, according to the report.
“Accordingly, the allegations should be considered just allegations and should not be considered proved or substantiated in a court of law,” the report cautions. “All individuals should be considered innocent until proven guilty. In some situations, the statute of limitations has expired preventing the cases from being heard in a court of law.”
In a statement to NJ.com, the Archdiocese of Newark said it’s committed to supporting victims and helping them heal.
“We continue to focus on transparency and accountability and to reinforcing established reporting and prevention policies and programs to protect minors and support victims in our parishes, schools and ministries,” the archdiocese said.
Late last year, after a Pennsylvania grand jury found that hundreds of priests had abused children in that state, New Jersey officials started an investigation into allegations of clergy sex abuse across the state.
“We’re going to be publishing a report similar to the Pennsylvania report,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said, according to NJ.com. “The people of this state have a right to know.”
Cover image: In this Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012 file photo, a large crowd attends a Mass at Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)