New York state justice announced Tuesday an unprecedented legal agreement with the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo to put under surveillance priests suspected of sexual abuse, after decades of scandals and omerta of the American Church.
The Catholic Church in the United States is often shaken by revelations of sexual crimes committed by priests, especially against children. In December 2019, Pope Francis announced the resignation of Bishop Richard Malone, Bishop of Buffalo, the second city in New York State, implicated for his handling of a pedophilia scandal.
Following investigations in all eight dioceses in the state and a November 2020 complaint from New York Attorney General (equivalent to local Attorney General) Letitia James, the Diocese of Buffalo and its priests— suspected "credibly" of sexual abuse or complicity - will now have to submit to the control of judicial officials and police.
The audits will be overseen by a former executive of the federal police (FBI), Kathleen McChesney, a specialist in sex scandals within the American Catholic Church, according to a press release from the prosecutor James.
“The Diocese of Buffalo and its leaders have, for too long, failed in their primary mission of guiding and protecting our children,” castigated the elected Democrat from New York State.
She lamented that "by choosing to defend the perpetrators of sexual abuse rather than the most fragile, the Diocese of Buffalo and its leaders have damaged the confidence of the faithful and provoked in many a crisis of beliefs".
The Catholic Church of Buffalo, which represents 600.000 parishioners, will now have to submit to the "control and responsibility" of New York state justice, wrote Ms. James, hammering that "no one is above the law and those who violate it in New York State will always be held to account.”
The two former bishops of Buffalo, Richard Malone and Edward Grosz, will never again be able to hold office in religious or secular charities in New York.
In addition to the Diocese of Buffalo, whose crisis has been known since 2018, the former bishop of the state capital Albany, Mrg Howard Hubbard, had admitted under oath in court in 2021 to having been aware for 25 years, from 1977 in 2002, of sexual abuse of minors by his co-religionists. Without ever taking appropriate measures.
His testimony was not made public until last March.
The Editorial Board (with AFP)