Brooklyn Catholic Diocese Settles with New York AG for Mishandling Clergy Sex Abuse Cases

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced an agreement with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn to address years of reported mismanaging clergy sexual abuse cases and for failing to uphold the policies and procedures it adopted for investigating and responding to abuse complaints.

The agreement requires the diocese to take action to prevent and address allegations of clergy sexual abuse and reform past policies, including:

An investigation by the Office of the Attorney General reportedly found the diocese failed to consistently comply with its own policies and procedures for responding to sexual abuse. The diocese established these policies shortly after the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002 following media reports of widespread clergy sexual abuse.

The OAG also found that the diocese’s policies were not adequate to guarantee the safety and protection of children. The diocese did not have policies in place to ensure a prompt and thorough response to allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct. In various matters, the Diocesan Review Board took too long to respond to a complaint or would arbitrarily apply inconsistent standards of proof when evaluating the credibility of an accusation. In certain instances, when an allegation of sexual abuse or misconduct was found to be credible, the Diocese did not disclose that information to the public and failed to sufficiently monitor the accused priests or clergy, according to the OAG.

As part of the settlement, the diocese agreed to enhanced policies and procedures for mitigating risks and managing allegations of clergy sexual abuse and misconduct, including publicly posting an explanation of the complaint and investigation process. The diocese will also post online a confidential portal and telephone number for submitting complaints and will implement a whistleblower policy to protect complainants from retaliation by diocesan officials. The diocese has also committed to accelerated investigations.

Moving forward, the diocese has committed to publicly announce any decisions to remove priests or other clergy members from active ministry by issuing a press release and adding the offender’s name to a published list of credibly accused clergy.

Finally, the diocese’s management of sexual abuse complaints and allegations will be subject to review by an independent monitor.

The OAG acknowledged the diocese’s cooperation with the investigation, negotiation and agreement.

In October 2022, James reached a settlement with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo for mishandling child sexual abuse cases. Investigations into the Archdiocese of New York and the Dioceses of Albany, Ogdensburg, Rochester, Rockville Centre and Syracuse remain ongoing.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg in northern New York said last year that it was filing for bankruptcy protection as it faces more than 100 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse.