NY Archdiocese has been in compliance when handling sexual abuse allegations: Review

The review comes as hundreds of lawsuits make claims under a new legal window.

September 30, 2019, 11:23 AM

A year-long review into how the Archdiocese of New York was handling sexual abuse allegations has prompted some recommendations but found that overall they have been following the rules.

Barbara Jones, a former District Judge, was asked by Cardinal Timothy Dolan to conduct the review which was pegged to whether the archdiocese's policies were in line with those put forth by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002, which was called the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

"Overall, I have found that the Archdiocese has complied with the Charter in all material respects. It has faithfully followed its policies and procedures and responded appropriately to abuse complaints, and is committed to supporting victims-survivors of abuse," Jones wrote in a summary of her findings which was released Monday morning.

The most significant of the recommendations that Jones called for was the hiring of an individual whose sole job will be to oversee how the archdiocese responds to sexual abuse allegations, and to increase safe environment training both in terms of who goes through the training and how often.

PHOTO: Cardinal Timothy Dolan is shown at a press conference, Sept. 30, 2019, in New York.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan is shown at a press conference, Sept. 30, 2019, in New York.
ABC News

She also called for improvements to an existing database that would allow for easier updating and tracking of individuals' information which "will help [the] communication and information flow between the parishes and other organizations," Jones said at a news conference Monday. "This is vital."

Dolan was also at the news conference and said he had been almost holding his breath for the findings of the report.

"I've asked them... not to leave a paper unread and I've held by breath. I'm very grateful and very relieved," Dolan said of the findings.

"I'm trying my best to serve my people. I love them and my main job is to serve them," Dolan said.

Zach Hiner, the executive director of The Survivor's Network, also known as SNAP, told ABC News that "it is good" that Jones "feels confident in her assessment" and he said that they are glad that Dolan, "to the best of Judge Jones' knowledge, has been transparent with her efforts."

"I truly hope that she did receive full access to personnel files," Hiner said.

He did take issue with some of the language in the report summary, however.

"In terms of Judge Jones’ recommendations, it is distressing to learn that reports of 'sexual abuse from non-consenting adults' – carefully sanitized language for the crime of rape – or allegations of abuse by church staff or volunteers are not already included in the Archdiocese’s reporting requirements. These are obvious crimes that should be reported, and it is disappointing that it took a legal review by a judge in 2019 to make this plain. To us, someone who is in 'full compliance' with the charter would already have gone the extra mile to include these crimes underneath the 'zero-tolerance' umbrella," Hiner said in his statement to ABC.

The review of the archdiocese's policies comes at a turbulent time in New York, in particular, as a year-long window opened in August that allows for any victims of child abuse to file civil complaints against accusers regardless of any statutes of limitations in those cases. Hundreds of such lawsuits have been filed since the New York's Child Victim's Act window opened on Aug. 14.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events