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New York Archdiocese To Send Abuse Allegations Straight To Prosecutors

May 16, 2002 | AP

In a departure from earlier policy, the Archdiocese of New York said it will report sexual abuse allegations directly to prosecutors without first conducting an internal review.

Area prosecutors were notified of the new policy on Tuesday.

"When the archdiocese has reason to suspect that a priest has sexually abused a minor, it will report the complaint to the appropriate district attorney's office without review by any advisory committee," the policy says.

The archdiocese serves 2.4 million Catholics in parts of New York City and in seven suburban counties.

Under a previous policy that went into effect on April 8, complaints brought to the church were to be reviewed by a panel of church officials and lay members, who would then decide which allegations to report to authorities. The policy encouraged accusers to go to the authorities.

The neighboring Brooklyn and Rockville Centre dioceses have also agreed to forward allegations against priests without first conducting their own screening.

All three dioceses — serving a total of about 4.5 million Catholics — have revised their policies on several occasions in recent months.

Moving incrementally, they have gone from handing over nothing to prosecutors, to handing over information on past cases, to agreeing to hand over all new allegations.

The Rev. Tom Reese, editor of America, a national Catholic magazine, said a trend is under way in the American church to do away with review boards.

"I think that what we see happening is that the bishops are deciding that simply because nobody trusts them anymore, they are turning over everything to the prosecutors and then it's up to the prosecutors to decide what is credible," he said.

In other developments:

In Maryland, a judge denied bail and ordered a psychological evaluation for a man charged with shooting a priest he says abused him when he was a teen-ager. Dontee Stokes, 26, wounded the Rev. Maurice Blackwell on Monday after the priest refused to talk to him, police said.

A New Orleans man said Msgr. Wesley Landry paid him about dlrs 100,000 for sex over the past 45 years. Richard Bono, 57, said the abuse began when he was 11 or 12 and lasted until about six months ago. Landry and his attorney did not return calls seeking comment. A spokesman for the New Orleans Archdiocese said it paid Bono dlrs 7,000 in 1993 to get a release from liability and Landry also retired that year.

A spokeswoman for Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina said Cardinal Bernard Law of the Boston Archdiocese recommended the Rev. George Berthold for a teaching job in 1997, two years after Law dismissed the priest for kissing a 19-year-old seminarian.

The Westchester County, N.Y., district attorney said she is taking out an advertisement in a White Plains newspaper Thursday to solicit reports of sexual abuse by clergy.

The number of recent lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky, reached 60 after six more men alleged that church officials ignored their complaints of sexual abuse.

In New Hampshire, more than a dozen lawsuits were filed by people who say they were sexually molested by Roman Catholic priests between 1945 and 1980. The lawsuits, filed by lawyer Mark Abramson in Hillsborough County, named nine priests and one teacher.

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