NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – There’s been a major shakeup in the Catholic church in response to the continuing sex abuse scandal.
The Archbishop of New York announced Thursday he has hired an independent reviewer to look at how the church handles any accusation of sexual abuse that comes its way.
The announcement from Timothy Cardinal Dolan comes amid a deepening scandal over sexual misconduct within the Catholic church.
Cardinal Dolan says federal Judge Barbara Jones will have complete access to records, personnel, and himself personally.
“I understand summer officially ends on Saturday, and I for one am sure glad it’s over. Many of our people and our priests are calling it the ‘summer of hell,'” Dolan said, citing the scandals of Theodore McCarrick and “the nauseating details of the Pennsylvania grand jury of horrific abuse of minors by priests in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.”
Dolan said he has heard from people what they want in the wake of the scandals.
“I hear they want accountability, transparency, and action,” he said, and introduced Jones, who “will be our special council and reviewer.”
Dolan says he asked Jones for “an exhaustive study of our policies, procedures and protocols on how we deal with any accusation that comes to us about an alleged abuse of a young person by a priest, a deacon or a bishop. I’ve promised her complete access to our records, personnel and to me personally.”
Dolan said the church has taken several steps to address the sex scandal over the past 20 years.
“I’m afraid many don’t believe me. So I’m asking you please to conduct an independent, scrupulous review to see if indeed there are gaps. If there are things we should be doing and are not. And hopefully to affirm that we are doing our best to live up to the promises we bishops made to our people way back in 2002,” Dolan said. “I look forward to receiving your recommendations and your insights, and I pledge that I will take them all with utmost seriousness. And I want you to hold my feet to the fire if you feel that I’m not following through on the recommendations that you make. And most of all I’m praying that your careful review and hard questions will help my good people renew their trust in the church they love and in the leaders they want to believe.”
“Where I see deficiencies or gaps or noncompliance with current procedures, I will identify them to the cardinal for his review and remediation,” Jones said. “The cardinal has asked me to be rigorous in my exam and call out deficiencies as I see them. He has assured me he will take appropriate action as quickly as expeditiously as possible based on my recommendations.”
“The cardinal has told me to leave no stone unturned and to provide him directly with the results of our work,” Jones said.
Dolan sent an announcement to the faithful describing his actions:
Dear Family of the Archdiocese of New York:
Over this difficult summer, I’ve done a lot of listening. Many of you have told me that you are upset, angry, bewildered, and frustrated about the ongoing crisis of sexual abuse in the Church. I am not afraid to say that so am I. This has been a painful period for all Catholics. Some of you may have heard me talk about my own mother, now 90 years old and in assisted living, telling me that she’s embarrassed, as a Catholic, to go into the dining room with her fellow residents.
Most stinging, though, is hearing, “Cardinal Dolan, we are beginning to lose trust in you bishops.” And without that trust, I don’t have a lot left.
Yes, since 2002, the Church has made great strides in combating the crime and sin of sexual abuse of minors, especially by “zero tolerance” of any guilty priest, deacon, or bishop, and by reaching out to victim-survivors, who must remain our first concern. I will be announcing some new initiatives today on how to enhance our efforts to protect children as well as vulnerable adults. I will be putting my statement on my blog at www.cardinaldolan.org, and I hope you take the time to learn about what we’re doing, and that this becomes a good first step in strengthening that trust. But this brief letter is not meant to defend our record or provide a comprehensive list of programs and abuse prevention efforts. There will be time for that later.
I just wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that, as your archbishop, I am with you, and I am committed to transparency, accountability, and action. That’s what I’ve heard you request.
Last week, I had the sad duty of celebrating the funeral Mass of a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, who died way-too-soon at the age of 49. There were several dozen priests present, and, as you would probably expect, the Church’s current crisis was a major topic of discussion.
As the procession made its way down the center aisle at the start of Mass, I was moved and inspired by the huge number of people who were there to pray for the repose of the soul of a man they knew to be a good and faithful priest, and to thank God for the gift of his priesthood. The congregation even stood in a prolonged ovation for him at the end of Mass. “Cardinal Dolan,” the pastor said to me, “The people here loved Father Charlie. They love their faith and their priests. They just want to know that the bishops understand the problem and are acting correctly.”
A good reminder.
Might I ask for your prayers — first and foremost for the victim-survivors of abuse, but also for all of our good and faithful priests and deacons who are suffering, and, finally, for me as your archbishop that the Holy Spirit will guide me as, together, we face this current crisis.
The announcement comes after New York’s attorney general announced that she was doing a comprehensive investigation of how the church and its leaders handled abuse allegations across the state. Dolan’s announcement also comes after Tuesday’s bombshell development by the New Jersey Catholic Conference, saying abuse victims – even those who signed settlement agreements prior to 2002 – can now speak publicly about their ordeal.
“I think perhaps the victims got lost and this behavior was seen as essentially a moral offense, which it is, but it is much more than that,” said William Cardinal Tobin of the Newark Archdiocese.
The U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference issued a dramatic apology Wednesday for the role bishops play in the clergy sex abuse scandal.
“Some bishops, by their action or their failures to act, have caused great harm to both individuals and the church as a whole,” the group said in a statement. They also announced Wednesday they will set up a third-party hotline to field complaints about bishops accused of sexual abuse or harassment.
Two years ago, the New York archdiocese announced a compensation fund for victims of clergy sex abuse willing to forego lawsuits. It has paid out about $60 million so far.
The Manhattan-based archdiocese is the nation’s second biggest after Los Angeles.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)