New York Archdiocese to send abuse allegations straight to prosecutors

Wednesday, May 15th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ In a departure from earlier policy, the Archdiocese of New York said Wednesday it will report sexual abuse allegations directly to prosecutors, without first conducting an internal review.

Metropolitan-area prosecutors were notified of the new policy on Tuesday.

``When the archdiocese has reason to suspect that a priest has sexually abused a minor, it will report the complaint to the appropriate district attorney's office without review by any advisory committee,'' the policy says.

The archdiocese serves 2.4 million Catholics in parts of New York City and in seven suburban counties.

Under a previous policy that went into effect on April 8, complaints brought to the church were to be reviewed by a panel of church officials and lay members, who would then decide which allegations to report to authorities. The policy encouraged accusers to go to the authorities.

The neighboring Brooklyn and Rockville Centre dioceses have also agreed to forward allegations against priests without first conducting their own screening.

All three dioceses _ serving a total of about 4.5 million Catholics _ have revised their policies on several occasions in recent months.

Moving incrementally, they have gone from handing over nothing to prosecutors, to handing over information on past cases, to agreeing to hand over all new allegations.

The Rev. Tom Reese, editor of America, a national Catholic magazine, said a trend is under way in the American church to do away with review boards.

``I think that what we see happening is that the bishops are deciding that simply because nobody trusts them anymore, they are turning over everything to the prosecutors and then it's up to the prosecutors to decide what is credible,'' he said.