New York attorney general subpoenas state’s Catholic Church dioceses in sex abuse probe

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NEW YORK – The New York attorney general has issued civil subpoenas for all eight Catholic dioceses in the state as part of a civil investigation into how the dioceses and other parts of the church reviewed and potentially covered up allegations of the sexual abuse of minors, according to a source close to the investigation.

The news comes several weeks after a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing decades of sexual abuse by “predator priests” reignited a firestorm in the global church, prompting church and secular officials in other states to open their own inquiries.

The office of New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood announced the civil investigation Thursday in a statement, which said the office’s Charities Bureau launched the investigation. The dioceses and other parts of the church function as non-profits.

Underwood’s office does not have the authority to take criminal action on its own. District attorneys are the only entities in New York with the power to convene grand juries and pursue criminal charges for alleged abuse still within the statute of limitations.

Last month, the attorney general’s office announced it sought to partner with district attorneys on potential criminal action.

In response to reports of the subpoenas, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York said “it is not a surprise” Underwood’s office would begin an investigation, and that the archdiocese and the other seven dioceses were “ready and eager” to cooperate.

“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,” Joseph Zwilling, the archdiocese’s director of communications, said in a statement.

Zwilling added the district attorneys would share allegations of abuse with the archdiocese in cases in which the state can’t bring charges, so the church could conduct its own investigations and remove anyone “who has a credible and substantiated allegation of abuse.”

“We look forward to receiving the subpoena,” Zwilling said, “and working with the attorney general.”

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