According to a source familiar with the investigation, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood has subpoenaed all eight Roman Catholic dioceses in the state.
Thursday, Underwood’s office announced a civil investigation into the Church’s handling of sex abuse allegations.
The subpoenas seek documents relating to sexual abuse allegations, financial payments to possible victims, or the findings from internal church investigations.
The Attorney General’s Charities Bureau is looking into how the dioceses and other church entities reviewed and potentially covered up allegations of extensive sexual abuse of minors.
The announcement comes three weeks after a grand jury investigation found rampant sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children by about 300 priests in Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania grand jury called out the Buffalo Diocese for allegedly keeping dangerous priests in parishes with access to children.
James Faluszczak, a former priest in western New York and also an abuse survivor, testified before the grand jury in Pennsylvania.
“Two years ago was when I began my involvement with the Grand Jury investigation in Pennsylvania. And we’ve only just now seen the result of all of that work. And so this really is very much the beginning of this in the state of New York,” Faluszczak said.
New York’s Attorney General’s office cannot convene a grand jury on its own. Last month, Underwood’s office said it will rely upon and work with local district attorneys for any viable criminal prosecutions.
In most cases, criminal charges are off the table due to the statue of limitations.
Underwood is urging state lawmakers to pass the Child Victims Act, which would allow victims to file civil suits until age 50 and seek criminal charges until age 28.
“There are a number of factors here that could very easily frustrate an investigation and one is the continued presence of Bishop Malone, essentially the fox guarding the hen house,” Faluszczak told News 4.
Several survivors, community members, and lawmakers including Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, have called for Bishop Malone to step down as head of the Buffalo Catholic Diocese. The calls for resignation came after allegations that he covered up alleged abuse.
Malone has said he will not resign.
“Our diocese will cooperate with any investigation initiated by the New York State Attorney General or District Attorney,” said a spokesperson for the Buffalo Diocese in a statement.
News 4 reached out to the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan for a comment on this recent civil probe. Director of Communications for the Archdiocese, Joseph Zwiling, issued the following statement:
“While we have just received the subpoena, it is not a surprise to us that the Attorney General would look to begin a civil investigation, and she will find the Archdiocese of New York, and the other seven dioceses in the state, ready and eager to work together with her in the investigation. Since 2002, the archdiocese has shared with its 10 District Attorneys all information they have sought concerning allegations of sexual abuse of minors, and has established excellent working relationships with each of them. Not only do we provide any information they seek, they also notify us as well when they learn of an allegation of abuse, so that, even if they cannot bring criminal charges, we might investigate and remove from ministry any cleric who has a credible and substantiated allegation of abuse. We look forward to reviewing the subpoena, and working with the Attorney General.”
In addition to launching a civil investigation, the Underwood’s office also announced an abuse victim’s hotline, where survivors can call and file a complaint with the AG’s office. That number is 1-800-771-7755. Victims can also file a complaint online at ag.ny.gov/ClergyAbuse