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NYC Archdiocese To Report Sex Abuse

May 15, 2002 | UPI

The head of the New York City archdiocese sent a letter to prosecutors saying the archdiocese will now send any sexual-abuse allegations to prosecutors, prosecutors said Wednesday.

"I'm certainly pleased that the archdiocese has addressed our concerns about sending sexual abuse allegations directly to prosecutors without the buffer of a panel examining the allegations first," Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro told United Press International. "It's essential that we get information as quickly as possible if we are to make sure that pedophiles don't have access to children."

Pirro had hosted a meeting in her office with prosecutors and the archdiocese to explain why immediate notification was necessary for an investigation.

The New York City Roman Catholic Archdiocese sent a letter Tuesday to the 10 prosecutors whose jurisdiction covers the 2.4 million members in the New York City area. The letter said: "When an archdiocesan official has reason to suspect that a priest has sexually abused a minor, the archdiocese will immediately refer the matter to the appropriate District Attorney's Office for investigation."

With the new policy in place, Pirro said she hoped to get more information on sexual abuse allegations from the archdiocese.

"I'm hoping the church will, as it's promised, send all of the allegations concerning sexual abuse," Pirro said. "It's curious that the sexual abuse allegations referred to us by the church, so far, were all beyond the statute of limitations."

New York Cardinal Edward Egan and Brooklyn Bishop Thomas Daily have reversed their policies concerning allegations of sexual abuse concerning priests and church workers a couple of times in the last few months.

At first, they refused to release any information concerning priests accused of sexual abuse, but they relented last month after Pirro had written a letter on behalf of all of the prosecutors requesting the archdiocese to release a list of names of those who had been accused of sexual misconduct.

The archdiocese said it will report any new allegations to law enforcement officials if there was "reasonable cause and if the victim doesn't object."

However, some in law enforcement had complained that the information passed on to prosecutors was incomplete and not current enough to be prosecuted.

"I strongly urge anyone who was a victim of or witness to an incident of sexual abuse to come forward without hesitation," Pirro said. "We set up a hot line, (914) 995-4031, so that anyone with information can speak with trained staff because even if the allegations go back decades, it important to an investigation."

Even if a person alleges sexual abuse dating back to the 1970s, prosecutors can check if there are any more allegations, if that person is still in their jurisdiction and if that person has access to children, Pirro added.

"The recidivism rate for pedophiles is about 50 percent to 60 percent and today a sex abuser who abused another eight children after he had served time in prison and said 'don't let me out because I'll do it again,'" Pirro said.

Pirro announced Wednesday that she will take out an ad in a Westchester newspaper, The Journal, that reads, "There's no place for abuse in any religion," that includes the symbols for Christianity, Orthodox Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism.

"It's essential that anyone with information contact with authorities in order to further our inquiry -- the day the hot line was announced last month we got 28 calls," Pirro said. "It's important that people recognize that not only one religion is involved and this can involve any member of the clergy."

Over the weekend, The Washington Post reported that according to a 1997 civil lawsuit against the Bridgeport Diocese, which Egan once headed, the cardinal had said he would not summarily suspend a priest in light of sexual abuse allegations.

According to the Post, Egan met with the Rev. Laurence Brett in 1990 because the priest said that past allegations might interfere with his work.

Egan said Brett made a "good impression on me and that he was inclined to write Brett a letter encouraging him to continue with his work." Later, Egan suspended Brett after more sexual allegations were made against him and Brett was barred from the active priesthood.

Last month, Daily told prosecutors he wouldn't screen sexual abuse allegations but would send all allegations to prosecutors.

The New York Archdiocese encompasses all eastern New York countries north to Duchess and Ulster County, except the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

"Brooklyn was once a city separate from New York City and thus had it's own diocese and it remained that way even after Brooklyn became a part of New York City," Brooklyn Diocese spokesman Frank DeRosa, told United Press International. "Later the two counties of Long Island were broken off from the Brooklyn Diocese to form the Diocese of Rockville Center."

The spokesman for the archdiocese did not return UPI's phone calls.


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