ALBANY, N.Y. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The district attorney of Albany County is on board with the idea of investigating New York's Catholic dioceses for covering up sexually abusive priests.
In a statement from the district attorneys association on Friday, Albany County District Attorney David Soares said, "The horrific findings in Pennsylvania show the need for a similar investigation in New York State. We owe it to past victims and current victims to fully investigate sexual abuse crimes."
Soares also stated, "I have encouraged District Attorneys in all counties to work in conjunction with the Attorney General's office to investigate all allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and to use District Attorneys' power to convene grand juries when necessary. Our victims and our children deserve no less."
Later on Friday, a spokesperson for the New York Attorney General's office said that Attorney General Barbara Underwood "has directed her Criminal Division leadership to reach out to local District Attorneys — the only entities that currently have the power to convene a grand jury to investigate these matters — in order to establish a potential partnership on this issue."
Underwood's spokesperson continued, "Make no mistake, the only way justice can fully and truly be served in these cases is if the Legislature passes the Child Victims Act. Victims of abuse deserve their day in court — and justice."
The Child Victims Act is a bill in New York that would remove the statute of limitations for sexual abuse of minors. Removing the statute of limitations would allow victims to bring forth allegations against their abusers, no matter how much time has passed since the incident.
Currently in New York, the statute of limitations expires when the victim turns 23.
The Child Victims Act passed in the New York State Assembly on May 1. It will be put up for vote in the state Senate, where some say it is unlikely to pass.
The New York Catholic Conference of Bishops, headed by Cdl. Timothy Dolan of the archdiocese of New York, has spent $2.1 million in lobbying fees to opposed the Child Victims Act. Dolan told Gov. Andrew Cuomo back in March, "The look back we find to be very strangling because we, unfortunately, have precedent."
"When that happens, the only organization targeted is the Catholic Church," he said.
This news from New York comes in the fallout from the Pennsylvania grand jury report, which detailed allegations of sex abuse against some 300 priests in six dioceses, with more than 1,000 victims.
Earlier this month, in the wake of the sex abuse scandal implicating ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Albany's Bp. Edward Scharfenberger called for an independent lay board to investigate the bishops and dioceses of the United States.
In a statement on Aug. 6, Bp. Scharfenberger wrote, "I think we have reached a point where bishops alone investigating bishops is not the answer. To have credibility, a panel would have to be separated from any source of power whose trustworthiness might potentially be compromised."
This differed from proposals by prelates like Cdl. Donald Wuerl, who said the U.S. bishops should investigate themselves.