The report examines all allegations of abuse made against priests who served in LI churches and whether the complaints are credible.
“A report released on Monday by a group of attorneys seeks to compile all of the allegations of sexual abuse made against priests in the Diocese of Rockville Centre into one place so residents can more easily find out if priests in their parishes have had abuse allegations made against them, and if those allegations were credible.
The report, titled “Hidden Disgrace II,” was compiled by the attorney group Lawyers Helping Survivors of Child Sex Abuse. It is a group of attorneys made up of lawyers from the firms of Weitz & Luxenberg P.C; James, Vernon & Weeks, P.A.; and Noaker Law Firm LLC, to help victims of child sexual assault.
The organization said that, while all of the info in its report had been publicly available, it was spread across several sources and not in any format that was easy for people to find and search, and it was not available from the diocese.
“The public needs more information about these alleged predators and the churches, schools and communities where they worked,” said attorney Jerry Kristal, of Weitz & Luxenberg. “The Rockville Centre Diocese’s silence on the issue has only served the accused abusers and left survivors and local communities in the dark. Hidden Disgrace II seeks to bring more attention to the important issue of clergy sex abuse on Long Island to help survivors heal and hold the Church accountable.”
The report includes information on 51 priests and others who worked in churches across Long Island who were accused of sexual abuse. The priests worked at more than 100 churches over the decades. However, the report notes that most of the allegations it includes were never tried in court because they were reported after the statute of limitations expired, and therefor should not be considered substantiated unless indicated otherwise.
The report was created from media reports and online sources, including bishopaccountability.org, a website that tracks sex abuse in the Catholic Church. It builds on a 2003 Suffolk County grand jury report that detailed, but did not name, 23 priests accused of abuse in Rockville Centre. The grand jury report also discussed efforts by the Diocese to conceal the abuse.
The diocese did not immediately return calls for comment on the report. However, days before it was released, the diocese announced that its Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy was moving into Phase II. The program allows qualifying survivors to confidentially report abuse and seek settlements with the church. Phase I, which is open to those who have already reported abuse to the Church, is currently underway and closes on March 31, 2018. Phase II closes on April 30, 2018. People can still submit new claims to the diocese through Phase II by visiting the diocese’s website and clicking on “Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program.” New York’s statute of limitations on child sexual abuse prevents survivors from taking criminal or civil action against their abusers after they reach the age of 24
“We are heartened to see survivors come forward in Phase I,” said Diocese of Rockville Centre Bishop John Barres. “We pray that others find the strength to come forward at this time with the hope of experiencing some measure of healing and reconciliation. As a Church, we recognize that no amount of monetary compensation could ever erase or undo the grave harm suffered by survivors of child abuse. Still, we embrace Christ’s healing power and the Mission of Mercy of the Catholic Church. We stand in solidarity with our survivors and their families and we continue our commitment and vigilance to the protection of children in our Church and in society.”
“For far too long, survivors of sex abuse in the Rockville Centre diocese were ignored or marginalized,” said attorney Leander James, of James, Vernon & Weeks, P.A. “Now, the church has presented a rare opportunity for survivors through its compensation and reconciliation program, and I encourage all who were harmed to consider their options.””