With the clerical sex abuse crisis continuing to unfold across the state's eight dioceses, on Thursday, Assemblywoman Monica P. Wallace (D-Cheektowaga) introduced the CARE Act, a bill to force clergy of all faiths to notify law enforcement of child abuse.
Under current state law, dozens of professions are required to report harm to children, but a "clergy privilege" provision exempts priests from revealing crimes revealed in confession. Under the proposed CARE Act, "Such privilege shall not be grounds for failure to report a case of suspected child abuse or maltreatment."
Neither Wallace's home diocese of Buffalo nor the New York State Catholic Conference have commented on the proposal.
The Empire State has featured heavily in the sex abuse scandals. The archdiocese of New York was home base for serial predator Theodore McCarrick, and it was where his decades of abuse were first exposed, kicking off the "Summer of Shame" last June.
Months later, the archdiocese was again in the headlines for abuse, when Cdl. Timothy Dolan admitted one of his auxiliaries, Bp. John Jenik, had been credibly accused of homosexual assault of a minor.
Under Bp. Howard Hubbard, meanwhile, the diocese of Albany became a predator's playground.
The diocese of Buffalo has been especially hard-hit. In September, a local seminary rector was forced out over abuse.
In October, whistleblower Siobhan O'Connor exposed the depths of cover-up inside the chancery. That same month, the diocese confirmed it was being subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney's Office for a probe into the trafficking of minors across state lines for sexual abuse.
New York's eight dioceses are feeling heat from state lawmakers over clerical sex abuse and cover-up.
In August, Church Militant broke the news that Attorney General Barbara Underwood was preparing an investigation into sex abuse and cover-up by New York Catholic authorities. An Underwood spokesperson confirmed the attorney general's office had "directed her Criminal Division leadership to reach out to local District Attorneys — who are 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."
The following month, Underwood publicly announced an inquiry into all eight of the state's Catholic dioceses.
In January, lawmakers in Albany voted to extend the statute of limitations for the sexual abuse of minors. The Child Victims Act extended the statute of limitations in criminal cases by five years, allowing sex abuse victims to pursue charges against their abusers until age 28. It also permitted victims to file civil suits against predators — and institutions that enable them — until age 55. Crucially, it also opened up a one-time-only, year-long window for all victims of sex abuse to seek civil penalties, regardless of when the abuse happened.