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If you were sexually abused as a child by a priest, deacon or any other member of the Catholic Church, you are not aloneWe are here to help you.  Please fill out our confidential online contact form or call Toll Free 1-866-777-2557 and a New YorkSexual Abuse Lawyer will get back to you within 24 hours to discuss your possible case.   Help is available nationwide.  There is no cost to investigate and there are no legal fees unless you receive financial compensation.  Making the call is sometimes the hardest step, but it is often a necessary step on the road to healing.  Priest Sexual Abuse Lawyer New York

Reasons to call

  • Hold the church and priests accountable
  • Prevent this from happening to someone else
  • Help with the road to recovery – settlement money can provide financial security for you.  It can also help pay for therapy, rehabilitation, and medical treatment

Please call Toll Free 1-866-777-2557 or fill out our confidential contact form and a lawyer will get back to you within 24 hours to discuss your case.  New York Priest Sexual Abuse Lawyer

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Catholic Dioceses Subpoenaed in New York

This past August, a Pennsylvania grand jury released its 1,400 page report on child sexual abuse at the hands of priests and clergy after an 18 month long investigation. The results of the investigation blew open the lid on the mass sexual abuse of children and the extensive efforts of the church to cover it all up. The investigation went back over 40 years and determined that 301 men of the cloth had molested, raped, and taken pornographic photographs of more than 1,000 confirmed victims. What’s worse is that those numbers are only of the confirmed victims. Investigators believe there are thousands more victims who haven’t stepped forth or been identified.

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Response to the grand jury’s report has impacted people across the nation and the world, as many of the priests named in the report served in multiple states and even some in multiple countries. In a positive move, attorneys general throughout the U.S. have said they will investigate the Catholic Church in their own states to make sure victims are heard and that church pedophiles are criminally investigated. Some states have said they will do what they can to increase the statute of limitations so victims who are now adults can proceed with litigation.

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New York AG Opens Investigation

Attorney General for New York, Barbara Underwood, has subpoenaed every diocese in her state. In the subpoenas she has asked for all documents related to sexual abuse, reports or statements of church findings, and documents and amounts of payouts related to settlements with abuse victims.

AG offices throughout the U.S. have different legal authority. In some states, they have the ability to convene grand juries and to pursue criminal investigations. AG Underwood’s office doesn’t have that authority. She will have to reach out to local district attorneys to help with her investigation due to her limited official abilities.

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AG Underwood has vowed to bring justice to any victims in New York. However, New York is notorious for protecting the perpetrators and the ability to sue or seek legal recourse is very difficult. Victims of the church’s abuse have said that although the settlements help them to heal, what is more important is that the church is held accountable for the gross negligence and overt coverup it has been guilty of for years, not just in the U.S., but around the world.

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Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program for Diocese of Rockville Centre
In October of 2017, the Diocese of Rockville Centre in the state of New York announced that they would be implementing the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP). This is following the establishment of a similar program by the Diocese of Brooklyn earlier in the year. The purpose of the IRCP is to provide monetary compensation settlements to survivors of sexual abuse from priests and deacons within the Diocese. Although it is a voluntary program, it also comes on the heels of the failure of the Child Victims Act of New York that would have given all victims of child sexual abuse a one-year window to file lawsuits against their abusers.

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Throughout the process of legislation for the Child Victims Act of New York, the Catholic Church became a strong voice of opposition to the passing of the bill—helping to solidify its failure in the state Senate. This has drawn criticism from victim advocacy groups and the victims themselves, and receiving compensation from the IRCP results in a victim being required to waive their right to any future legal action against the parties involved.
Like the IRCP of the Diocese of Brooklyn, there are two phases to the Rockville Centre program. In Phase One, only victims who previously had made a complaint regarding sexual abuse to the Diocese is eligible for compensation. In Phase Two of the program, new claims can be submitted and the following will take place:

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• The Diocese will submit the claim of sexual abuse to the local District Attorney
• Each claim will be investigated by independent investigators through the Diocese
• The claim will also be reviewed through the Diocese’s internal review process

The IRCP of Rockville Centre will be administered by Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, and they will have the final say in the awarded compensation to each individual case. The Church will not have the authority to appeal or refuse the determined financial award for any case, and the Diocese has stated that they will be paying these claims through investment returns and insurance programs.   

Although acknowledgement and financial settlement from the Diocese of Rockville Center through the IRCP is a step towards bringing healing to past victims of child sexual abuse within the Church, there is more work to be done. Abuse within the religious organization is a grave concern that spans generations, and additional legislative action would go a long way for the state of New York offering adequate protection to the victims of child sexual abuse.

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Challenges and Controversies of the New York Child Victims Act

For over a decade, Rep. Margaret M. Markey has fought to have a version of the Child Victims Act passed into New York law. This bill would allow for a greatly extended statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims, along with providing a one-year window where victims of any age could file suit against their abusers. While it has become clear that the strict limitations of current New York laws governing the statute of limitations for sexual abuse are not serving victims, this bill has continually been plagued by controversy and opposition. In June of 2017, the Child Victims Act of New York was once again killed in the Senate to the dismay of the public, advocacy groups, and many government representatives.

There were several challenges and controversies surrounding this legislation that ultimately prevented it from becoming law, despite the fact that similar bills have been passed in other states. These issues include: 

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• Focus on Private Organizations: Unlike the original Child Victims Act introduced in 2008, the most recent version allowed for a one-year window for victims of any age to file a claim against private schools and organizations while exempting public schools. This change was met with backlash from several entities, including the Roman Catholic Church, claiming that the legislation unfairly targets them while offering protection to abusers within the public school system.

• Catholic Church Opposition: As one of the loudest voices in opposition to the bill, the Catholic Church has led the fight against the passing of the Child Victims Act. Timothy Cardinal Dolan stated that this bill was “unjust to Catholics”, and claimed that the settlements that would occur as a result of the bill passing would effectively bankrupt the Church and prevent them from doing their charitable work.

• Boy Scouts of America: The Boy Scouts of America also took legal action in opposition to the passing of the Child Victims Act. In fact, paid lobbyist Craig Johnson, a former Senator, represented the Boy Scouts in the opposition—citing similar reasons as the Church.
The opposition to the Child Victims Act has raised considerable criticism and red flags against these organizations, and many are questioning the motives behind opposing a bill that is designed to bring justice to those who experienced child sexual abuse. Despite the setback, controversies, and challenges faced by supporters of the bill, representatives have continued to state that they will reintroduce the legislation.       

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Why Did the New York Child Victims Act Fail?
Over the last decade, government representatives and victim advocacy groups have fought to change outdated New York laws that pertain to the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse victims. Under the current legislation, victims must bring a suit against their abuser by the time that they turn 23, despite the fact that many survivors don’t disclose abuse until well into adulthood. The Child Victims Act was presented as an opportunity to increase the state’s statute of limitations for civil lawsuits until age 50, as well as to increase the limitations on filing criminal law suits to 28 years old.

Unfortunately, the Child Victims Act failed to move through the Senate in June of 2017, effectively killing the bill. This comes after the previous failure of a similar bill in 2008. Despite overwhelming support from survivors of sexual abuse, awareness and advocacy groups, and many state representatives, the opposition to the bill proved to be too much to overcome.

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Who would oppose a bill that was meant to give victims of child sexual abuse recourse for justice against their perpetrators? There were a few powerful organizations that led the fight against the bill being passed, including:

• The New York State Catholic Conference
• The Boy Scouts of America 

Although the Catholic archdiocese in New York originally showed support for the Child Victims Act, they changed their tune when the bill passed the Assembly and moved towards the Senate. The major issue that these groups had with the bill was the fact that, if passed, the legislation would allow for a one-year window where victims of any age could come forward to file suit against abusers and the parties involved—regardless of whether decades had passed since the abuse took place. The Church and groups such as the Boy Scouts of America were concerned about the impact that this window of opportunity to file legal action would have against their organizations.

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In the end, those who opposed the bill were successful, and the legislation never moved to a vote on the Senate floor. There was outcry from many government representatives, along with the public, at the failure of the bill, and the sponsors of the bill have vowed to continue their work to push to have the legislation reintroduced in order to offer greater protection to those who suffered from childhood sexual abuse. It remains to be seen whether the New York government can successfully take the steps needed to follow in the footsteps of other states that have passed bills similar to the Child Victims Act. 

Advocates of Child Victims Act of New York
Although the latest version of the Child Victims Act of New York failed for a second time to pass the New York state Senate in June of 2017, numerous advocates throughout the state and around the country continue to support the change in legislation. Throughout the course of the bill’s history, several lawmakers, advocacy organizations, and the general public have stepped forward in an attempt to bolster support to modify the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse in the state.

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While current law limits a victim to filling a suit prior to their 23rd birthday, this legislation would have given victims a greatly extended window of opportunity to file civil and criminal lawsuits—including a one-year window that would eliminate the statute of limitations for decades-old cases.

At the forefront of the support for the passing of the Child Victims Act was several victim advocacy groups, both in New York and nationwide, including Safe Horizon and the Stop Abuse Campaign. Although the Catholic Church has been overwhelmingly in opposition to the bill, Catholic advocacy groups have come forward in support of the legislation. This was shown in the 2008 attempt to pass the bill when several groups joined Assemblywoman Markey in the Albany Lobby Day. These groups included:

• Call to Action Metro NY
• Call to Action Upstate NY
• Voice of the Faithful NY
• Dignity/NY
• Catholic Whistleblowers

Support for the Child Victims Act hasn’t been limited to victim advocacy groups against child sexual abuse. Several key representatives have also expressed support for the bill, although many were of the Democratic party. These lawmakers included Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, among others.

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The Senate killed both versions of the Child Victims Act of New York before they could be presented for a vote on the Senate floor, citing that there was a lack of support both within the government and the public in passing the legislation.

Many argue that these claims are unfounded, and several campaigns and petitions have been created in the wake of the bill’s failure to reintroduce and pass the Child Victims Act. In response, key lawmakers that have stood in support for the bill, along with the governor of New York, have stated that they plan to continue to reintroduce the legislation to follow suit with other states across the country that have updated their laws regarding the prosecution of offenders of child sexual abuse.

Church’s Opposition of the New York Child Victims Act
In both 2008 and 2017, there was vocal opposition against the passing of the New York Child Victims Act by the Catholic Church. Despite the research that shows New York’s limited statute of limitations for child abuse claims may not offer adult victims the justice that they deserve, the Catholic Church has insisted that this bill would do more harm than good.

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There were several changes to legislation within both versions of the Child Victims Act, but the one that the Church was most concerned with was the one-year window where victims of any age could file a claim against their abuser and associate parties. With a decades-long history of internally covering-up and mishandling child sexual abuse claims within the religious organization, the New York dioceses were concerned over the impact that this law would have on them. 

A Decade of Church Opposition to the Child Victims Act

In 2008, the opposition of the Church was led by the Bishop Nicholas A. DiMario of the Diocese of Brooklyn. Calling the bill “anti-Catholic”, he claimed that waiving the statute of limitations would cripple the church financially and lower their ability to fund humanitarian efforts within the community.

In 2017, Timothy Cardinal Dolan was at the forefront of the Catholic Church’s opposition of the bill. During the state Catholic Conference, Dolan joined with New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms to attempt to garner support for not letting this bill pass into law. Again citing financial concerns, Dolan reiterated that it was impractical for the Church to pay out the massive amount of money it would take to settle all of the claims of child sexual abuse for the last several decades.

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The opposition of the Catholic Church to the Child Victims Act has raised red flags for the general public and for lawmakers that support changing New York’s statute of limitations. Many are questioning the Church’s motives in protecting offenders over the victims. Despite the opposition being successful in killing both attempts at passing the Child Victims Act, supporters have pledged to continue with the mission of reforming New York law for child abuse victims.  

Church Response to the Failure of the Bill

When the Child Victims Act failed in 2017, the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Diocese of Rockville Centre decided to take matters into their own hands. They created what is known as the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program that was designed to provide monetary settlements to those who experienced child sexual abuse within their jurisdictions. While some say this was a step in the right direction, others oppose this initiative due to the fact that victims who receive a settlement must agree to waive all future rights to further legal action.

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Setbacks of Child Victims Act of New York

The Child Victims Act of New York is a bill that has been introduced twice, yet has ultimately failed in both attempts in the New York state Senate. Spearheaded by Assemblywoman Margaret M. Markey, this bill was an attempt to modify the outdated statute of limitations of New York law concerning child sexual abuse. Under current law, the victim must file a claim against the offender and associated parties before their 23rd birthday—making it difficult for survivors who have delayed disclosure of the abuse until adulthood to seek justice for the crimes committed against them.

Although there were numerous supporters of the Child Victims Act in both the state government, the public, and in victim advocacy groups, this bill ultimately faced several setbacks, including: 

• Opposition: There was vocal opposition from powerful organizations against the passing of the Child Victims Act of New York. Most notably, the Roman Catholic Church and groups such as the Boy Scouts of America expressed their opposition to the one-year window included in the bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations. This opposition eventually became too much to overcome and played a significant role in the failure of the bill to pass the Senate.

• 2008 Failure: Although the original version of the Child Victims Act of New York passed the Assembly in 2006, 2007, and 2008, it eventually was blocked by the state Senate in June of 2009. The bill was never voted on by the Senate, as it was pulled from the calendar due to Assembly leaders being convinced that Markey did not have enough votes to proceed with passing the bill.

• 2017 Failure: A modified version of the Child Victims Act was again introduced to the New York government a decade after the original bill failed to pass. Although there was widespread support and several other states had successfully passed similar legislation, the Senate once again chose not to vote on this legislation, and it was effectively killed by the Senate in June of 2017.

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Despite the setbacks spanning over a decade related to the Child Victims Act, several state representatives continue to push forward and have announced their intention to reintroduce the legislation in the near future. Out of all of the states in the country, New York continues to lag behind in updating laws to reflect current research and data regarding victims of child sexual abuse, and supporters of the bill believe that a modification of the statute of limitations is the only way that these victims can seek justice against the offenders.